By Dontay Stevenson
Last Wednesday evening, warehouse workers at a UPS facility in Charlotte spontaneously walked out in response to weeks of work speedups, micro-management, and safety risks ignored by supervisors and corporate management.
The walkout included workers from different sections of the building and due to the sheer number of workers who participated, none of them were fired. Out of fear of a repetition of last Wednesday’s event, management has even tried to placate workers through handing out t-shirts, which some workers see as a bribe. Workers have also said the amount of extreme monitoring has been reduced.
Workers at UPS face threats to their health and safety on a daily basis. This year alone, there have been more than 20 injuries reported at the facility, and workers often report chronic back pain. Workers are also in danger of exposure to COVID-19—when several workers reported being sick, management responded by simply handing out masks and hand sanitizer while continuing production as usual.
Workers loading packages into trucks are expected to load at a rate of 600 packages per hour, while simultaneously reading each and every package label to avoid misloading packages. Workers are frustrated at supervisors who stand outside of the truck doors watching them, refusing to help them load. Trailers are in the range of 90-100 degrees on hot days, and workers are given minimal breaks to get water. All the while, management preaches that staying hydrated is the responsibility of workers.
The supervisors at the facility often micromanage workers, expecting workers to tell them when they’re going to the restroom, getting water, or helping another worker load. Supervisors yell at workers for the most minor offenses and tell them to speed up. A worker told Tribune, “yelling at us isn’t going to make us want to work faster, it’s gonna make us rebel.”
Despite the high turnover rate and often understaffed lines, UPS will still choose to cut workers early and rely on fewer people to finish loading in order to cut costs. Upper management sits in air-conditioned offices, watching the workers on cameras who, while even working double shifts to make ends meet, are “trying to get ahead while making pennies,” as another worker explained.
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