CREDIT: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Two hundred fifty employees of the United Parcel Service (UPS) walked off the job for 90 minutes in February to protest the firing of one of their coworkers, Jairo Reyes. Reyes had driven for the company for over 20 years, and they felt his firing (which occurred after a complicated saga over the hours that senior UPS workers could hold) was unfair.
This week, all of those employees were given a pink slip, New York Daily News reports. “They just called me in … (and) said, ‘Effective immediately, you are no longer on the payroll,’” one UPS employee told the outlet.
Twenty employees so far have been let go from the Queens branch that staged the walkout, UPS spokesman Steve Gaut confirmed to ThinkProgress. The other 230 have been given notices of termination with the understanding that they will be be let go when replacements are found for them.
“We take the commitments that we make to customers for delivery as a high priority, and whenever we can’t count on the workforce to complete their jobs it negatively effects customer demands,” Gaut said.
UPS workers are unionized under the Teamsters, and UPS alleges that the protesters not only delayed package delivery for customers, but also violated their union contract. Gaut invited the Teamsters of Local 804, where the workers were fired, to appeal the termination under contract rules. But the union insists it already has.
“Since UPS fired Jairo Reyes and 250 drivers walked off the job in protest, Local 804 has repeatedly tried to bring UPS to the table to settle the issues,” the group’s local wrote on its page. “Local 804 will continue to work with political leaders and the public to bring UPS management to the table to reach a fair settlement. We will do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal.”
UPS has previously come under fire for its treatment of workers. In one instance, a pregnant employee was put on unpaid leave with no medical coverage after her doctor instructed her not to lift anything weighing more than 20 pounds.
While the details of the contract between the Teamsters and UPS are not known, all workers, both unionized and non-unionized, are supposed to be able to strike without being fired. Late last year, in fact, the National Labor Relations Board decided to prosecute Walmart for violating that law. Still, labor strikes are becoming increasingly rare, in part because of declining unionization.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of UPS’s spokesman. It is Steve Gaut, not Steve Gaught.
A copy of Local 804′s contract reads, “No steward shall have the authority to call a strike, cause a slowdown, or take any other action which would interrupt the Company’s business, except as such action may be authorized by the union.”
Gaut tells ThinkProgress that the union has come to an agreement with UPS and the workers who were given pink slips will be permitted to go back to work — and that the union will have to pay for the time UPS lost during the walk-out:
On April 9, UPS agreed to a settlement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and IBT Local 804 in the ongoing dispute over an unauthorized work stoppage on February 26, 2014. The settlement includes the following actions: IBT Local 804 agrees to compensate UPS for damages associated with the loss of productive employee time, other company costs and the negative impact on goodwill relating to the February 26 unauthorized walkout and related actions. Local 804 officials acknowledged that the February 26 walkout was illegal and unauthorized and will undertake other actions within the bargaining unit to correct the situation. The 250 UPS employees involved in the walkout who were terminated for their actions will have their terminations reduced to a two week suspension without pay for each participant. UPS has chosen to settle the matter in order to return to normal operations at the site.