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Teamsters Ask: ‘Which Side Are You On?’

August 28, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

Jason Ide and Vinny Alvarez outside UBS offices on Park Avenue
Jason Ide of IBT Local 814 (l.) and Vinny Alvarez outside UBS offices.

New York, NY—Swiss banking giant, UBS, reported that its second-quarter profit rose 32 percent, but that's not stopping the financial behemoth from pursuing labor cost cutting. According to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, UBS recently dropped a moving contractor in New York that paid living wages to about 50 Teamsters members in favor of another contractor that pays lower wages and offers no benefits. Watch Video

Jason Ide, President of IBT Local 814, the Local that represented the workers at UBS, said the company can easily afford to pay the workers who average between $17 to $25 an hour.

"We think that's what we deserve. We're the ones who move the trading desks and keeps these guys in business," said Ide. 

The workers were responsible for moving furniture, documents and stationery file cabinets for some of UBS's major traders to different trading floors before the start of the next trading day.

"On Friday night when the traders leave one office and come to another office on another floor on Monday morning, all their stuff is there because we worked all weekend to make sure the move was done and complete. We took care of them, and we think it's really sad that UBS has decided the best thing to do is to hire a company that pays their workers a lot less and doesn't pay them a good benefits package," Ide said.  

In the quarter that ended on June 30, UBS's net income was approximately $750 million. 

"For a company that's so profitable to take it out on their workers, we think it's absolutely the worst thing," noted Ide. 

UBS is no stranger to lawsuits. The company recently agreed to settle with the U.S. housing agency, Fannie Mae, for $885 million for providing false information about the risk of mortgaged-backed securities it sold to the housing agency. 

And last year the New York Times reported that the IRS paid whistle blower Bradley Birkenfeld $104 million for spilling the beans on how he helped UBS devise offshore tax shelters that the company peddled to 4,500 superrich Americans to avoid paying a total of $2 billion in taxes. 

Showing support to the Teamsters who rallied outside UBS's offices at 299 Park Avenue, Vinny Alvarez, president of the city's Central Labor Council, said while UBS is reaping billions, millions of hard working New Yorkers are struggling. 

"There are millions of people in the city today living on Medicare and on food stamps and tens of thousands of children will go to sleep in homeless shelters amidst this extraordinary wealth. We call on UBS to change the dynamic and reward working people by doing the right thing," said Alvarez. 

And fellow Teamsters president Timothy Lynch of IBT Local 1205 rallied the 100 or more Teamsters outside UBS by singing the legendary song, "Which Side Are You On," written by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer, in 1931 when coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky were battling mine owners. 

Ide also said that the union is still in discussions with UBS and hopes the impasse can be resolved soon.

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