On May 8, Esteban Garcia sat beside a supervisor in his truck for his annual safety ride. As a 16-year UPS driver and member of Teamsters Local 177 in Hillside, NJ, Garcia is well-versed in the safety procedures which are spelled out in the National Master Agreement. But his supervisor didn’t seem to think those polices applied to him.
Garcia observed his supervisor, Dan Rowley, committing numerous safety infractions during the demonstration. And as a former member of the Safety Committee, Garcia began to worry about his own personal safety on this so-called safety ride.
“These are the types of safety violations this same supervisor has written our members up for, and he’s committing even worse infractions on the road,” said Chris Eltzholtz, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 177. “It’s another example of management hypocrisy that this company tries to get away with all the time.”
Garcia watched Rowley following another truck too closely, failing to signal a disabled box truck and engaging in other erratic driving. At another point during the driving demonstration, he noticed Rowley driving too far to the right side of the lane, causing him to slam the passenger side mirror of the truck into a traffic sign which folded the mirror arm against the side of the truck.
“I turned to Dan and said ‘you hit that sign’ and he told me ‘no, I didn’t,’” Garcia said. When he brought his concerns about Rowley’s unsafe driving to the Rutherford Center manager, the company’s response was to issue a warning letter – against Garcia.
‘Do as I say, not as I do’
Management disciplined Garcia for delivering late Next Day Airs during the training instead of addressing Supervisor Rowley’s safety violations.
“I told Dan we were running out of time to service these airs on time. He told me not to worry about it. We ended up have 21 late airs that I heard Dan take responsibility for after he received a phone call from someone about them,” Garcia wrote in a statement.
Nevertheless, it was Garcia – not Rowley – who was disciplined for the late deliveries. At a meeting with UPS Business Manager Doug Sbarra, Garcia’s shop steward, Luis Rodriguez, sought to defend Garcia and his complaints about Rowley’s driving. Sbarra dismissed Rowley’s safety violations and instead turned his focus on Garcia.
“Sbarra got so upset that he said at first he wasn’t going to discipline Garcia, but then he slammed his hands on the desk and gave Garcia a warning letter,” Rodriguez said.
Local 177 Business Agent Michael Irving promptly filed a grievance to be heard at the National Grievance Committee panel. Several related grievances against Rowley were also filed regarding Article 18 violations he committed during another safety demonstration. In June, the National Grievance Committee agreed with Local 177, ordering UPS to abide by Article 18 and follow all methods, policies and procedures.
“Management’s attitude is ‘do as I say, not as I do,’” said Eltzholtz. “This was a small victory and we still have more to do to stop these violations. We’re not happy with the fact that the company has yet to hold Dan Rowley accountable. It’s outrageous, which is why we are staying vigilante on this issue and the activity of this particular supervisor.”