Thursday, April 03, 2014

UPS fires 250 workers after they protest against a long-time co-worker's firing

I'm not sure how to respond to this NewYork Daily News story, via Think Progress.   From the New York Daily News:
UPS has delivered a special message to 250 of its Queens drivers: You’re fired!
The Atlanta-based company is booting 250 of its unionized drivers from its Maspeth facility because they walked off the job for 90 minutes Feb. 26 to protest the dismissal of a long-time employee, UPS told the Daily News.
Twenty employees were terminated Monday after their shifts — and the remaining 230 notified that they’ll be canned as soon as replacements are trained, a company spokesman said.
“They just called me in ... (and) said, ‘Effective immediately, you are no longer on the payroll,’” said Steve Curcio, 41, a 20-year employee earning $32 an hour.
The mass firing has enraged Tim Sylvester, head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 804, especially since the company gets some lucrative perks from the city.
Apparently UPS decided to fire a 24-year employee and union activist, Jairo Reyes.  The NY Daily News story does not provide details on why Reyes was fired by UPS.   After Reyes was fired, 250 unionized UPS workers staged an impromptu strike for 90 minutes, in protest of the firing.  UPS escalated in firing those 250 workers.  ThnkProgress is reporting that Reyes was fired over a "complicated saga" regarding hours that senior UPS workers can hold.

The rest of the story is about the city of New York trying to get UPS and the workers into negotiations, due to the fact that UPS has a $43 million city contract to provide delivery services to city and state government agencies, and that UPS participates in a special city program to reduce and expedite parking ticket fines and payments to the city.  Some New York City officials are now wondering whether to threaten UPS in negotiating with the workers, or cancelling these contracts.

I don't want to get into the details on Reyes' dispute with UPS, or whether UPS was justified in its firing of Reyes.  But I will say that UPS has a public relations disaster on their hands.  Do the UPS managers even watch the news stories regarding the labor strikes by fast food workers demanding living wages?  Or the McDonald's workers suing several stores in three states over wage thefts?  Or the stories of WalMart paying their employees so little that they employees are forced to apply for government food stamps?  Let alone, WalMart's own wage theft issues.  Like it or not, there is a battle growing between big Corporate America and their employees.  The employees have watched their own jobs being outsourced, wages stagnate, working conditions deteriorate, pensions and retirement eviscerated, and the endless demands of Corporate America to "do more with less," while not receiving any benefits for their increased productivity.  On the other side is Corporate America, with ever-growing productivity gains, increasing profits, and soaring multimillion paychecks and golden parachutes to their CEOs.  UPS may have been justified in their firing of Reyes, and the 250 employees who went on strike to support Reyes.  However, in this larger narrative, UPS is looking like the cold, uncaring corporation whose only interest is to screw their employees--UPS can always remove higher paying, experienced older workers for cheap, minimum wage scabs and make more profit due to reduced labor costs. 

UPS is projecting itself as being the "bad guy" in this story--rightly or wrongly. 

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