Victories Won, Challenges Ahead
(This article first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The start of a new year is a perfect time to look back at what we accomplished in the previous year and to look forward to the year ahead.
Despite an unprecedented negative campaign fueled by Super PACs (Political Action Committees), and unparalleled attempts to suppress the vote, President Obama was re-elected with the support of the same progressive coalition of labor, minorities, women and youth that propelled him to victory in 2008.
The 2012 election was a clear choice between two different visions of America. The people chose tax fairness and a commitment to help the middle-class and those striving to become middle class.
I know that a good number of our members vote Republican for a variety of reasons, and I respect everyone’s right to support the candidates of their choice. But as the president of the APWU, it is my duty to oppose politicians who are hostile to labor and public employee unions and the Postal Service.
When it comes to the best interests of our members, the principles of the Democratic Party — although not necessarily all Democrats — are are more closely aligned with our interests than Republicans. That’s just a fact.
So I don't’t mind boasting that the labor movement and the APWU helped Obama win re-election and helped Democrats increase the number of seats they hold in both chambers of Congress. The AFL-CIO’s Labor 2012 program was an unprecedented success, and the APWU put more members in the field on Election Day than ever before.
But we’ve still got our work cut out for us in the new Congress.
Hanging in the Balance
Postal reform still hangs in the balance, and many House Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, remain intent on dismantling the Postal Service and weakening postal unions.
We will need to redouble our efforts in the coming year and expand the grassroots network we built last year to Save America’s Postal Service. If we’ve learned anything over the last several years, it is that the active involvement of our members is necessary to achieve our goals. I believe that in 2012, we witnessed the beginning of a new spirit of activism among our members. This activism is essential if we are to be successful in defending our rights, wages and benefits.
In 2013, APWU-represented employees will receive a 1.5 percent contractual raise, effective Nov. 16.
In addition, career employees will receive cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in March and September, representing increases for 2013 and increases that were deferred from 2012. These adjustments are in addition to a one percent contractual raise that took effect Nov. 17, 2012.
Postal Support Employees (PSEs), who do not receive COLAs, received a two percent raise on Nov. 17, 2012, and will receive a 2.5 percent raise on Nov. 16, 2013.
In November and December, the union presented our case against the subcontracting of all Postal Vehicle Service (PVS) operations in California, with more dates set for January. Earlier, the union filed a complaint in federal court seeking an injunction against the subcontracting until the case is decided in arbitration.
Motor Vehicle Division Director Bob Pritchard and Assistant Director Mike Foster did an excellent job preparing for the arbitration. Western Region Coordinator Omar Gonzalez and Motor Vehicle National Business Agent Javier Pineres also provided invaluable assistance.
The outcome of this case has implications for the entire Motor Vehicle Craft and the APWU. We will continue to fight the subcontracting of work that can be performed more efficiently by postal employees, and we will do everything in our power to protect postal jobs.
The national union continues to pursue disputes over the Postal Service’s implementation of Non-Traditional Full-Time (NTFT) assignments. The APWU made significant progress last year in forcing the Postal Service to utilize NTFT duty assignments properly. The 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement allows management to create NTFT duty assignments in the Clerk and Motor Vehicle Service Crafts, with certain limitations.
The concept has worked well in many offices, and many locals have been able to maximize the benefits of NTFT duty assignments for their members. Numerous employees have obtained schedules consisting of four 10-hour work days and three non-scheduled days.
Unfortunately, in other offices management has abused the NTFT provisions by forcing employees into assignments with undesirable schedules. The union reached a settlement with management last September that clarifies the Postal Service’s obligation to create desirable schedules for both traditional and non-traditional full-time assignments in the Clerk and MVS craft.
Health Insurance for PSEs
In 2012, the first group of Postal Support Employees (PSEs) hired by the USPS became eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). PSEs may sign-up for federal employees’ health benefits after they complete one full year of continuous employment with no breaks in service of more than five days.
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the USPS will contribute 75 percent of the premium costs if PSEs choose to enroll in the APWU Consumer Driven Health Plan. Employees will pay the remaining 25 percent. PSEs are also eligible to enroll in other Federal Employee Health Benefit plans, but will be required to pay 100 percent of the premium costs for other plans.
As the New Year begins, the APWU extends a heartfelt farewell to approximately 25,500 APWU-represented employees who will be retiring soon with a $15,000 incentive negotiated by the union in September. I hope each new retiree considers joining the APWU Retiree Department for $3 per month. The Retiree Department will continue to be the voice of APWU retirees on legislative matters and other issues, but we need your participation to keep these efforts going.
The Road Ahead
Many challenges remain, but I am confident that together we can accomplish great things. Your active involvement in the APWU is essential. We can’t do it without you.