In his time at UPS, David Abney focused on driving people across the country. During this year’s three-day walk with Immigrant Workers for Justice, he’s taking a break to travel the country to learn from the struggles of everyday Americans.
While on tour with immigrant rights groups, he was first moved by protests in Arizona where parents in extreme poverty would go to great lengths to ensure their children had health care. Since that day, he has vowed to support vaccines and increase access to food.
Q: What’s one area where your employees’ health could use improvement?
A: Care of our caregivers. We need to have comprehensive employee health care. Most of us are doing it on our own. I went to walk and talk with a couple of our folks here and asked, “How does your insurance fit with your existing career in UPS?” We have a generous benefit, and we do the best we can, but, unfortunately, it’s not at full scope, it’s not as flexible as it could be.
Q: Can you speak to how having children impacted your understanding of labor rights and, specifically, access to good healthcare?
A: My daughter had a genetic birth defect and I had cancer. So, when I think about the care I had and people I work with, I just have this sense of empathy and care about people. And I also know the ups and downs.
Q: In the midst of the shutdown, where can your workforce take a big step forward for your company?
A: When people get sick and have an accident, when a kid or a loved one has a brain tumor, you will get hit. But what do you do in the face of adversity? That’s what’s going to be the big challenge. And make sure they understand what their rights are, what they can and can’t do, what it will really cost and what the options are. Our goal is to get them to understand their right to get good care.
Q: Talk about many of the changes you’ve made in your own career. What kind of person could you be if you were to keep up your pace in UPS?
A: I would run to my grandmother. She is a big influence on my life. I would have quit delivering in high school and have joined the Postal Service. I was a great guy, a nice guy, but if I would have continued that pace, in many ways, I wouldn’t be here today. I love doing what I do. It’s still a high-stress job, but I think I’m a pretty good stress reliever.
I’m still in my job, but my leadership style has shifted. I think you get a little more conservative. You see less litigation as a leader, less confrontation. I think the challenge is to blend the old with the new, but try to keep your eye on the ball in terms of our customers.