BY LUIS GRONDA
United Parcel Service drivers who organized a protest against a former colleague’s termination are now being shown the pink slip as well.
Two hundred and fifty UPS drivers have been fired for temporarily walking out of the job late last month to protest the firing of Jairo Reyes, who worked there for 24 years, and not receiving the hearing that workers are entitled to.
The workers staged the protest outside of the UPS facility in Maspeth on Feb. 26.
According to a source familiar with the dispute, the union that represents the UPS employees, the company violated what is called the “innocent until proven guilty” clause in their contract, which states if UPS accuses an employee of wrongdoing and wants to terminate employment, they have the right to stay on the job until a neutral arbitrator makes a decision on the situation.
The source said this is not the first time UPS has fired a worker without a hearing.
“It’s a chronic problem,” the source said.
The drivers held their protest on the same day Reyes was fired and returned to work after 90 minutes of voicing their disapproval.
“They delivered their message, then they delivered the packages,” the source said.
The union later met with UPS executives in Florida regarding the situation the following week and tried to resolve the issues. Nothing was settled from the two meetings they have held and they have not met with the company since, the source said. The union hopes to get the jobs back for all of the fired employees, including Reyes.
In an emailed statement, UPS said it took an “appropriate and justifiable” action to fire the employees for an illegal and unauthorized work stoppage.
“The employees in question abandoned their jobs and staged a protest after encouragement from the local union official, who chose to pre-empt the grievance procedure and organize a walk-out, rather than allowing a dispute to be resolved through mutually agreed upon contractual provisions,” the company said.
They added that their collectively bargained agreement states that an employee can be fired if they participate in an unauthorized work stoppage and their Feb. 26 protest disregarded an arbitrator’s warning in 2011 that every employee is on notice that a future walkout may result in their termination.
As a reaction to the workers termination, the Working Families party launched two petitions in support of the 250 who lost their jobs, including one on moveon.org, which as more than 43,000 signatures as of press time. They have gathered about 100,000 signatures in total.
“The tens of thousands of signatures on our petition reflect the strong disapproval of UPS’s underhanded tactics,” Bill Lipton, State Director for the Working Families Party, said in a statement.
Local 804 President Tim Sylvester, which is the union that represents the UPS workers, demanded that UPS sit down with the union to discuss the issues regarding the workers.
“UPS drivers in Queens walked off the job to protest harassment and company violations of their rights, including their Innocent Until Proven Guilty rights. Customers, elected officials and the public are sending UPS the message that it is outrageous to fire hard working New Yorkers for standing up for their rights,” he said in a statement.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.