UPS made a huge statement earlier this week when they fired 250 employees in Queens, N.Y. following a protest. The 90-minute protest occurred on Feb. 26 and came as the result of a long-time employee’s dismissal following a dispute about how many hours senior staff members were allowed to work.
Of the 250 employees who are being fired, 20 from the distribution and sorting facility in Maspeth within the Queens borough were fired on Monday immediately following the completion of their shift. The remaining 230 employees have been notified of their pending termination; however, UPS has decided to keep them onboard and allow them to work until they can hire and train their replacements.
The 250 workers staged a strike in protest of the Feb. 14 firing of Jairo Reyes, who had been an employee of UPS for the past 24 years and a union activist. Steve Gaut with UPS said something had to be done about the protest; the company simply could not allow their employees to act with such insubordination. He went on to say, the misconduct of the 250 employees involved had jeopardized UPS’ ability to serve their customers in a reliable way and to maintain order during their delivery operations.
Tim Sylvester, head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 804 was angry following UPS’ decision to fire 250 of their employees. He said it was hard to believe a company that takes millions from the city each year would destroy the lives and essentially bankrupt 250 of their workers and their families.
However, UPS is fighting back saying all of their employees knew the rules and were well aware that their jobs would be on the line if they walked off the job in protest and staged a strike, regardless of the reason. Gaut said the walkout breached the union contract with Teamsters because there is a clause that specifically outlines a system for taking care of disputes and grievances, and it does not involve work stoppages.
Sources say that politicians within the city hope to bring the two opposing sides together and talk in an effort to resolve the issue. Letitia James, Public Advocate said, “These are middle class jobs that sustain families,” and she strongly believes they can “ill afford” to have so many people and their families affected by such a decision. James has further written UPS a letter asking that they back down and reconsider their decision to fire 250 people saying “they should not treat their employees in this manner.”
Union representatives as well as local officials are demanding that UPS rehire the 250 employees they fired following the protest and that the city of New York revoke millions in contracts that have been awarded to the company.
Domenick DeDomenico, 40, is one of the employees who is up for termination and this is an extremely hard situation for him and his family because he just recently returned to work at UPS following a near-fatal accident. Last year, while delivering packages on his route, DeDomenico was struck by a car. The accident left him in a coma for 10 days. He suffered serious brain trauma and underwent both speech and physical therapy to recover from the accident.
However, the effects of the terrible accident still linger and his work performance has slowed in comparison with what he was capable of prior to the accident. Before he was injured, DeDomenico was able to deliver 13 packages in an hour’s time, but now, if he can manage 10 or 11 deliveries in an hour, he is doing good.
When his supervisor questioned his decline in productivity, DeDomenico explained that this was the best he could do following the accident, and their reply was “it’s not good enough.”
UPS is feeling the backlash of their decision to fire 250 employees following a protest against the termination of Jairo Reyes. It will interesting to see if UPS, Teamsters union representatives, and local officials can work together to resolve the problem without destroying the livelihood of 250 workers.
By Donna W. Martin