Photo: A picture of the Lytx camera posted by a UPS driver in Atlanta on an online forum
By Rachel Foster
UPS has begun installing surveillance systems in its delivery vehicles as a tactic to monitor drivers, speed up their work, and curtail breaks. Package cars in four fulfillment centers in Oklahoma and Texas have been fitted with cameras both inside and outside the vehicles, and it is expected that the surveillance measures will be introduced to all facilities soon.
The surveillance system is produced by a company called Lytx whose customers include Fedex, Walmart, and the Washington Metro. According to Lytx’s website, the system uses artificial intelligence and data analysis to “monitor the driver’s patterns of movement, capturing unwanted and distracted behaviors”. Cameras inside and outside of the car automatically record whenever a driver swerves or brakes suddenly, and can also track the duration and percentage of time when the driver is considered distracted, such as when smoking, consuming food or drink, or on a handheld device. It can continuously record and even live-stream video and audio footage to bosses.
One UPS driver from Erie, Pennsylvania explained to Tribune: “supervisors try to fire people all the time. They get them away from their steward [union representative] into a meeting where they try and get you to slip up. These cameras would give them more power to enforce certain claims.”
The worker also described how the surveillance will intensify the work for already overburdened drivers: “We all want to get our stops done and get back as soon as possible, but supervisors also have us pick up more, help other drives, and keep us pushing without stopping frequently.”
He added that all the drivers he knows urinate in bottles in the back of their trucks rather than get in trouble for taking breaks to use the bathroom, and being on camera would make it an even more embarrassing necessity. “Likewise, I want to be able to sing and listen to music and would be embarrassed if management was watching how I spend my time in the truck in general,” the worker added.
There is a petition circulating through UPS Teamsters United demanding that the cameras not be installed. However, Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and next-in-line Denis Taylor have refused to enforce the contract rules which give the union negotiating rights over the introduction of any new technology. Under Hoffa and Taylor’s leadership there have been many concessions made to UPS over the years, along with failures to enforce the provisions in the contract.
“The union is claiming it is for safety even though clearly this is a way for supervisors to be able to monitor us,” the Erie driver told Tribune. “Because the union is allowing it to happen, we have been told to expect that it will be in every hub. Because the company and union are both claiming it is for our safety, it is likely that this will be hard to fight.”
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