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Congress Looks at Consolidation

Myke Reid,
Legislative & Political Department Director

(This article appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would establish firm deadlines for Area Mail Processing surveys and would prohibit the USPS from removing equipment or reducing the workforce in affected facilities while it studies proposed consolidations. We encourage all postal employees to contact their congressional representatives and urge them to support this bill.

H.R. 2177, introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) on May 3, would require the Postal Service to complete AMP studies within 180 days. Extensions of 60 days would be permitted only if “persons likely to be affected” are notified prior to the expiration of the original deadline.

This legislation would eliminate much of the uncertainty that plagues postal workers and communities when ‘studies’ drag on indefinitely. The bill’s prohibition on removing equipment and cutting the workforce during the six-month period is also a significant plus.

Stupak, who represents northern Michigan and its Upper Peninsula, has long been demanding that the Postal Service be more accountable when it proposes plant consolidations. On May 14, an AMP survey with a potential negative impact for many of his constituents was completed, with the Postal Service deciding, “there are currently no significant opportunities to improve efficiency and/or service through consolidation of mail operations at the Gaylord, MI MPO. Therefore, no significant changes will be made at this time.”

The study to consider moving mail processing 60 miles away to Traverse City was announced Dec. 19, 2005. The termination announcement 18 months later was the first — and only — public “update” offered by the USPS.

Stupak’s bill would enhance provisions in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) that require community input when the USPS is considering the consolidation of mail-processing operations. The APWU vigorously supported a provision of the new law that requires the Postal Service to develop a plan to include a discussion of what impact facility changes may have on the postal workforce and service to the affected communities, along with formal announcements of such service changes.

The postal overhaul law also requires a process for providing ample opportunity for affected community members to provide input, and it stipulates that the USPS must take such comments into account in making a final decision. (Effective with the Dec. 20, 2006 , enactment of the PAEA, the Postal Service may not close or consolidate any processing facilities without using the procedures for public comment and input.)

Vote by Mail

Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) has introduced the Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act (H.R. 281), which would require a consistent nationwide policy allowing voters to cast ballots by mail. Currently, 26 states and U.S. territories place restrictions on individuals who prefer to vote by mail.

The bill would mandate that all voters have the option of casting their ballot by mail, with those who prefer to go to a voting booth continuing to be allowed to do so.

States that offered universal access to mail-in ballots in 2004 saw increased voter participation, with Democrats and Republicans experiencing nearly identical gains in turnout. Later this year, a conference of secretaries of state will meet in Oregon to discuss this concept. We support the bill and the APWU will take part in that forum.

EFCA Update

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) passed in a House vote on March 1 and was introduced in the Senate on March 29. This bill is a legislative priority for the APWU and all of organized labor.

EFCA would give American workers greater freedom to organize unions and would require employers to bargain over wages and working conditions. The bill would:

  • Recognize workers’ rights to form unions;

  • Encourage employers to bargain in good faith;

  • Authorize court orders to prevent activists from being threatened or fired; and

  • Impose stiffer penalties against employers who illegally fire or discriminate against workers engaged in union organizing.

Opponents who claim that the bill denies workers access to a secret-ballot process offer a flawed characterization. Under current NLRB procedures, workers who choose to be represented by a union must submit signed cards from a majority of the workers indicating they want to be represented by a specific union. Once cards are submitted, the union must be recognized — unless the employer demands a secret ballot vote.

Demanding a secret election is an option exercised solely by employers, and it is employed only to derail the representation process.

Experience has shown that it is the period between the submission of the cards and the employer-requested election that most problems occur, with employers intimidating (and firing) activists and doing everything they can to undermine a fair collective bargaining process. The bill is designed to require employers to immediately bargain with a union once the cards have been turned in.

EFCA is a long overdue piece of labor reform legislation that will help unions organize tens of thousands of workers around the country.

Our Union ’s Legislative Goals

Legislative Priorities for the APWU

“After more than a decade of focusing our legislative activities on the pros and cons of various postal ‘reform' measures, the APWU has entered a new era,” notes an introduction to a booklet outlining our legislative goals [PDF]. The new brochure identifies issues that demand our members’ attention, and provides a guide for the union’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill.

We hope the booklet will help increase our members’ involvement in the political and legislative process. A copy has been mailed to local and state presidents, and will be made available at various union meetings throughout the spring and summer. Additional printed copies can be ordered by calling 202-842-4211.

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