UPS on Hot Seat for New York Firings That Followed Protest

(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) —

UPS is taking heat in New York for firing 250 protesting workers, with some elected officials calling for the company to hire them back.

But management at the Sandy Springs, Ga.-based shipping giant said the workers’ walkout violated their labor agreement, and that the company has no plans to reinstate them.

The dispute started with the firing of an employee, Jairo Reyes, who was discharged in February for a timekeeping violation, according to UPS spokesman Steve Gaut.

During a hearing that month discussing Reyes’s grievance over his firing, Gaut said a union official left the meeting and called for a walkout. About 250 of the 1,400 workers at the New York facility – most of them drivers – followed him out the door in a 90-minute work stoppage, Gaut said.

Gaut said the walkout violated the workers’ contract. All 250 workers received termination notices.

Last Monday, the company discharged the first 20 of the workers and said it will continue to discharge the rest of the 250 as it trains new drivers to take over their routes.

Teamsters Local 804, which represents the workers, called the actions “a heartless attack on drivers and their families,” adding that the union “has repeatedly tried to bring UPS to the table to settle the issues” in a statement on its website.

Gaut said UPS remains “open to meeting with the union. We just haven’t had any proposals that have been acceptable.”

Several elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., voiced support for the workers, and a resolution introduced in the New York City Council calls on UPS to revoke the termination notices and negotiate with the Teamsters to resolve the dispute.

New York City Council member Elizabeth Crowley wrote in a letter to UPS that the company’s actions “reflect negatively on your reputation and cannot be in the company’s nor the community’s best interests.”

Gaut called it wrong “for government officials to be able to tell us when the employer has to disregard terms” of a collective bargaining agreement.

UPS gets more than $40 million of work from New York city and state, and saves millions through a city program to reduce parking fines, according to the union.

If New York officials follow through with threats to end business contracts with UPS, Gaut said: “Less business for UPS means that we need fewer employees at our sites in New York.”

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