Workers at UPS and Amazon Die Due to Extreme Heat and Brutal Working Conditions

In the summer of 2022, we have seen how extreme heat brought on by climate disruption is jeopardizing the health and safety of workers, and even taking their lives.

In late June, a 24-year-old UPS truck driver named Esteban Chavez died in his truck while delivering packages in Pasadena, California on a sweltering day in the upper 90s. This happened as other UPS drivers across the country have been sounding the alarm on social media about the brutal heat they are experiencing as various parts of the United States experience heat waves this Summer. UPS trucks are not air-conditioned, which allows the trucks to become extremely hot during the day – particularly the back of the truck where packages are stored and sorted. This summer, some drivers have been tweeting pictures of thermometer readings in the back of their trucks of up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit! Instead of installing air-conditioning or fans in workers’ trucks, UPS management is denying these requests and instead installing new cameras inside the trucks to surveil workers.

These problems are not limited to UPS. In mid-July, a 42-year-old worker named Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias died at the Amazon EWR9 fulfillment center in Carteret, New Jersey. The death occurred during “Prime Week,” which is traditionally one of Amazon’s busiest weeks of the year. Amazon boasted in their most recent corporate press release that 100,000 items were sold per minute during the Prime sale. The EWR9 facility is notorious among Amazon workers for health and safety issues, and this facility is known for its extreme heat and lack of air conditioning. Speaking to the press anonymously, Frias’ coworkers have said they believe the extreme heat in the facility combined with being overworked contributed to his death. On top of this, there are reports that after passing out on the job, he lay unconscious on the floor for 20 minutes, and Amazon management did not call 911 for at least an hour.

While workers are dying due to extreme heat, corporate profits for companies like UPS are soaring, with UPS making $3.5 billion dollars in profit in the second quarter alone. But despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them, workers at Amazon and UPS are beginning to take steps to organize themselves and fight back. Some drivers at UPS have begun to organize to demand fans in trucks as a temporary measure while others have participated in “Safety Not Surveillance” rallies organized by the Teamsters Union in New York City. At Amazon, walkouts have occurred at the Amazon EWR9 facility as workers protest the negligence of Amazon management in the death of their coworker.

Confronting an impending climate crisis and vicious exploitation by the bosses, workers will need to figure out ways to organize and continue to fight back in this way. These initial struggles and forms of resistance can give workers the confidence to build a bigger and broader fight against these companies to win better conditions. At that point, why stop there? Workers could then really begin to use their power in a revolutionary struggle to build a different world, one free of climate destruction and deadly exploitation by their bosses.