Teamsters, supporters rally at NY city hall for fired UPS drivers
New York, NY – Hundreds of union members and community supporters rallied on the steps of city hall here, April 3, in support of the 250 UPS drivers who were issued terminations for walking out to defend their fellow co-worker.
Union members from Teamsters locals all across the city were joined by MTA workers from Transport Workers Union Local 100, SEIU 32BJ and members of Communication Workers of America and other union supporters.
President of Teamsters Local 804 Tim Sylvester told the crowd, “UPS is threatening to bankrupt 250 families,” and described the attacks as a heartless attack on drivers and their families. The crowd responded with shouts of “shut ‘em down!” and “Save the 250!”
New York Public Advocate Letitia James spoke and threatened UPS with ending their $43 million of tax breaks provided by New York City. She also pointed out that a sweetheart deal on parking tickets is in on the line, now that 250 drivers have been given termination notice and UPS already fired 20 workers on March 31. She went on to proclaim, “This ain’t Wisconsin!”
It was pointed out that different conditions prevail in New York City, which has the highest unionization rate in the country, than in Wisconsin, where right-wing Governor Scott Walker stripped public workers of their collective bargaining rights. “This is not going to end this way,” said City Controller Scott Stringer.
Workers walked out to defend a union activist and 24-year worker, Jairo Reyes, after UPS tried to fire him through an abuse of the grievance procedure. UPS’ abuse of the grievance procedure is a common practice to retaliate against workers who are trying to enforce their rights. UPS issued working terminations to the 250 brave drivers from Teamsters 804, claiming they could maintain the right to dismiss them at anytime.
One of the workers who was issued a termination, Domenick DeDomenico, age 40, spoke of the kind of harassment workers faced on a daily basis at UPS. A car struck DeDomenico while he was delivering packages, and he slipped into a coma for 10 days. He eventually returned to work after brain surgery and serious physical therapy. However, upon his return, UPS issued him a separate intent to discharge for slipping from his delivery rate of 13 packages per hour to 11 packages per hour after his injury. “I have a 13-year-old son and a wife,” said DeDomenico.
Shop steward and 804 driver Vincent Perrone told the crowd, “How do you do something like this to our families? We work 10, 11, 12 hours a day…we leave houses at 6 o’clock in the morning and get home at 10 o’clock at night. It takes a toll on us, on our families, but we want to work. All we want is the dignity and respect we deserve.”
A spokesperson for UPS later issued continuing threats, claiming that if UPS lost their tax breaks and sweetheart deals they may be forced to fire additional employees.
“This company thinks they can get away with whatever they want. If they refuse to listen to reason, if they refuse to back down, it’s time to walk all the buildings and show them what union power means,” said one 804 member who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation for advocating a work stoppage. “We’ve got the support of the city, now’s the time to take a stand.”