“What can brown do for you?” So goes an old United Parcel Service slogan. Well, the first answer that comes to our mind is this: Stop firing our friends and neighbors en masse for the least little thing.
That’s what the UPS center in Maspeth has been doing the past several weeks, dismissing 250 workers in a long, drawn-out process that began with notices saying they could be let go at any time.
Their crime? Walking off the job for all of an hour and a half back in February in solidarity with a colleague who had been fired after his productivity dropped due to an injury.
The whole thing is an utter disgrace.
Worker Jairo Reyes was hurt on the job. You’d think UPS would have some sympathy, given the strenuous nature of the work its employees have to do. But no, instead the company fired Reyes on Feb. 26. That same day, 250 other employees at the Maspeth facility held a 90-minute work stoppage in protest. They didn’t quit, they didn’t damage anything; they just rallied. But that was enough for their employer. It issued termination notices to every one of them.
They were not immediately canned, and most of them actually still work there, though dozens have been let go so far. That’s because UPS is taking its time so that it can train new workers to replace the ones it’s dismissing. While firing with advance notice can benefit someone who then knows he or she has to find another job, it’s also demeaning. It’s like pulling off the proverbial Band-Aid slowly, and everyone knows that’s the wrong way to do things.
The workers are unionized, members of Teamsters Local 804, but apparently their contracts allow for termination over work stoppages, so there’s nothing the union can do but show solidarity. And of course it has been doing that. Members rallied with elected officials against the firings last Thursday at City Hall. It was the second time so far they’ve gathered in support of the 250.
“I do not understand who in that company put forward a business plan to take away a generation of good will between UPS and the City of New York,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer told the crowd in Manhattan. “This is not going to end this way.”
We agree, and support Public Advocate Letitia James’ vow on the subject: “No justice, no peace.”
Maybe UPS chose brown as its trademark color because it likes to treat its workers like crap. That has to end. All 250 should see their employment fully restored. It’s the right thing to do.