UPS recently fired 250 Queens, N.Y. workers for staging a 90-minute strike in February to protest the dismissal of one of their coworkers, Jairo Reyes.
The story has been widely reported, but little has been said about why Reyes — a 49-year-old longtime employee of UPS and a union activist — was fired in the first place.
We spoke to UPS and Reyes to get their sides of the story.
UPS claims it dismissed Reyes on Feb. 14 because he repeatedly clocked in earlier than his shift was set to start, which resulted in him being paid overtime for hours that he allegedly didn’t work.
“There was a disagreement over the hours he clocked and the hours he actually worked and we discharged him after several warnings,” UPS spokesman Steve Gaut told Business Insider.
The early clock-ins were reported over a period of five days, Gaut said. Reyes was officially fired for “admitted dishonesty.”
Reyes claims, however, that he had a manager’s approval to clock in early, beginning around Jan. 6. That same manager later denied giving approval for the new schedule, and Reyes was subsequently fired, he told Business Insider in an interview.
Reyes alleges the manager was retaliating against him for signing a grievance in early February about senior workers’ hours. He also claims that he was never given a warning before he was fired.
“It broke my heart,” said Reyes, a married father of two and 24-year UPS veteran. “I was out on disability for a year and I come back thinking I’m going to be able to get back on my feet. Now my daughter is getting ready to go to college and I’m worried. I still have a $US13,000 payment to make for her to go to school.”
According to the union, Teamsters Local 804, the firing violated an “innocent until proven guilty” clause that allows terminated employees to continue working until they have had a chance to defend themselves in a hearing with union and UPS officials.
That hearing was eventually held on Feb. 26 at the Maspeth distribution facility where Reyes worked, and his termination was upheld. Immediately following the meeting, Reyes walked out of the facility with roughly 250 workers in tow.
Alleged video of the walkout shows Reyes standing in a circle of UPS workers outside the facility and giving an impassioned speech against UPS.
“Without us, there is no UPS,” he’s heard shouting to the crowd. “Why do we get kicked down — because we filed a grievance? Because we want things done right?… Are they not creating an environment of hostility?Everything we do is wrong… It’s not fair to be kicked around. We gotta unite!”
Toward the end of the video, an unidentified man explains that he’s spoken to UPS and union officials and orders all the workers to return to their jobs. The strike lasted 90 minutes.
The company maintains that the 250 firings are totally unrelated to Reyes’ dismissal.
Strikes are not an approved method of conflict resolution in UPS’ contract with the union, so the company has the right to fire employees engaging in a walkout, Gaut said.
“When a group of 250 employees walk out for 90 minutes it is a significant disruption in the delivery of parcels or packages to customers on that day,” Gaut said. “We get penalties if we don’t deliver on time.”
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