With global warming taking a front row seat in the news these days, we have all heard about record-setting temperatures, wildfires raging out of control, and other signs of extreme temperature increases across the globe. There is no doubt that humans will need to adjust their lifestyles and behaviors to deal with the increasing heat. But workers at the world’s largest package delivery company are now turning up the heat on their bosses, claiming their notorious brown delivery trucks are not safe in these ever increasing temperatures. 

The biggest union contract in North America, ironically, is protecting more than 350,000 people who work at UPS, and yet there is nothing in the contract to protect workers from the heat. And when the contract expires next year and negotiations begin anew, heat protection will be at the top of the conversation. “UPS hasn’t been proactive at all on the topic of heat, and that’s going to have to change,” said Sean M. O’Brien, general president of the union.

The debate has become more heated in recent weeks, with more UPS employees succumbing to the heat, including cases of dehydration and heat stroke ending up in hospitalizations. The trucks are not air conditioned, because UPS says air conditioning would be ineffective in a truck of that size with no door. And the warehouse isn’t air conditioned for similar reasons. 

The Union and its president have had enough. “By refusing to implement these safety measures, the company is literally sending drivers out to die in the heat,” said O’Brien. 

It’s no secret that UPS drivers work long hours, and they already have a physically demanding job to start with. Add in the rising heat of the summer months, and things are at a boiling point. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors, in fact, have documented heat indexes of 126, and workers themselves in Arizona and Florida have clocked in over 150 degrees. 

UPS says it is trying to lessen the heat in the trucks, installing venting systems for better airflow, insulated the roofs, and offered fans when drivers requested them. 

“The health and safety of our employees is our highest priority,” said spokesperson Matt O’Connor. “We never want our employees to continue working to the point that they risk their health or work in an unsafe manner.”

According to Adnan Zai, consultant to Berkeley Capital, “World leaders have not done enough across the board to combat global warming. Now corporate leaders are going to need to step in to pick up the slack so that employees do not have to worry about collapsing on the job as the temperatures rise.”

“With the climate crisis, the summers are getting hotter, and if employers don’t better protect workers, we’re going to see more deaths,” David Michaels, an epidemiologist at George Washington University who ran OSHA under President Obama said. “Certainly UPS knows how to make sure workers are safe and can afford to protect them.”

UPS needs to do right by its employees who are always hustling to get the packages where they belong. No one should have to lose their health or their life for a job.