UPS workers rallied on Friday morning calling for the delivery company to rehire the 250 drivers they fired last month. Photo by Luis Gronda
BY LUIS GRONDA
The United Parcel Service drivers sent a loud and clear message to the company they work for: Rehire the 250 workers they fired.
UPS workers rallied outside of the Maspeth facility last Friday, demanding that the package company sit down with the union representing its drivers, Local 804, and give the 250 drivers they fired their jobs back.
The company fired those drivers after they staged a protest against the termination of another former employee, Jairo Reyes, late last month.
Reyes, who attended Friday morning’s rally, said he was let go on Valentine’s Day for what UPS called “admitted dishonesty” for starting his shift earlier than the normal start time. Reyes said a superior gave the okay when he asked to begin working sooner than his scheduled time. But his contract stated that start time was based on seniority and he was shown the pink slip despite he and two other workers filing a grievance against the company.
Once word got out that Reyes was fired almost two weeks later, the 250 workers staged a 90-minute protest outside the facility before returning to work.
UPS told the Tribune last week they were fired for organizing an illegal and unauthorized protest and their collectively bargained agreement states that an employee can be fired if they participate in an unauthorized work stoppage. They said that an arbitrator ruled in 2011 that a future walkout, like the one that occurred on Feb. 26, could result in the workers losing their job.
Friday’s rally asked the company to sit down with the union once again to hash out its differences and to give the workers their jobs back.
“The message has to be sent to this company, we have a contract, they want us to hold up our end, they need to hold up their end. They signed that contract too,” said Tim Sylvester, president of the Local 804. “They agreed to innocent until proven guilty, they agreed to dignity and respect and that’s what this is all about.”
A number of elected officials stood with the workers to show their support, including Public Advocate Letitia James.
“We’re here to say that you deliver the packages but we’re here to deliver a message to UPS, that you cannot treat these workers with disrespect and it’s not over, this is just the beginning,” she said.
Reyes, who was an employee for 24 years, said he and the other fired workers would like their jobs back but both sides need to come to an equal ground so that disputes like this do not happen again.
“I’ve dedicated a lot of years to the company, I’ve given them my everything, my passion, my life, that would be good to have my job back,” he said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.