An all-star cast of elected officials joined UPS employees outside the company’s Maspeth facility Friday morning to protest the pink slips given to the 250 workers who walked off the job last month after they disapproved of a colleague’s firing.
At the rally, dozens of UPS drivers who belong to Teamsters Local 804 and elected officials such as Public Advocate Letitia James, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and Council members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) called on UPS to save face and rescind the termination notices issued by the company.
After UPS fired driver Jairo Reyes on Feb. 26, a protest was organized by 250 fellow employees the same day.
The workers walked off the job for a few hours to show solidarity with Reyes, who they claim was denied his “innocent until proven guilty” rights when being disciplined by the company.
Neither UPS, nor the union, nor the elected officials would say why Reyes was dismissed.
The 250 protesting employees were then given termination notices for staging the walkout. They were not officially fired, but the slips serve as a warning to the workers, and UPS has maintained they can be terminated at any time for the insubordination.
At the Friday rally, James urged UPS to reconsider its disciplinary measure.
“You deliver the packages but we’re here to deliver a message to UPS that you will not treat these workers with disrespect,” James said. “We urge you to hire these individuals and we urge you to respect workers with dignity. No justice, no peace.”
A petition featuring over 100,000 signatures calling on UPS to void the termination notices was presented at the rally, and the drivers chanted “804, 804” repeatedly, but in a statement, UPS maintained its right to take strict action against the workers.
“UPS is taking appropriate and justifiable action to address an illegal and unauthorized work stoppage,” the statement read. “The collectively bargained agreement has clear language that states that if any employee participates in an unauthorized work stoppage, they can be terminated.”
Lancman doesn’t see the pink slip distribution as protocol. Instead, he believes it was an attempt by UPS to suppress the opinions of its workers.
“UPS sent out this termination notice to send them a message that they should keep their mouths shut,” Lancman said in a phone interview Monday. “So we had a rally to say no. These guys are vital members of the Queens community. They have been working here for years and these are the jobs in which they help provide for their families.”
At the rally, both Crowley and Van Bramer emphatically declared their support for the workers as well.
“The entire Council is united behind you,” Van Bramer said.
“We stand with you today and 100,000 people across the country are standing with you,” Crowley added.
Federal level politicians have taken a stance on the issue, as well.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) issued a statement calling on UPS to fully reinstate the endangered workers immediately while former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said in a statement that “negotiation is always better than unilateral actions that harm people’s lives.”
A second petition on MoveOn.org had 46,541 signatures by press time.