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UPS Workers Win Heat Protections Faced with a threatened strike – including “practice picket lines” — by its 340,000 union employees, UPS has agreed to a contract that provides major gains in wages and working conditions for its Teamsters’ members. The contract includes elimination of a “two-tier” wage rate; significant wage increases, especially for the lowest paid workers; and combining part-time jobs to provide new full-time jobs.

Sometimes lethal heat conditions have been a central issue for UPS workers. UPS has promised to equip all new package cars with air-conditioning and to install fans on older package cars. Section 14 of the contract states: 

All vans, pushbacks, fuel trucks, package cars, shifting units, and 24-foot box vans after January 2024 shall be equipped with A/C. Single fans will be installed in all package cars within 30 days of ratification and a second fan will be installed no later than June 1, 2024. Air-conditioned package cars will first be allocated to Zone 1 which is the hottest area of the country. All model year 2023 and beyond package cars and vans will be delivered with factory-installed heat shields and air induction vents for the package compartment. Within 18 months of ratification, all package cars will be retrofitted with heat shields and air induction vents. A Package Car Heat Committee will be established within 10 days of ratification for the purpose of studying methods of venting and insulating the package compartment. A decision must be made by October, 2024 or the issue will be submitted to the grievance procedure. The company will replace at least 28,000 package cars and vans during the life of the contract. 

The contract was overwhelmingly ratified by UPS union members on August 22.

“Not Just for Us” Eighty-four Amazon delivery drivers in Southern California have joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and negotiated the first union contract among any Amazon workers in the country. They have been on an indefinite strike since June 24. Driver Raj Singh says, “Sometimes it reaches 135 degrees in the rear of the truck and there’s no cooling system,” said Singh, who has worked the job for two and half years and through the height of the pandemic. “It feels like an oven when you step back there. You instantly start feeling woozy, and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve actually seen stars.” Singh says, “We’re trying to get this done, not just for us but for every delivery driver that works for Amazon.” Teamsters are now picketing Amazon warehouses around the country in solidarity.

“Working Shouldn’t Be a Death Sentence” On July 28, construction workers, airport baggage handlers, letter carriers, and other outdoor workers traveled from Texas to the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC. They were joined by labor organizers and lawmakers for a “vigil and thirst strike” to protest a new Texas law that eliminates compulsory water breaks for construction workers – even if mandated by local governments. 

SEIU petition to OSHA: Pass Heat Rules Now! The Service Employees union is collecting signatures for a petition calling for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to immediately implement rules to protect workers from heat. It reads in part:

OSHA must implement heat rules immediately. Extreme temperatures could make thousands of farm workers seriously ill — and even suffer heat stroke and die. Outdoor workers need enforceable protections so dangerous incidents never happen. Heat deaths are preventable tragedies. The prevention is nothing complicated:  shade, cool water, rest, education and monitoring.

 To sign the petition:

Fighting Lethal Heat in California The California Green New Deal Network advocated and won funding for Community Resilience Centers in the California Budget, which are vital to providing life-saving relief to residents vulnerable to increasingly lethal extreme heat. But the funding was cut in last year’s budget. The Los Angeles Times estimated that high temperatures had killed nearly 4,000 people between 2010 and 2019 — more than six times higher than official state figures. The California legislature set a 2019 deadline for finalizing regulations for hot indoor job sites like warehouses and restaurants, but Cal/OSHA has so far failed to issue those rules. According to an article in POLITICO by Alexander Nieves,

Environmental justice and public health groups are hoping that the prospect of retrofitting housing and installing heat pumps will entice politically powerful labor unions to get involved. They’re looking to groups like a relatively new coalition of 13 unions, including SEIU California, the California Federation of Teachers and United Steelworkers, which is planning to release a policy platform this fall that will include extreme heat.

 The article quotes Amee Raval, policy and research director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, who says, “I think the work of this clean energy transition, in the context of worsening disasters and extreme heat, are absolutely jobs that we want to ensure are family-sustaining union jobs, and that there are pathways to organize our communities.”