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UPS must rehire California employee fired after organizing union drive

A federal judge sided with the National Labor Relations Board that an employee was likely fired for organizing a successful union drive.

(CN) — A federal judge ordered UPS to rehire an employee at its Tracy, California, facility who was fired for what appeared to be pretextual reasons after organizing a successful union drive.

Chief District Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction ordering UPS to reinstate Daniel Valadez Arce to his former position and to refrain from disciplining or threatening employees at the facility for engaging in union activities.

Valadez lost his job in May, 2022, shortly after the roughly 50 employees at the facility — which exclusively handles drug deliveries for Kaiser Permanente — had voted to unionize. The purported reason for his firing was that he had briefly loaned his security badge to a Teamsters representative, Sal Lomeli, who was at the facility to observe the vote.

Since the facility handles restricted drugs, security there is strict, and Valadez had loaned his badge to Lameli because he needed to retrieve his wallet from his car. This, according to the court's order, appeared to be a farfetched reason to fire Valadez, who otherwise had a spotless employment record.

"UPS has cited no evidence to show it has suspended or terminated any other employee for problems related to security badges," Mueller wrote.

"It is also hard to see why Valadez’s actions were any cause for concern," she said. "Valadez lent Lomeli his badge in full view of management personnel, Lomeli already had a visitor’s badge, nothing suggests Lomeli went anywhere near the pharmaceuticals in the UPS facility or misused Valadez’s badge, and the security guard appeared not to be concerned, at least not until UPS’s labor consultant said something."

The judge also noted that UPS's labor consultant, who just like Lomeli was an outsider and not an employee, had been free to roam around the facility and talk to the employees in the days ahead of the vote.

UPS said in a statement in response to the ruling that it has a long history of productive relationships with the Teamsters.

"UPS Supply Chain Solutions took the actions it did due to serious violations of a clear, written policy," the company said. "UPS Supply Chain Solutions respectfully disagrees with the district court’s decision. UPS Supply Chain Solutions is currently considering its appeal rights."

The National Labor Relations Board sued UPS last year, claiming the company violated U.S. labor law, not only by firing Valadez but also by implicitly suggesting that the workers at the facility could lose their jobs if they organized.

UPS's management told the employees before the vote that the facility's sole customer, Kaiser Permanente, had moved their business there from a unionized facility and that part of UPS's sales pitch had been that it was a non-union operation. Management also warned employees that Kaiser might lose confidence in UPS because of the possibility of strikes at the facility, which could effect their job security.

"It would be reasonable — probable, in fact — for the NLRB to conclude the speech was a threat: management suggested neither UPS nor Kaiser would tolerate a union, and it warned the union could not protect employees’ jobs," Mueller said in her decision.

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Categories / Courts, Employment, Regional

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