UPS Backs Down—Cancels Move to Fire 250 Drivers

UPS truck2UPS is rescinding its move to fire 250 Queens, N.Y. Teamsters Local 804 drivers, who took part in a 90-minute walk-out on Feb. 26, after city and state officials urged the company to negotiate with the drivers’ union or face the prospect of canceled contracts.

Teamsters Local 804 announced on its website last week that UPS agreed to abandon plans to pink slip drivers who had walked off the job to protest the firing of an employee, Jairo Reyes. Reyes was let go over an hours dispute, a UPS spokesman told Business Insider, but the union said he was terminated without a hearing he was contractually entitled to. It also described the mass firings as “arbitrary discipline.” But UPS maintains that the February walkout jeopardized its ability to serve customers and that the Teamsters’ contract includes a no-strike clause, a company spokesperson told the Huffington Post

UPS fired 20 of the workers after their shifts last Monday and sent termination letters to the remaining 230, informing them that they would be fired once the company trained their replacements. Instead of the mass firings, UPS will suspend the employees for two weeks without pay and recoup monetary damages stemming from the walkout from Local 804, according to a news report in the Times Ledger, a weekly newspaper serving Queens.

“Local 804 officials acknowledged that the Feb. 26 walkout was illegal and unauthorized and will undertake other actions within the bargaining unit to correct the situation,” UPS spokesman Steve Gaut said in an email to the Times Ledger. “UPS has chosen to settle the matter in order to return to normal operations at the site.”

Gaut said strikes are not an approved method of conflict resolution in UPS’s contract with the union. As part of the agreement between Teamsters Local 804, which represents the 1,400 workers at the Maspeth distribution center, the union agreed to pay UPS damages and acknowledge that the strike was “illegal and unauthorized,” Gaut said, adding the union “will undertake other actions within the bargaining unit to correct the situation.”

However, Local 804 has a different take from Gaut’s characterization — asserting that strikes are a legal recourse for them in the event that negotiations between the union and UPS break down.

“The work stoppage on Feb. 26 was legal and permitted under the union contract with UPS,” a Teamsters Local 804 spokesman said. “Under the agreement reached with UPS, Local 804 acknowledges that the union’s internal procedures for authorizing a strike were not properly followed on Feb. 26 and we have agreed to communicate the proper procedure to all union members.”

Whether the walkout was technically legal or not, UPS’ reaction led New York City politicians to threaten to cancel city contracts that give UPS millions of dollars in breaks on parking fines. The showdown escalated when Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and several city and state legislators gathered beside Local 804 at City Hall early this month and called for government agencies to review the city and state’s business with UPS. James said the company had a $2 million contract with the city, which stems from a larger $43.2 million agreement with the state.

Apparently UPS does not have the power to fire city officials, so that pressure—and the public outcry–that resulted from the firings led UPS to reverse course.

Image: “UPS Delivery Truck” by Adam Shaffer via Flickr

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