The ax is starting to come down on the 250 United Parcel Service workers who were given termination notices last week after protesting a colleague’s firing in February.
On Monday evening and Tuesday morning, 20 of the workers at the Maspeth facility who took part in a 90-minute walkout on Feb. 26 to protest the firing of Jairo Reyes earlier that day were let go by UPS.
The fired employees were chosen at random out of the list of 250 workers who protested in February, according to UPS spokesman Steve Gaut.
The remaining 230 employees will be fired in increments to allow the company to hire and train new workers at a pace that would avoid significant delays in the processing and delivering of packages at the facility.
“Many of our customers have contracts with us that includes penalties if we fail to deliver on time. There’s a reason we have dispute resolution language in [the employees’] contracts that doesn’t involve a walkout so we can do the right thing for our customers, employees and our business,” Gaut said. “Maintaining orderly conduct to meet customer requirements is what this is about.”
Gaut said he wasn’t sure of the exact reasoning behind Reyes’ firing, but it had to do with “a disagreement over his conduct in the facility in regards to working hours.”
Teamsters Local 804, the union representing the UPS employees, issued a statement on its website on Tuesday, calling it a “heartless attack on the drivers and their families.”
“The company fired a group of drivers to try to divide us, create panic, or try to get Local 804 to cave in and sell out,” the statement reads. “That is not going to happen.”
Last Friday, elected officials such as Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) joined dozens of union members at a rally to protest the company’s distribution of termination notices to the 250 employees.
Gaut, when asked if UPS had a response to the outpouring of support for the fired workers by elected officials, said the company simply followed policy after an unauthorized work stoppage.
“We believe it’s necessary to follow contracts,” he said. “Our approach is to encourage everyone that contracts have to be followed.”
Like the angered union, Crowley sees the mass firing as indefensible.
“The recently terminated UPS employees are not just the backbone that keeps the company running each day, they are our neighbors, with families that will not have wages to put food on the table,” Crowley said in a statement Wednesday. “We cannot allow this injustice to happen in Maspeth, or anywhere in New York City.”
Local 804 will protest the firings on Thursday on the steps of City Hall.