UPS drivers risk jobs for solidarity

From the May-June 2014 issue of News & Letters:

UPS drivers risk jobs for solidarity

Queens, N.Y.—When driver Jairo Reyes was fired by UPS at one of its Queens locations, 250 drivers did what any class-conscious union member would do: On Feb. 26 they held a 90-minute protest rally outside the Maspeth facility demanding that Reyes be rehired. How did UPS respond? By firing all 250 workers.

UPS terminated 20 drivers for participating in the Feb. 26 walkout to protest the unjust firing of Reyes. They told an additional 230 drivers they’d be fired as soon as replacements could be found for them. UPS management said the walkout violated the contract between UPS and Teamsters Local 804.

UPS drivers' solidarity in 2014 recalls the Minneapolis general strike which ended on May 25, 1934, with recognition of the Teamsters.

UPS drivers’ solidarity in 2014 recalls the Minneapolis general strike which ended on May 25, 1934, with recognition of the Teamsters.

City officials blasted UPS for the termination, particularly in light of the fact that the company received significant financial incentives from the city. When the city said that they would cancel city contracts with UPS, the company responded at first by saying that they would fire even more workers. After an incredible amount of community support, UPS said it would not terminate the 250 workers and would rehire Reyes, who was fired due to a dispute over his work hours.

UPS has now reached an agreement with the Teamsters. The union will be required to pay damages incurred by the protest in exchange for the workers’ jobs. In addition the workers who joined the rally will be required to serve a short suspension without pay

Though UPS claims the union agreed that the work stoppage was illegal, Local 804 said that the protest was legal and permitted under the union contract. The workers have returned to the Maspeth facility. “We’re looking forward to turning the corner and getting on a new road with UPS,” Teamster Local 804 President Tim Sylvester said in a statement: “The drivers delivered their message to UPS about unfair treatment. Now every one [of] them will be back delivering packages.”

—Michael Gilbert

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