UPS vowed to eradicate racial injustice. What will they do about racism within the company?
After decades enduring racial slurs within the company and threats to my life on my delivery route, I am speaking out about the pervasive racism I have also seen in UPS's ranks, as detailed in my lawsuit.
By Ray Logan
After 33 years of employment as a UPS driver in Owensboro, Kentucky, I was surprised to hear that my route was being changed. We chose our routes based on seniority, and thanks to my long tenure, I had been working a nice route in a business district near my home. But I was now assigned some new isolated county roads populated with homes flying Confederate flags. As I made my deliveries, I had racial epithets shouted at me, guns pulled on me—one man said he was going to hit me in the head with a two-by-four. In these parts of my town, a Black man does not feel safe.
I did my best to do my work, but finally approached my supervisor in March of 2020, telling him I was in fear for my life. As my lawsuit describes, I requested a route change due to the overt racism and threats I was experiencing in the community. Shortly after, I was fired. I lost my livelihood, a large chunk of my pension, and my health insurance.
Three months later, on June 8, 2020, as Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the country, the CEO of UPS tweeted the following:
This was a staggering irony, considering my firsthand experience within the company.
Owensboro sits about an hour and a half outside Louisville, a city now famous for Breonna Taylor’s murder. Racism is nothing new for people like me in a town like this. I was the only Black UPS driver for most of the decades that I delivered there. At one corporate facility I served—a professional environment—I was frequently referred to as the “N*** UPS man.” In a public bathroom I used on my route, this message is scrawled on the wall:
Nonetheless, I found ways of getting my job done. I couldn’t quit—a Black person doesn’t get many good job offers in this area. When my new route assignments brought me closer and closer to the Confederate flag communities, I would curry favor by feeding customers’ dogs. At times, I spent up to $400 a month on other people's dogs, for two reasons: because I loved the animals, and because it was one of the few things I could do to keep people off my back. “If he likes dogs, and feeds mine, he must not be a bad Black guy,” the thinking seemed to be. I knew this goodwill was conditional, of course, and would be reversed if I ran out of dog treats.
Unfortunately, these on-the-job experiences weren’t limited to the communities on my route. I saw that racism, bigotry, and hate were rife in UPS’s own community, too.
I recall a day that a coworker gave me a ride to work and then accidentally locked her keys in the car, with my bag still inside, at the UPS parking lot. Calling her boyfriend for help, she explained the situation to him. After that, I didn’t see her for about a week. When I eventually ran into her and asked why, she started crying, saying she could no longer work with me. I pressed to know the reason—after all, I’d thought of her as a friend—and she said it was because I am Black. I later found out her boyfriend had called the UPS center manager and told him not to let her work with me anymore for that very reason. As detailed in my lawsuit, the manager complied with his request.
At another time, I was getting ready to leave and a woman I worked with told me to get my “Black ass out of here.” This was said in front of a supervisor. She was not reprimanded—there was no consequence to her. And when I informed a supervisor that I was referred to as the “N*** UPS man” on my delivery route, I was told they’d need to have the customer admit he had used that racial epithet before they would move me off the route.
One year, there was a delivery route with a regular customer pickup so heavy that drivers kept injuring themselves. Management decided that this pickup would no longer be part of the route. I bid the new route and won it—but when I did, the center manager said they’d put the heavy pickup back on, since I was doing it.
I took bereavement leave when my only son died in 2013. On my first day back on the job, I was called into the office with a union steward for having asked for a lighter day. The supervisor said I was harassing him. I just teared up and went to work. On my second day back, because I had stopped for a few moments to share a tear with and hug a customer who was also my friend, I was reprimanded for having spent 2 or 3 minutes extra at the customer’s house—management had tracked me using a GPS system that monitors every move of the truck. It is hard for me to believe that a white employee would receive this kind of treatment upon their return to work after their child died.
