APWU Now a Presence
At Mailers’ Advisory Panel Meetings
(This article by former APWU President Wiliam Burrus first appeared in the January/February 2008 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The APWU has prevailed in its efforts to gain admittance to the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), a panel composed of large mailers that has been meeting secretly with postal officials to develop long-term plans for the Postal Service.
President William Burrus called the agreement to allow the union to monitor the organization’s activities a “major accomplishment for the APWU.”
The MTAC charter says that the organization is simply a venue for sharing technical information, with members offering advice and recommendations. The APWU has long held a different view.
“In effect, the committee serves as an adjunct to Postal Service management, with extensive participation in the review and implementation of decisions affecting workers and the public,” Burrus said. “Every major management initiative — including network consolidation — has its roots in the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.”
For a year-and-a-half, the union had fought for admission to MTAC meetings. “This group has been discussing and determining the future of the U.S. Postal Service, and always in secrecy.”
MTAC members review a wide range of topics, including postal equipment, Burrus noted. “If they are developing a new flat sorter, we want to know about it when the plans are first developed. We don’t want to find out about it when it shows up on the workroom floor.”
Despite MTAC’s role in influencing postal policy, the USPS refused to permit an APWU representative to observe its meetings or obtain minutes of the proceedings. In May 2007 the union filed a lawsuit, charging that the secret policy meetings violated federal “government in the sunshine” laws. APWU was joined in the lawsuit by the Consumer Alliance for Postal Services (CAPS), a coalition representing consumers and nonprofit mailers.
The USPS claimed that the federal sunshine laws did not apply because the Postal Service does not meet the letter-of-the law definition of a “federal agency.”
However, faced with the prospect of losing the court case, the USPS last November sent written confirmation indicating that the APWU finally would be permitted access to the committee.
Burrus announced that the Postal Service had relented on the MTAC-secrecy issue at the All-Craft Conference on Nov. 7. “In short,” he said, “we won!”
An APWU Industrial Relations Department staffer attended an MTAC meeting during the week that the craft conference was in session. Phil Tabbita reported that he was among 80 observers in attendance, and that he found it very useful to have a firsthand look at the financial data used to justify MTAC recommendations that may ultimately shape USPS policy.