In a demonstration of the power of corporations over workers, unionized or not, UPS began firing 250 Teamster drivers in Queens, N.Y. last week after they dared to stage a 90-minute protest of the firing of long-time employee and union activist Jairo Reeves.
According to news reports from Business Insider and the New York Daily News, which broke the story, the unionized drivers at UPS’s Maspeth facility got their walking papers because they walked off the job briefly on Feb. 26.
Twenty employees were terminated on March 31 after their shifts — and the remaining 230 were notified that they’ll be fired as soon as replacements are trained, company spokesman Steve Gaut said. He added that the drivers knew their jobs were on the line when they chose to walk out. UPS employs 1,400 workers at the Maspeth distribution center where the protest occurred.
Steve Curcio, 41, a 20-year employee earning $32 an hour was quoted saying: “They just called me in ... (and) said, ‘Effective immediately, you are no longer on the payroll.’”
The mass firing has enraged the head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 804, Tim Sylvester, who 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.” Reeves apparently was fired due a dispute over hours.
Sylvester was referring to a UPS contract worth $43 million to provide delivery services to city and state agencies, according to documentation from city officials. The company is also enrolled in a Department of Finance program that saves it millions annually on fines and fees for parking tickets. The program expedites ticket payment and in some cases halves or wipes out penalties.
"They took a grievance with one employee and turned it into notices of termination with 250 workers," New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer told The Queens Courier. “That’s outrageous.”
“These are middle class jobs that sustain families, and we can ill afford to have (so many) adversely affected by a rash decision,” said Public Advocate Letitia James, in the news report. She’s written UPS, asking the company to abandon its hardline approach. “We’ve given UPS breaks, particularly as it relates to this (parking) program,” James said. “They should not treat workers in this manner.”
"The company fired a group of drivers to try to divide us, create panic, or try to get Local 804 to cave in and sell out. That is not going to happen," the union wrote on its website.
Local politicos are gearing up to try to defuse a potentially volatile continuing situation, so stay tuned. This could be a good test of wills between a powerful company and one of the more powerful unions still standing. Did UPS think no one would notice?
Image credit: United Parcel Service (UPS) Delivery Truck by Navymailman via Flickr