Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge
Consolidation: USPS Refuses Information Requests
Executive Vice President
(This article was first published in the September/October 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The APWU recently filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) protesting the Postal Service’s refusal to provide the union with information regarding Area Mail Processing (AMP) feasibility studies. Management’s failure to provide the information constitutes a breach of its obligation to bargain in good faith, the union asserted. The USPS must conduct the studies before it consolidates mail processing operations.
On May 10, 2011, the APWU wrote to the Postal Service requesting information about AMP feasibility studies. The union pointed out that the USPS provides the APWU with notices of its intent to conduct AMP studies, and asked for the data management relies on in making the decision to conduct the studies.
Before undertaking a consolidation study, the letter noted, the USPS must consider the impact consolidation would have on the community, service standard changes, impact on customer service, impact on operations at gaining and losing facilities, equipment deployment, and the likelihood of potential savings and efficiencies. This is the information we sought.
Furthermore, the union is currently provided copies of AMP feasibility studies only after public input meetings have been held and consolidation decisions have been made.
However, the studies are completed and available prior to the meetings, the union pointed out. The union also requested a copy of available AMP feasibility studies prior to public input meetings and before a final decision is made.
Ironically, when AMP feasibility studies and Post Implementation Re- views are finally provided, much of the information is redacted — blacked out.
USPS Rejects Request
In a June 20 letter, the USPS denied the union’s request in its entirety. The data requested by the APWU was not relevant to bargaining, management asserted, and providing the information would slow the decision-making process.
The Postal Service refused to pro- vide the information it considers prior to deciding to conduct a study, and refused to produce available data immediately prior to public input meetings, contending that the information is “preliminary” until management incorporates the results of the public input meetings themselves. In addition, the Postal Service rejected the suggestion that it provide the APWU available information after public input has been provided but prior to making a final decision.
The Postal Service also refused to provide un-redacted copies of AMP studies and Post Implementation Reviews (“PIR”) after decisions have been made and facilities have been relocated. The Postal Service maintained the information would aid competitors and rejected the idea of a confidentiality agreement, claiming such an agreement would be “ineffective.”
The union’s unfair labor practice charge asserted that the information is relevant to enforcing the Collective Bargaining Agreement and to providing input to the Postal Service about decisions that would directly affect bargaining unit employees.
In the May 10 request for information, the APWU pointed out that the Postal Service must afford affected persons — including employees — ample opportunity to provide input on the proposed decision, and must take their comments into account in making a final decision.
Refusal Sparks Frustration
Many APWU locals have expressed frustration with management’s refusal to provide the information, and their concerns have been echoed by community residents and local businesses. They ask, “How can we provide meaningful input, without access to information about the effect on the community, changes in service standards, and the impact on customer service?”
The Postal Service also has refused to provide un-redacted information to members of the House of Representatives and Senate whose constituents are affected by consolidations. At a time when the Postal Service is seeking support from members of Congress on major issues, it makes little sense to deny their requests for information concerning consolidation of postal operations in their area.
Legislators from Iowa, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), and Rep. Steve King (R), as well as the mayor and other officials from Sioux City have been outspoken critics of the Postal Service’s refusal to provide information about a study to consolidate the facility there.
The USPS response? In July, the USPS wrote to City Manager Paul Eckert informing him it would cost the city more than $830,000 to obtain copies of reports and documents that led to the decision to close the mail processing center!
Fighting to Save Our Service
Unfortunately, it seems the Postal Service is attempting to take advantage of the nation’s uncertain economic situation and its own financial difficulties to move full-speed ahead with plans to outsource retail operations, close stations and branches, consolidate postal operations, and reduce mail delivery.
Since January 2011, the Postal Service has announced plans to conduct dozens of AMP feasibility studies, and dozens more have been implemented.
But consolidating and closing mail processing facilities is not the solution to the Postal Service’s financial crisis. The crisis was caused by Congress, and Congress must fix it. The Postal Service’s assault on the nation’s mail processing network shows no signs of letting up; but neither does the determination of APWU members in responding. Local union leaders have been engaging elected officials, community leaders, and local businesses in the fight to save our service. We will continue to challenge any and all inappropriate consolidations.