The United Parcel Service provided 20 Maspeth employees with pink slips this week with potentially more to come, the company said.
Workers staged several protests, including a walkout Feb. 26, in response to what they say was an unjustified firing of 24-year driver Jairo Reyes that same month. UPS fired back with threats of termination to nearly 250 employees and followed through this week after firing 20 employees and not ruling out more in the near future.
“We have implemented the release of a group of employees that participated in the Feb. 26 walkout,” a spokesman for UPS said in a statement. “Our first priority is to maintain orderly delivery operations and we chose to release 20 employees in order to minimize the chance of any impact on customer commitments. The misconduct on Feb. 26 was serious and the company is taking contractually appropriate actions to address those employees involved in the unauthorized work stoppage.”
A source who is familiar with the mass terminations said there were several more to come this week for the same reasons as stated by the company.
UPS told The Forum that employees’ decisions to walk off the job put them in violation of their collectively bargained agreements. It was that same contract that spurred workers to protest, with several arguing the company fired Reyes without allotting him a proper termination hearing as stated in his contract.
City Public Advocate Letitia James has been one of a growing list of citywide elected officials rallying behind the workers, and she offered her office as a means to mediate talks between employees and UPS. A spokesman from her office said the recent pink slips crossed a hard line and prompted James and other worker advocates to ramp up the intensity against the company.
A press conference has been scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. on the steps of City Hall in support of the workers, whose list of supporters included the Working Families Party, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and City Council members Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and more.
City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) delivered an official resolution to the City Council on March 26 calling on UPS to revoke the firings and negotiate with Teamsters Local 804, which represents the drivers.
“Although UPS maintains that the job action was illegal, these tools have been staples of successful labor movements, and union members should not be restricted from employing these strategies if they feel workers are being treated unfairly,” the resolution stated.
Local 804 has already collected and delivered more than 100,000 petition signatures to UPS management calling on the company to take back the pink slips, but a UPS spokesman said it did not regret its actions.
“UPS takes its commitments to its customers very seriously, and must take action to ensure unauthorized employee actions resulting in a refusal to work does not prevent the company from meeting its service and delivery commitments,” a spokesman said.
By Phil Corso