Friday, April 4, 2014

UPS firings. Shut down NYC. No more Patco's.

Jairo Reyes: Source
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

We reported on the situation in NYC with regards to the UPS dispute. UPS has fired 250 workers who staged a 90-minute protest at the Malspeth (Queens) distribution center in February to defend a fellow worker that was fired over a dispute over hours worked.

From what FFWP can gather, 20 workers have been fired and the remaining workers that supported the walkout will be fired as soon as replacement workers are trained to take their jobs. The Union, Teamster Local 804, says that UPS claims it can fire the workers that walked off the job anytime they want. There is a flyer from local 804 here.

UPS is claiming that the fired worker, Jairo Reyes clocked in before his shift and alleges he was paid for hours he never worked. Reyes said he had permission to do so.  Reyes is a 24-year veteran of UPS and a known union activist. He claims he was fired for his union activity including recent grievance filings over work hours for senior employees according to the media.

The union’s website claims that Reyes’ firing violated the contractual agreement between 804 and UPS that allows terminated workers to remain on the job while a hearing takes place at which a worker can defend themselves.  The Union describes it as "innocent until proven guilty" clause.

A hearing of such was held and Reyes’ termination was upheld according to a report from Business Insider.  After that, Reyes and 250 other workers walked off in protest.  There is a video of Reyes and a union official speaking at a meeting of these workers in the UPS parking lot here.

All this is secondary at this point.  To this writer’s knowledge, UPS is still holding fast to its position that the workers will be fired.  As the union official stresses in the video taken in the UPS parking lot Local 804 leadership is demanding UPS deal with the issue through negotiations.  In the video the union official is telling workers to return to work, a message he brings from the president of the local. The union leadership is making it quite clear to the bosses it will not build on the stoppage saying, “Local 804 remains committed to resolving this dispute through negotiations.”

At a rally this morning at City Hall numerous public figures spoke in support of the fired workers demanding UPS rescind the firings.   A number of officials from the ATU, CWA, the SEIU and the New York Central Labor Council also spoke.   "We stand behind our union brothers and sisters as they continue the fight to keep their jobs."   said Vincent Alvarez, president of the Labor Council.

This is the most commonly used phrase when top officials speak at rallies like these when workers are in trouble.  Top officials of unions and Central Labor Bodies have been “standing behind” every defeat we have suffered over the past 40 years.

The entire approach of the leadership is what we have come to expect, appeal to Democratic Party politicians to put pressure on the employer. This may or may not work but UPS has a $43 million contract with the State of New York and also gets huge breaks from the city that reduce parking fines by millions annually.

The reason for this orientation to liberal politicians of the 1% is that the alternative from the point of view of labor’s hierarchy would be worse as it would definitely work but create problems for them.

What should actually happen is that the heads of NYC unions and the Central Labor Body should immediately announce they will be organizing to shut down the economic life of New York City by next Monday if UPS does not immediately rescind all firings. It could be announced that the unions are also demanding all the giveaways they have handed over to the bosses over the past 20 years and that more jobs are needed.

My former union, AFSCME has its largest district council in NYC DC 37 with 120,000 members affiliated to it.  The Teamsters, Teachers, the ATU whose members operate the transit system as well as the ILA that represents dockworkers and numerous other unions have members in crucial positions in New York City’s labor force.

The union has organized an online petition signing that Move On is also circulating but this doesn’t frighten the bosses at all.  The union leadership dreads nothing more than the active and conscious intervention of their own members in these struggles. The thought of a victory terrifies them, as it would inspire millions of workers tired of defeats and being kicked around by confident bosses. It would transform the balance of class forces as workers would see what actually works and would not want to stop there. 

It would threaten the relationship the union bureaucracy has built with the employers based on labor peace and the Team Concept.

The anger that exists beneath the surface of society and in the ranks of organized labor must not find expression and appealing to elected officials and important people is one way of trying to prevent any movement from below developing within their ranks, a movement that the leadership will not be able to control.

The union leadership will do everything they can to prevent the anger and feelings Reyes expresses in the above video from being generalized.  The action these workers took is what works and rather than appealing for them to return to work a fighting leadership would be helping to mobilize link these workers with other Teamsters, other union members and the communities in which they live and work.

Even if UPS backs down as the Wall Street politicians reacting to the workers’ anger puts some heat on them that might threaten their contract workers will recognize that the real locomotive that moved this train were the 250 that walked off the job for 90 minutes in support of their fired brother.  It is out of developments like these that new leadership can arise.


Anonymous said...

They walked off of the job after a fair hearing was held that went against the employee. They chose to quit when they walked away from their duties.

wendy said...

They walked away from their "duties" in support of an unjust firing.
This is an example of the anger and frustration and willingness to fight that exists among the membership of unions everywhere and that is managed and controlled from the top.
Whose rules are we playing by anyway?
What is a fair hearing anyway?
If every worker or group of workers who walks off the job in support of "fair hearings" " is deemed as "choosing to quit" then we might as well just give up the struggle.

Anonymous said...

The worst fear of the company...agitated workers venting like this on company property.

Anonymous said...

Teamster prsident of local 384 mike boneduce would have sided with he sells us out every day