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International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)

What’s Next for the Teamsters?

Barry Eidlin & Paul Prescod on Labor’s Moment Today

To Beat the Heat, 'We Can't Rely on Management. We Have to Keep Each Other Safe'

By Alexandra Bradbury - Labor Notes, September 20, 2023

The death of UPS driver Chris Begley, 57, who collapsed in August while making a delivery in 103-degree Texas heat, was no isolated incident.

Monitoring co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion has become a routine feature of the job, says fellow driver Seth Pacic, a shop steward in Begley’s union, Teamsters Local 767.

Pacic has learned to discern over the phone when a co-worker needs to find air conditioning ASAP—and when they’re deteriorating so badly that he should call paramedics and brave management’s wrath.

The problem is that managers are always trying to speed workers up, and reluctant to call an ambulance because they report those numbers to higher-up management.

When a supervisor reached Begley, they offered him medical attention—but he refused it, so they took him home. “Therein lies one of the biggest problems: these supervisors aren’t trained in what to do about heat,” Pacic said.

“You can’t trust people when they say they’re ok. Because of the nature of heat exhaustion, your mental acuity is first thing to go. You get really foggy-minded.

“People get single-minded on trying to get home and get into the AC; they almost get fixated. That can be really dangerous if they push through, trying to get done with their day—or a supervisor pushes them.”

Four days after Begley’s collapse, he took a turn for the worse. He was taken to a hospital and life-flighted to another, where he died of massive organ failure.

Pacic wonders if IV fluids right away could have saved Begley’s life. Pacic himself has overheated on the job three times, and says his recovery took two days when he got IV fluids—versus two weeks when he didn’t.

Last year management allowed another driver, Pacic’s friend, to drive himself home despite heatstroke so bad he was vomiting; he totaled his car and sustained a brain injury. Another UPS driver was already in the same ICU.

Pacic believes air conditioning in the delivery truck would have saved his friend. When you overheat you’re supposed to seek out a “cool zone,” like an air-conditioned library or McDonald’s. But those are few and far between in sprawling residential areas.

AC in the truck would mean “a rolling cool zone that follows you wherever you go.”

The year before that, a 23-year-old driver died outside a Waco facility after overheating and wandering in circles. He had never clocked out, but rather than go look for him, management apparently falsified his timecard to close out the shift. His worried mother eventually came looking.

After great fanfare and consulting with Gatorade and Nike, earlier this year UPS issued everyone cooling sleeves and hats.

Labor Rise at End Fossil Fuels Demo

By Ted Franklin - Labor Rise, September 18, 2023


Labor Network for Sustainability contingent at Sacramento, California climate emergency demonstration. Credit: Ted Franklin CC-BY-NC-4.0

Labor Rise members helped organize a contingent of rank-and-file union members to join hundreds of other demonstrations in the End Fossil Fuels march and rally in Sacramento, California, on Sunday, September 17, 2023. We marched under the banner of Labor Network for Sustainability, a national organization building Labor/Climate movement solidarity. The Sacramento action was one of many in the United States during the international week of action to end fossil fuels. In New York City, where the United Nations gathered for meetings on climate, 75,000 people marched.

In Sacramento, where hundreds gathered, Labor Rise member Martha Hawthorne spoke on behalf of Labor Network for Sustainability:

Brother of State Worker Killed on the Job Wants State Level OSHA

Workers vs Heat

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 30, 2023

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.

Kentucky Auto Workers at Ford Are Preparing for a Strike

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, August 28, 2023


Members of Auto Workers Local 862 rallied on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky. They work at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant building Ford Super Duty Trucks, Ford Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators, and at the Louisville Assembly Plant where they build Ford Escapes and Lincoln Corsairs. A second rally was held on Friday. Photo: Luis Feliz Leon.

Five hundred Auto Workers (UAW) from Local 862 held rallies in Louisville, Kentucky, August 24 and 25, part of a wave of practice pickets and rallies around the country.

Class struggle was on everyone’s lips. A variety of issues brought them to the picket, but the auto workers there were unanimous about turbocharged wealth inequality leaving workers behind.

At the Thursday picket, Local 862 member Aaron Webster said he’s grown tired of feeling squeezed, describing the contract fight as a fight between the rich and the poor.

Webster started working at the Kentucky Truck Plant in 2014 building Ford Super Duty Trucks, Ford Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators. “As much as I may not want to strike, I believe it's necessary,” he said. He has been saving money and talking to his co-workers in the event Ford is one of the strike targets when the September 14 contract expiration deadline arrives.

Oil Change International stands in solidarity with workers demanding better protection from record heat

By Andy Rowell - Oil Change International, July 26, 2023

As deadly fires continue to rage out of control, scientists have confirmed that the record temperatures experienced in Europe, China and the United States are due to human-induced climate change.

They are due to the fossil fuel industry and its decades-long campaign to deny the scientific evidence, spread doubt, and continue drilling. Yes, it is that simple.

And now, workers in the U.S. have had enough of working in extreme temperatures without adequate protections and breaks. And yesterday, the Teamsters Union reached a historic deal with the courier company, UPS, over worker rights and worker protections, including over heat.

340,000 UPS drivers poised to strike over extreme heat, safe working conditions

By Tushar Khurana - Grist, July 17, 2023

During a summer that has already shattered temperature records, the 340,000 drivers, dispatchers, and warehouse workers currently in contract negotiations with UPS — the United States’ largest unionized employer — have made climate change and extreme heat a headline labor issue. And if they don’t secure a contract by July 31, they are poised to initiate the largest single-employer strike in U.S. history.

On summer days, the back of a delivery truck can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When Viviana Gonzalez, a package delivery driver for United Postal Service in Los Angeles, pulls open the back of her truck, she often thinks: “Am I going to pass out back here? Will anybody find out that I’m here in the back of the truck?”

Gonzalez is all too aware of how dangerous her job can be. Since 2015, UPS has reported at least 143 heat-related injuries to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last year, one of her co-workers, Esteban Chavez, died of heat stroke in his delivery truck after delivering his last parcel. “I’m a single mom,” said Gonzalez, “and being able to provide for my son means I have to suck it up.”

In Heat and Smoke, Workers Fight Negligent Bosses

By Caitlyn Clark - Labor Notes, July 12, 2023

On June 29, the air quality in Detroit was among the worst in the world.

“Outside it smelled like burnt plastic, almost like trash,” said UAW member Cody Zaremba, who works at a General Motors plant in Lansing, Michigan. He and his co-workers were experiencing coughing, runny noses, watery eyes, and trouble breathing.

But GM didn’t even acknowledge the smoke, Zaremba said, much less offer any protection.

“Everybody just had to go about it their own way,” he said. “We can all see it and smell it. But what are we going to do about it?”

As wildfires, drought, floods, and scorching heat disrupt the supply chain, the logistics industry is starting to worry about the impact of climate change…on profits.

But workers are the ones bearing the brunt—forced to work through extreme weather events, induced by climate change, that are getting more frequent and more severe.

Wildfires in Canada this summer have spread hazardous smoke through the U.S. East Coast and Midwest. Semi-regular wildfires throughout the West Coast have produced what are now known as “fire seasons.”

Outdoor workers like those in delivery, construction, and farming are among the hardest hit. On the frontlines of the climate crisis, some workers are standing up to their employers’ negligence.

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