Updated Jun 14, 2023 - Economy

UPS drivers will likely get A/C after union demands

UPS drivers scored a cool win this week: most UPS delivery vehicles will likely soon be equipped with air conditioning.

Why it matters: Drivers have long said that working in extreme heat poses serious health and safety risks — with conditions only worsening in recent years as the hottest temperatures on record have been recorded.

  • The company and the Teamsters union that represents about 340,000 workers reached a tentative agreement Tuesday to add A/C to vehicles starting next year.

The big picture: Negotiations between the Teamsters and UPS began in April — the labor contract at stake is the largest private sector union deal in North America.

  • Their contract expires on July 31, and O'Brien has said they're prepared to strike if there's no deal by then — the union is releasing the results of a strike authorization vote later this week that's expected to be in favor a work stoppage.

Catch up quick: The issue drew heightened attention last summer, as UPS drivers shared photos of thermometer readings inside their trucks going as high as 120 degrees or more, and they went viral.

  • The heat poses an issue for postal workers, as well. In many reported instances, delivery workers have become ill — and even died — in the extreme heat.

Context: Most of the USPS fleet is older not equipped with air conditioning, as a 2020 HuffPost investigation noted. FedEx told Axios in a statement that vehicles the companies own have air conditioning. It's unclear how many of its contracted vehicles are air conditioned.

What they're saying: “Air conditioning is coming to UPS, and Teamster members in these vehicles will get the relief and protection they’ve been fighting for,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said Tuesday.

  • "We care deeply about our people, and their safety remains our top priority. Heat safety is no exception," UPS said in a statement.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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