Delivery drivers want protection against heat. But it’s an uphill battle

Delivery drivers in the US, including those at UPS, Amazon, and FedEx, are campaigning for greater protection against increasing heat conditions, amidst reports of heat-related deaths and illnesses.

The UPS situation: United Parcel Service driver Viviana Gonzalez spends her summer deliveries in extremely hot conditions, with no air conditioning in the vehicles.
* UPS, in a new heat safety agreement with the Teamsters union, has agreed to install air conditioning systems in all package delivery vehicles purchased after Jan. 1, 2024.
* However, this agreement still needs to be formalized through a new contract negotiation process which could potentially result in the largest strike against a single employer in U.S. history.
* In the meantime, UPS provides its workers with cooling gear, but drivers must still endure this summer’s heatwaves largely without air conditioning.

Heat-related incidents: There have been reports of UPS drivers falling ill, and even dying, due to heat conditions.
* Last year, two drivers died from heat-related illness while on their UPS delivery routes. Both casualties led to wrongful death lawsuits against the company.
* The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recorded at least 40 UPS drivers hospitalized due to heat-related illness since 2015.

Risks at other companies: Drivers at other delivery companies such as Amazon and FedEx are also raising concerns about heat on the job and poor air conditioning.
* Amazon claims their delivery vehicles come with functioning air conditioning, yet drivers report that it frequently malfunctions and isn’t promptly repaired.
* These workers face higher barriers in demanding protections, as they aren’t classified as company employees and most are not unionized.

Worker demands and employer responses: Workers are pressing for more breaks, better-functioning air conditioning, and emphasis on their health and safety.
* Amazon reportedly adjusted some of its delivery routes last year so drivers can take more breaks to cool down. However, the rapid delivery expectations still impose pressure on drivers.
* The lack of national, legal obligation for delivery companies to provide heat protections for drivers puts the onus on the drivers to cope with the heat as best they can.

View original article on NPR

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