Last week, UPS passed a policy that would allow their employees to wear natural and protective hairstyles. While the public was excited that the people who deliver our packages all across the country could finally feel more comfortable at work, it was also bittersweet. Why was this policy even created in the first place? And why were these rules still on the books in 2020?
I was especially curious to know more about the reaction inside the century-old company, so I connected with a UPS employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation about what it’s like to be a Black person at the company right now. You can read all of the deets, in their words, below.
It’s wild because I didn’t even think that people outside of UPS would find out or even care about this new policy. It’s always been a thing though, because all the higher-ups are like, “Oh, shave your beard.” For operations (these are the guys that process packages in the warehouses), it makes sense, because you literally could die if your beard is long and gets caught in a machine. But that’s different than feeling like you have to straighten your hair every day for work.
Our new CEO [Carol Tomé] is amazing. Our old CEO [David Abney] used to say things like, “Oh, I signed this anti-racism pledge,” but
there was no action behind his words. It was frustrating for Black people and other employees of color. Like, we’re the ones out here through snow, sleet, and rain, delivering packages, and we’re getting lip service. It’s public knowledge internally and externally that UPS is a very conservative company.
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I haven’t really been comfortable talking about Black issues at work. It depends on where exactly you’re located, but the overwhelming majority of people who work at UPS are very conservative. Historically, that’s who this company is and as people of color, we just had to accept that. It sucked. And if you spoke up about any issues, you’d be the whiny person of color.
But over the last four or five years, it felt like the company couldn’t ignore diversity or race anymore. We’re starting to actually talk about it. This year, after Carol took over, was the first time I’ve seen us actually do something that would make me impressed. We have an equity, justice, and inequality task force now. Since she started eight months ago, I’ve seen more action than in all the years I’ve been at UPS. Rather than give minorities what the C-suite thinks they want based on what a couple of white people found out from a consultant, leadership is really making an effort to listen and provide platforms for us to give feedback. And then they’re holding their feet to the fire to be like, “Okay, we heard you. That that was wild of us. We’re going to do this now, because we heard you.”
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