UPS rehires fired Queens drivers

By DAVID BERNT

(UPDATED April 10) In a victory for labor, on April 9, UPS agreed to union demands that it rehire 250 drivers who were fired for walking off the job in Queens, N.Y. In return, Teamsters Local 804 agreed to monetarily compensate the company for alleged damages due to the loss of “productive employee time” and for other alleged company costs. The affected drivers must still serve a short suspension.

UPS had received broad criticism for its retaliation against 250 workers who stopped work for 90 minutes on Feb. 26 to protest the firing of a fellow union brother, Jairo Reyes, at the Masbeth hub in Queens, N.Y. On March 6 the company informed all 250 drivers they were being given “working terminations.” The drivers had stayed on the job while their union, Teamsters Local 804, negotiated with the company on a resolution to the dispute.

UPS fired Reyes, a union activist, on the trumped-up charge of punching in early and working without authorization. Reyes says he did have authorization. The fact that UPS fired an employee for working says much about the mentality of UPS management. In reality, Reyes was fired for filing grievances and challenging the company’s violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Reports state that Reyes will now be rehired.

UPS claimed it had to fire drivers who participated in the walk-out for breaking the rules and “undermining the order of our delivery operations.” Yet it is UPS that “breaks the rules” on a daily basis by violating the contract. UPS continuously uses supervisors to do Teamster work, violates the excessive overtime protection article, and refuses to abide by discipline procedures, among many other contract violations.

On March 31, the company fired 20 of the 250 workers, walking them off the property at the end of their shift. Sixteen more drivers were walked off the job on April 4. UPS was planning to continue to fire all 250 as soon as soon as replacements were found.

Local 804 fought hard against UPS’s strong-armed tactics. An on-line petition calling for the workers’ reinstatement gathered over 150,000 signatures. Customers of the 250 drivers called for their reinstatement. On April 3, a press conference was held on the steps of City Hall demanding that UPS reinstate the drivers. Officers from the New York City Central Labor Council, Transport Workers Union, SEIU 32-B, New York Nurses, and other unions—and more than a dozen elected officials, including NYC Public Advocate Letitia James—spoke in support of the fired workers.

Attention was called to the $43 million contract that UPS has with the state of New York and a sweetheart deal the company has with the city to pay pennies on the dollar for parking tickets (saving them some $15 million a year).

Local 804 President Tim Sylvester said, “UPS takes millions from the city, and yet it’s going to bankrupt 250 families just because our guys stood up for a fellow worker.” For more information go to http://teamsterslocal804.org/. For more information go to http://teamsterslocal804.org/.

Photo: UPS trucks leave the Masbeth facility. By Steve Fisher / Queens Chronicle