The Laurelton UPS warehouse in Queens was inundated with fuming Teamsters Local 804 and supporters on Wednesday after 10 part-time employees were given the boot.
The essential workers’ dismissal, after a year of much-needed service during the pandemic, has union members steaming with anger, so much so that they took the fight to the delivery service’s doorstep at 136-40 Springfield Blvd.
The message was clear: “Hire them back.” The union members assembled between two trucks with large inflatable dummies depicting greedy bosses clutching bags of money. Blasting music and chanting, the gathering ensured those inside the large facility could hear their rebukes.
Passing drivers, including firefighters, honked in support as demonstrators waved signs and called out top UPS officials.
The dispute began brewing when the part-timers were fired for walking out of the job without first informing their supervisors despite the fact their shift had already come to an end.
“Almost two weeks ago ten of our part-time brothers and sisters were discharged unjustly—no hearing given—for abandoning the job. These are part-timers, they have other jobs to go to, family to take care of, special needs children to take care of—two of our sisters were pregnant—and they were unceremoniously discharged. This is a crime,” said Vinny Perrone, president of Teamsters Local 804.
While UPS say they are willing to hire the ten back, the union has rejected this first offer because, they say, it comes with a caveat.
According to Teamsters Local 804, the workers would have to undergo a suspension to be let back into the workplace, something they say is out of line and undeserved.
The union had plenty of support from a number of political hopefuls, such as Mayoral candidate and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Queens City Councilman and borough president candidate Jimmy Van Bramer, who also rallied in their defense.
“We have to stand up and make sure they have rights, that they are not getting arbitrarily fired, and having their health insurance taken away in the middle of a pandemic — that’s obscene. We need to make sure we are holding all of our employers accountable,” Garcia said.
The commotion drew several UPS officials from the facility’s entrance where they simply stood with their arms folded, garnering the ire of protesters.
“They’re watching right now, you see them?” Perrone said, pointing at the officials. “Those are their Pinkertons! If anybody that knows about unions they know that Pinkertons were hired by companies to break unions. See that big shield they usually concentrate on? Them, Amazon, all of these other companies they don’t want you to be happy. They don’t want you to have benefits. They don’t want you to lift yourselves up the way unions do. What they want and what they’ve wanted for 30 or 40 years is the working poor.”