"Hands Up, Don't Ship!" Minneapolis UPS workers protest shipments to Missouri police

"Hands Up, Don't Ship!" Minneapolis UPS workers protest shipments to Missouri police

A dozen part-time UPS workers in Minneapolis took protest action on the job August 22, after discovering ties between Missouri law enforcement and a company, Law Enforcement Targets, whose shipments we handle each day.

Some of us removed the company’s packages from trucks that would deliver them to law enforcement. Others, in solidarity, refused to ferry these packages to their intended trailers.

Others posed with a sign reading “#handsupdontship.” The phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” has come to symbolize protest over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri.

We decided we could not be silent while our work was contributing to the militarized violence that police are directing at Ferguson residents in the aftermath of Brown’s death.

'Urban Street Violence'
Law Enforcement Targets is based in Blaine, Minnesota. The company produces cardboard, steel, and plastic shooting-range targets. Some feature photos of people for police to practice shooting at.

It holds hundreds of contracts with police departments, federal agencies, and military branches across the country. At least 10 of these contracts are with federal agencies in Missouri, and far more are with county and local police departments and other agencies in the state.

After public controversy last year, Law Enforcement Targets withdrew a line of targets called “No More Hesitation,” which featured young children and pregnant women with guns.

It still offers an “Urban Street Violence” line that’s predictably messed-up, and a “Missouri” line designed with the Kansas City police. (See photos.) These targets are designed to train cops to shoot first and ask questions later, to view everyone as a threat.

All this is shipped through the UPS sorting facility in Minneapolis, which ships several hundred thousand packages each day. Several hundred low-wage, part-time employees do all the sorting work, which includes unloading incoming trucks, sorting packages based on their destinations, and placing them in their intended trailers.

“If you’ve got the cash, UPS will ship it,” said one worker who was involved in organizing the action on his section, “even if it’s part of this f***ed-up system that winds up with a kid getting executed by cops and then this military invasion of the town where it happened.

"Give them the check and they couldn’t care less. Well, we care.”

A first step
Although people in various jobs and work areas took part, the action was symbolic. No packages wound up being halted. We wanted to make a convincing point to other workers while not exposing ourselves to an excessive risk of disciplinary action.

Management hasn’t responded, and may not even have understood that this was done in a concerted way. This is a large facility, and it’s possible supervisors on opposite ends of the building thought this was just one or two workers on their sections.

But we hope this action is just the first step. We shouldn’t have to go into work and support the murder of any more black youth, just because UPS makes a buck off of it. We believe it’s important to find ways of refusing.

The action has already been replicated by other workers in other parts of the building. As soon as we started talking to people, it became clear many were interested in finding ways to take a stand on the shop floor, on this and other issues.

We encourage workers elsewhere, especially at UPS, to think about how their labor contributes to the situation in Ferguson, and what we can do together to stand against it. And we want to help you make it happen.

Flintheart Glomgold and Launchpad McQuack are the obvious pseudonyms of part-time UPS workers in Minneapolis. We’re part of the group ScrewUps, a rank-and-file newsletter for employees of UPS sorting hubs. To find out more or get involved in similar actions, or if you have an idea of how to take a stand but need help, please contact us at screwups@riseup.net.

This article originally appeared at Labor Notes.


Aug 27 2014 23:00

This is so obviously fake. There is no way to verify these nameless people work for UPS. Its just bunch of random people holding up signs. Notice how they're not included in the photos of UPS packages. Who ever put this together needs to try much harder next time.

Juan Conatz
Aug 27 2014 23:19

^UPS management

Aug 28 2014 10:09

Joined up, made one post saying this is fake 20 minutes after getting here. Not suspicious at all.

I think rather than UPS management (really, why would they care about an obscure political website?) 'Spasmolytic' is far more likely to be a Maoist. Or maybe an 'An-Cap'. It's so weird how the agendas of 'corporatism', the 'An-Caps' and the Maoists are pretty much indistinguishable.

Chilli Sauce
Aug 28 2014 11:04

I think even that's giving them too much credit. I assume they're just some random right-wing keyboard warrior - the same sort of schmuck who get off on posting their nonsense under youtube videos and NPR articles.

Aug 28 2014 12:21

Your 'random right-wing keyboard warrior' sounds like what I meant by 'An-Cap'.

I assume they all spend their time on the internet arguing about the NAP while wishing they could be a CEO and drive a nice car.

Juan Conatz
Sep 1 2014 18:00

Hot off the Labor Day presses

#HANDSUPDONTSHIP: IWW UPS Workers Organize Against Police Brutality

Starting on Friday, August 22nd, IWW workers at a UPS sorting facility in Minneapolis began organizing against their and their coworkers' labor supporting the ongoing police violence against the population of Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man. In a series of actions aimed at a local company shipping questionable shooting-range targets to law enforcement agencies nationwide, workers stood up to the idea that they should have to support racism, brutality, or murder in order to make ends meet. This action was organized in conjunction with, and under the banner of Screw Ups, a rank-and-file newsletter published by IWW workers at the facility for the past year.

