Accomplishments and Unfinished Business
(This article first appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
When members of Congress left Washington in September to campaign, they left a lot of unfinished business. Among the most pressing matters: addressing the congressionally-manufactured USPS financial crisis.
As politicians return to the nation’s capital, APWU members must be ready to push for meaningful postal reform. We must demand that Congress take action to preserve the Postal Service and protect postal jobs.
Throughout 2012, APWU members did an excellent job of taking our issues to their senators and representatives. Together, we helped stop Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) from dismantling the USPS, eliminating our protection against layoffs, and ending our right to engage in collective bargaining. Opposition from the APWU and our allies helped derail Issa’s bill (H.R. 2309), which would destroy the Postal Service as we know it. Our members also helped to improve the bill the Senate approved in April (S. 1789).
But the fight is far from over. As the USPS financial crisis deepened, House GOP leaders refused to con- sider the Senate bill and, facing stiff opposition to Rep. Issa’s legislation, did nothing.
Postal reform stalled, and the USPS missed a second $5.5 billion payment to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees — an obligation no other government agency or private company bears.
Once Again: Congress
In the days ahead, APWU members must refocus our attention on Congress and insist on meaningful postal reform — reform that strengthens rather than guts our treasured American institution and that protects the jobs of hundreds of thousands of middle-class citizens.
Postal legislation could be addressed in a “lame-duck” session of Congress before new members of the House and Senate are sworn in, or it could be addressed early in 2013, when new members take office. Either way, we must be ready to act — or react to any legislative proposal that addresses the crisis confronting the USPS. As long as the Postal Service teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, our workplace will be mired in uncertainty.
With the entire country on the edge of a “fiscal cliff,” Congress will face enormous pressure to address the nation’s deficit before massive cuts in government spending and significant tax in- creases take effect. We must be vigilant to ensure that the USPS and our jobs are not sacrificed during behind-the-scenes budget negotiations.
We will continue to call on APWU members to get involved. Please stay informed by visiting the union’s web-site frequently, www.apwu.org, and by participating in local union activities.
Despite the legislative and political turmoil gripping our nation, the APWU is making important progress.
Effective Nov. 17, APWU members will receive a 1 percent raise — the first in three years. Cost-of-Living Adjustments will follow in March, including increases that were deferred in 2012.
Considering the circumstances, the wage increases are significant: The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) — the same law that forces the USPS to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees — also prohibits the Postal Service from raising postage rates above the rate of inflation. This despicable law compels the USPS to fork over $5.5 billion a year without increasing the cost of stamps above inflation!
As we noted when the law passed, the restriction acts as a cap on wages, so our modest raises are an achievement.
Incentives, Jobs, Seniority
In September, the union negotiated a retirement incentive that will give eligible APWU-represented career employees $15,000 to retire, opt for voluntary early retirement, or resign. Many union members are facing a major, life-altering decision.
In addition, the union won several agreements that will protect APWU work and the seniority rights of APWU-represented employees.
A Sept. 10 settlement limits temporary assignments, reassignments or re-employment of injured employees to “residual vacancies” or “uniquely created assignments consisting of duties that would have been properly performed by non-career employees.” This agreement is significant because it honors the seniority of our members by providing them opportunities to get desirable jobs that had been previously denied to them, without limiting the rights of light- and limited-duty employees.
A Sept. 28 settlement clarifies the Postal Service’s obligation to create desirable schedules and work hours for Non-Traditional Full-Time assignments and other positions in APWU-represented crafts.
Clerk Craft officers negotiated two important agreements: A Sept. 25 settlement that Clerk Craft employees will be excessed from their installations by juniority, without regard to their pay level. Another agreement outlines procedures for filling 318 newly-created Level 7 Address Management System Technicians positions.
Maintenance Craft officers settled a dispute, stipulating that on-site computer software installation for postal equipment will be performed by Level 10 and Level 11 Electronic Technicians.
Facing an all-out assault, Motor Vehicle Craft officers have taken bold steps to protect APWU work and fight subcontracting — filing complaints in federal court and expediting a national-level arbitration case.
We are discussing other outstanding issues with management, and we are continuing to negotiate on behalf of APWU members in the IT/ASC bargaining unit, whose contract expired in January 2011.
The APWU is strong because of you! Get involved and stay informed!