I was fired in 2020, based on an unevidenced accusation that I was “stealing from the company” by taking longer-than-allotted breaks. It should have been impossible to fire me for this, because they didn’t have the required proof. They did not have proof because I had not actually taken the breaks they accused me of taking on company time. So, they took two legitimate incidents and manufactured a charge.
In the first incident, I had run out of gas earlier in the week due to a faulty gauge, so I stopped at a gas station at the beginning of my shift and checked the fuel levels to ensure this would not recur. I was subsequently told that I should have recorded the stop as part of my break time—though this was not required of non-Black drivers in similar situations.
In the second, I discovered that a bridge on my route would be closing at 6:00 pm for construction. Any reroute would have required me to deliver packages after dark in the aforementioned areas that were particularly risky for me as a Black man. I labeled those packages as “unable to deliver” due to emergency conditions, and notified management of the reason. The allegations of misconduct on my part were completely illegitimate.
Yet I wasn’t surprised, because this wasn’t the first time I had been let go by UPS without cause. I had previously been fired in 2018 for “not delivering packages.” However, the termination was reversed when it was discovered that the management had not adhered to any of the contractual reasons for which a person could be fired. In fact, I hadn’t delivered those specific packages because I was in fear for my life in locations where I had been threatened—and as per company policy, I had documented everything as required by our standard procedures for situations such as this.
I was part of a union, so before my 2020 firing was made official, a tribunal of sorts had to take place. In such a hearing, the company tries to prove their accusation against the employee. UPS did not have the independent time-stamped video evidence required by the union—mandatory in the case of a firing—to prove I had taken any un-clocked-out break (despite the fact that supervisors had gone so far as to show up outside my home to surveil me). As detailed in my lawsuit, after my union steward provided his rebuttal, one of the company representatives on the panel said to him, “So who are you, Johnnie Cochrane?” The clear implication: I was the O.J. Simpson of UPS. The recording was immediately shut off, and the hearing concluded in a deadlock.
When a second hearing was convened, it was ruled that my termination stood. UPS was finally rid of me. My steward, who is a third-generation union member, was so upset he resigned as an elected union steward, having lost faith in the union representative who oversaw my case. He said he had never heard of a 33-year veteran employee dismissed under such a flimsy premise.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reviewed my case twice, and both times has sent me a “right to sue” letter. The Kentucky Unemployment Office also investigated, and came to the conclusion that I had not done anything that qualified as misconduct. Meanwhile, in stark contrast to my situation, a white employee who was seen on video to actually be taking breaks without clocking out appropriately was fired—but given his job back two weeks later.
Amazingly, in the 20 years from the start of my UPS career, there was not one other Black hire in Owensboro. Finally, in 2007 they hired one Black employee part-time, and 2015 finally made another Black man a full-time driver. To this day, out of approximately 75 full-time union employees, this UPS branch has only five Black men as full-time staff; and out of approximately 100 part-time workers, two are Black. No Black women have ever been hired into the union.
Despite the CEO’s lofty claims on social media, I have seen racism, bigotry, and hate run unfettered in UPS’s own workplace. Stories like mine are a test of the commitment UPS and other American companies made to our country and to their customers as racial justice protests erupted across the nation two years ago.
For my part, I have filed a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. It was nearly impossible even to find a lawyer to represent me in this town, where UPS is one of the biggest employers (as they are in the state of Kentucky). The company offered me $5,000 to settle, an insulting sum given the financial cost of the livelihood and pension I’ve lost. I recall a judge asking me at one of our hearings, “Mr. Logan, would you want your job back if you could have it?” I said no. She said she didn’t blame me.
I am not suggesting that Black people in the UPS workforce receive any extra-special treatment. They should simply be treated with the respect that white employees are. In light of UPS’s public commitment to eradicating racism in every community across the United States, I now ask the CEO publicly: What will you do to address racism in your own backyard?
As of the time of publication, UPS did not respond to our request for comment.