March 24, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Maspeth, NY—City pols came out to show support for a United Parcel Service worker on Friday who was fired on February 26 because he was accused of working before his start time without authorization. The driver, Jairo Reyes, and his union, Teamsters Local 804, say there was no just cause for his firing and that's it's a violation of the contract to remove him from the job.
When word spread that Reyes was fired, 250 of his fellow drivers walked off the job to protest the firing. They in turn were put on termination notice by the company for walking out.
Tim Sylvester, Local 804’s president, said in an interview that what should have been a routine disciplinary matter has now exploded into a full-blown crisis.
He noted he met directly with UPS management in Florida and was hopeful a resolution was at hand. Instead, he got a call the next day from management saying that all the drivers who walked off the job would be fired.
“We were in negotiations and making progress. But instead of completing these talks and address the underlying problems, they retaliated,” said Sylvester.
According to the union, the drivers were given notices of discharge two weeks ago, but they are still on the job. The union has filed for arbitration to prevent the discharges but it hopes the company will back off their demands before the matter goes to arbitration. The union also hopes the company will abide by the contract and not remove these employees from the job prior to possible arbitration.
Reyes worked for almost 24 years with the company, but it didn’t seem to matter when they decided to fire him.
“That’s the best part of it all. For all this time, I’ve dedicated all these years and time and they didn’t take that into consideration whatsoever,” said Reyes.
Reyes said he’s looking for work while he’s still waiting to receive his first unemployment check.
City pols that came out to show support at the Maspeth Depot where a total of 500 UPS employees work said they were putting UPS on notice.
Public Advocate Tish James called on UPS to restart negotiations.
“We’re here today to urge UPS to get back to the table, we urge the company to rehire fired individuals. UPS shouldn’t be disrespecting hard-working union workers,” James said.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, whose district includes Maspeth, said she was proud to stand with Local 804 UPS drivers.
“Not only am I not here as a city council representative but I’m also a proud union member. Once you’re a proud union member, you’re always a proud union member. You don’t deserve to be harassed. We stand with you.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose father worked as a union pressman with the New York Times and served on the executive board with the ol’ Printers and Pressman’s Union Local 2, said the new city government stands with the drivers.
“The entire city council is united and behind you. You are the heart and soul of this operation. UPS is nothing without you,” Van Bramer said.
Coming down from Albany, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, also spoke in support of the UPS drivers. He pointed to Dominick Dedominico, also known as “Dedom,” who suffered a major injury when he was hit by a car while driving his truck.
“He spent a week in a coma, and how does this company repay him when he comes back to work? They fire him because he stood up for his brothers,” said Simanowitz. “This is not over. Dedom is not fired. If he is then I’ll personally lay down in front of that driveway.”
In addition to the pols’ support, the labor-backed Working Families Party is helping the Teamsters by circulating a petition on the MoveOn.org website, which already has 100,000 signatures. The public advocate tried to drop off the petitions in the depot to give to UPS management but she was denied access.
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