Why Andrew Burks’ company decided to stop using old school air carriers to fly meds to hospital patients

“We are #conscious in delivering healthcare to anyone who needs it…”

Looking back, our path to operating in that community was fairly straight-forward. One can’t overstate the importance of working within the existing political structures that existed in 1938. As a part of the ACLU, we actively assisted in this local Civil Rights movement, obtaining voter registrations and advocating for equality between the haves and have-nots in the nation.

After helping secure those significant elections, we decided to have a conversation with our community about our support for the war on poverty and political development. Most people asked why we were involved in this work as we did not have a business to run. What I found interesting was that we were supporting a piece of the work that the NAACP did and that the NAACP had a vested interest in. Even people not interested in NAACP work were quite moved when we told them what we were doing. It was really not up to UPS to decide if they supported the war on poverty, we were supporting a work that had to be done.

The industry was not ready to support this organization at the time. It was not open to big business full stop. It was also not ready to have small business doing this work. This work was at the local level and it was not seen as a potential market for a company like UPS. When it comes to supporting community politics, we prefer to support small business.

The most symbolic challenge we faced came in 1971, when the NAACP threatened to go to the US Supreme Court to stop our healthcare delivery because we were using commercial carriers (Vaccine), and in order to make it legal for commercial carriers to deliver vaccines, the US Congress had to pass the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA) of 1934. In our view, this federal act gave the power of interstate commerce to manufacturers and not to people delivering medicine. Companies like UPS do not count as public corporations to them, so we were not supported. We were supported by the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights, but we think the sentiment that this would threaten UPS was behind the decision. When I heard that we would be providing air transportation for vaccines to overseas ports, I approached the CEO of UPS at our local NAACP meeting and I told him I would appreciate his support. He bought this truck, but when we visited him at the office about the HIP Act, I suggested that we call it Vaccination Shipment. I think this small amount of sponsorship made a difference and ultimately gave us the ability to deliver vaccines.

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