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Most mornings, Steve Franey arrives at the UPS fulfillment center in the Suffolk County hamlet of Farmingville at 3:30 a.m. for the start of his eight-hour shift. His workdays are typically split into two sections, for which he makes different hourly rates: one of unloading boxes, for which he's paid just over $24, and the other driving a package car to JFK Airport to pick up items, for which he earns almost $36 an hour.
But before he sets off on his daily tasks, Franey checks his time sheet from the previous workday to make sure it correctly notes the hours he's worked doing each task. He does this out of precaution, since, he said, UPS managers have revised his time card upward of 50 times without notifying him, trading his higher-rate driving hours for his unloading hours and shorting him some of his previous days’ earnings.
“Every time, it is done on purpose,” Franey said in an interview last week. “The time sheet is correct the night before and wrong the next morning.” UPS managers and supervisors, according to the companies’ labor agreement with the Teamsters, are explicitly prohibited from altering an employee's time card without notifying the worker.
Managers, though, often ignore that provision, Franey said. “There's no deterrence to stop managers from doing this,” said Franey, who has worked at UPS for more than 16 years. “They go away for a bit and just come back again.”
Vinnie Perrone, president of Teamsters Local 804, which represents thousands of UPS workers in New York City, Westchester and Long Island, said he often hears from frustrated members whose supervisors have not given them raises following promotions, not paid them for mandated vacation days, edited time sheets or, in some cases, switched employees back to a lower pay rate weeks after their promotions.
Perrone said managers will also revise time sheets to decrease drivers’ actual hours if they have worked for more than 13 hours in one day, which is prohibited by federal regulations. “That's illegal,” Perrone said of managers' editing time sheets. “It's potentially wage theft and they’re not supposed to do that.”
Perrone said the time card issues and others are widespread across the local’s 14 facilities. Union officials are constantly helping members correct mistakes made by managers and supervisors that affect their payrolls, he said.
Chris Connelly, a Teamsters shop steward who represents Franey and around 150 other workers at the Farmingville facility, estimated that 80 percent of his responsibilities entail asking management to address payroll issues, including wrongfully revised time sheets. “They always mess with time cards, it's something I always have to get adjusted to and it's always a problem,” Connelly said last week.
All of these tactics deployed by UPS’s managers puts the onus on workers and their union representatives to claw back wages that UPS has effectively stolen from them, and Connelly is concerned that workers who haven’t reviewed their time cards would likely be unaware that they aren’t being paid what they're rightfully owed.
“You fix one of these issues and three more pop up,” said Perrone who, because of the widespread issues at UPS, asked New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate wage theft at the company.
A spokesperson for James said the attorney general’s office is looking into the allegations.
A UPS spokesperson said the company was committed to accurately paying employees what they are owed and on time. “Pay discrepancies are rare, but our employees have multiple ways to report any concerns they have, and we work together to resolve those concerns when they are brought to our attention,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
‘They are penny pinching’
On every occasion that Franey finds that his time card has been altered, he alerts Connelly and they in turn tell one of one managers to amend the time sheet, which managers typically do, although corrections can take several days or even weeks. But Franey is concerned that some workers might not be as vigilant as he is. “I'm sure they're doing this to every guy they can,” he said.
“They are penny pinching to see who catches it and who doesn't,” said Connelly, who has been helping Franey resolve issues with his time card for several years. “A lot of people don’t look at every single hour they work. Some people are on top of it, and some aren't."
In Chris Cappadona’s case, he had to ask his managers repeatedly over the course of several weeks to raise his pay rate after he was promoted from a $15-an-hour position at his Brooklyn facility to a position as a driver where he was supposed to make more than $20 an hour. “I had to make a big deal out of it, and I asked a bunch of times,” Cappadona said. He eventually got his pay adjusted but never received retroactive pay to make up for the weeks he was driving and only being paid $15.
Perrone said workers have dealt with incorrect payrolls for years but that wage theft against his members worsened in January 2022 when UPS changed its computerized time-card system.
“This is not one or two people — this is hundreds of people. It's insanity,” he said. UPS supervisors and managers, especially lower-level part-time supervisors, are under pressure to keep labor costs as low as possible, Perrone said, which he thinks partly explains why some workers don’t receive the pay they’re owed. “But everything comes from up top," said Perrone, suggesting that the issue amounts to more than just a few bad actors editing time sheets or incorrectly inputting pay rates.
Company has a history
When John Kramer started driving package cars from the UPS fulfillment center in Canarsie in 2020, an older employee who had worked at the company for decades told him to check his time sheets each day to ensure he was getting paid what he was owed. “‘There's a high probability the company is going to try and screw you out of your money,’” Kramer recalled the veteran driver telling him.
“It can end up being a lot of money if it's affecting a lot of people,” Kramer told The Chief. He said he would bet that many of his coworkers don't know that their wages have been shaved.
UPS has been accused of wage theft by its employees on other occasions.
Workers belonging to Local 804 sued the Atlanta-based logistics giant over wage-theft allegations several years ago. UPS, according to the suit, deducted money from 6,000 employees’ paychecks as part of a company fundraiser for United Way, but without the workers’ permission. The total amount donated from workers' pockets came to $789,432.
The two sides settled the matter for $1.29 million in late 2021. United Way got to keep most of the money it received and Local 804 donated $188,000 of the money they received from the suit to local children's hospitals.
And last year, about 2,100 workers in California reached a $1.8 million settlement with the shipping giant following allegations detailed in a 2020 lawsuit that the company failed to give the employees lunch breaks and didn’t pay them for on-the-clock time when they were traveling between facilities. Workers each received, on average, $442 although some got as much as $1,700.
Connelly, the Farmingville shop steward, thinks his coworkers' experiences with their time sheets is a result of misplaced priorities at UPS. “They just don’t care,” Connelly said. “Your money is their last priority, they see it as a nuisance. All they care about is production, that’s it.”
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Thursday, March 16, 2023 Report this