“For UPS, whose revenues topped $58 billion in 2014, tracking worker productivity goes straight to the bottom line. Time is money, and management knows exactly how much: “Just one minute per driver per day over the course of a year adds up to $14.5 million,” the company’s senior director of process management, Jack Levis, told NPR last year. He appeared on a boosterish episode of the Planet Money podcast titled “The Future of Work Looks Like a UPS Truck.” Levis and other UPS executives have a favorite quip: “We’ve moved from a trucking company that has technology to basically a technology company that just happens to have trucks.”
But UPS trucks aren’t driven by robots—at least not yet—and of the 10 current and former drivers I’ve interviewed, all felt like they were handling packages in the Panopticon. “Data is just a proxy for control,” said Sam Dwyer, 26, a former screenwriter and marketing-industry analyst who spent eight months as a driver last year.
A current driver, who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of getting fired, said: “It’s like you’re fighting for your job every day. They harass you: ‘Why did it take you 10 minutes here? Why did it take you this long there?’… They want you to hate your job and quit so they can hire somebody at half the pay.”
The metrics-based harassment of workers is common, said Tim Sylvester, the president of Teamsters Local 804, when I visited his Long Island City union hall in March. He told the tale of one UPS driver, Domenick DeDomenico, who spent 10 days in a coma after getting hit by a car while delivering packages. A year later, after surgery and extensive physical therapy, DeDomenico was back on the job. When the tracking data indicated that he’d dipped below his pre-accident delivery rate of 13.23 packages per hour, managers threatened to fire him, DeDomenico said at a union rally.”