Shortly after the murder of Michael Brown and the deployment of militarized police and national guardsmen to Ferguson, IWW workers and in-shop allies began researching Law Enforcement Targets, Inc, a company based in Blaine, Minnesota, which produces shooting range targets and holds hundreds of contracts with police departments, federal agencies, and military branches across the country. The company has held at least 10 contracts with federal agencies in Missouri, and far more with county and local police departments and other agencies. They sell product lines like “Urban Street Violence,” featuring photos of stereotypical “thugs,” and previously were forced to withdraw a line of targets called “No More Hesitation,” featuring pictures of gun-wielding children, pregnant women, mothers, and elderly people, all as if to say that you should consider everyone you see as a threat to be gunned down. Their products are shipped through the UPS sorting facility in Minneapolis every day.

After discovering what products L.E.T. shipped, and who to, a group of workers decided they would not be silent about the connection between their work and murders such as Mike Brown’s. Some removed targets from trailers that would deliver them to law enforcement agencies, while others stood in solidarity and decided not to ferry these packages to their intended trailers. Those who were uncomfortable or unable to directly engage in these actions posed with a sign reading “#handsupdontship” in order to speak out. Actions like this took place in various work areas across the building, and were taken by people with a variety of job positions. The following Monday, several workers continued the action, setting more targets aside for the second consecutive shift. This small group included both workers of color and white workers, both IWW members and not. It was agreed that this protest would be publicized online through the Screw Ups newsletter.

For just over two years, the IWW has actively been organizing workers committees within the UPS hub in Minneapolis. One of the main outgrowths of this campaign has been the publication of Screw Ups, a regular newsletter published by IWW workers in the hub that is handed out by allies outside the building to workers on their way to clock in. This newsletter has consistently raised issues of management harassment, speed-ups, sexual harassment and sexism, racial discrimination on the shop floor, and more, while soliciting contributions from other workers via email to screwups@riseup.net. It has educated workers about their rights on the job and called out the exploitation of workers by both UPS and the Teamsters union, which is happy to collect dues from the half of UPS' workers working in sorting hubs, while forcing concessionary contracts onto this rank-and-file which only preserve poverty wages and sweatshop conditions for those of us who allow UPS a multi-billion dollar company.

However, the newsletter has only been one part of the IWW activity at the hub. IWW Workers and others have frequently confronted management on issues of safety, harassment, and more through collective actions. CB, an IWW organizer, noted, “We all know that conditions at our work are unsafe. We all know that we work too hard for too little pay. We know that the Teamsters either can't or won't do anything to fix these issues. And we know that we're going to have to fight to change things.”

The IWW has always refused to restrict itself to issues of wages and conditions, and has encouraged workers to fight against exploitation and oppression both on the shop floor and off it. Unlike other unions and workers' organizations which see things such as police brutality as “outside issues,” the IWW has a long history of fighting against the ways that workers are forced to uphold systems of oppression. “The rules say you have to do what you're told at work. Doesn't matter what you're shipping, what horrible things are being done with them, UPS doesn't care, so you don't care,” said J.B., another IWW worker, “luckily, breaking the rules is what the IWW does best.”

He further added, “We don't want to take the place of the Teamsters here. What we want is for workers to have an organization that can fight for—and win—meaningful, concretes improvements in our work and in our lives. We need an organization that isn't afraid to stand behind workers when we confront management and isn't interested in some long, drawn out bureaucracy. If they want to keep doing that, good for them. That's their game, but it's not ours.”

IWW workers at the Minneapolis hub have stated that they are committed to continuing to organize with their coworkers in order to directly fight against management abuses and other issues workers face. They are also working with UPS workers in other hubs to help them form similar committees and organizations, and are happy to talk to anyone interested in doing so. They urge any interested UPS worker to email the committee at screwups@riseup.net, and add, “don't wait, organize!”

Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks and Jimmy Johns workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people. It is a member-run union for all workers, dedicated to organizing on the job, in our industries and in our communities. IWW members are organizing to win better conditions today and build a world with economic democracy tomorrow.


Juan Conatz
Sep 6 2014 19:58

The ISO's publication did an interview with one of the IWW UPS committee members: http://socialistworker.org/2014/09/04/hands-up-dont-ship

Sep 7 2014 03:43

Not a bad article. I'm surprised that they mentioned the IWW affiliation.

Juan Conatz
Sep 7 2014 05:40

It was a required stipulation in order for the interview to happen, I'm told.