Attacks on Federal Workers
(This article first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman
Let me take a moment and wish each of you a happy and safe holiday season. No matter how you celebrate the holidays, I hope you all have an enjoyable time with your families and friends.
Recently our sisters and brothers who work for other federal agencies had their collective bargaining rights attacked. In a series of Executive Orders, President Trump forced agencies to re-write collective bargaining agreements under new guidelines.
In the new collective bargaining agreements, workers would not be allowed to perform on-the-clock representation. Union stewards and officers would be limited to small amounts of official time. Union stewards and officers would be required to be off-the-clock for all grievances, negotiations and meetings.
The orders called for the elimination of the right to file a grievance on discipline, like removals. Federal unions can no longer bargain over work rules, staffing, or schedules. Unions with dedicated union space inside agency buildings were issued eviction notices to force them to move out of the agency buildings. Finally, in one of his most insulting actions against federal workers, President Trump issued a call to freeze federal worker pay – all while he continues to brag about how much more money Americans are making today because of his policies.
Multiple unions sued and some of the orders were put on hold by the court. Even though the unions may have been victorious today, the White House has appealed the court decision and it is clear that war will be waged against the federal unions – and the postal unions.
The Executive Orders did not apply to the Postal Service because we have our bargaining rights under the Postal Reform Act. However, there are other ways the Presidential Administration is attacking our union. Calls for privatizing the Post Office are the most basic attack on us. Breaking up and selling off the Post Office to the highest corporate bidder would eliminate your contract because the collective bargaining agreement we have is with the Postal Service – not a new corporation. There would be no guarantee you get to keep your job at the new “Corporate Postal Service” and if you did, you wouldn’t have your current wage, retirement, annual leave, or many of the other benefits you enjoy today.
Attacks on federal workers and calls for post office privatization don’t just hurt the workers. When the APWU and the other federal unions negotiate contracts, we negotiate things that help the American people. When we negotiate good schedules or win the fight for proper staffing, we are ensuring our customers are cared for. When we negotiate good wages and benefits, it helps our customers because the workers feel better about what they do and feel justly compensated. The fight against privatization and the fight to protect federal unions is really the fight for the American people.
Lastly, please remember that you have the right to a safe work environment. You have the right to come to work and return to your families unharmed. Be mindful that any safety program the Postal Service has is voluntary. For example, the Safety Ambassador program is not a jointly agreed to program. Under Article 14 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, your union is the sole representative for the enforcement of safety rules and regulations and the Postal Service is required to cooperate with the APWU on safety. Your national safety officers have initiated a national dispute on this program. Our dispute is that the program was implemented unilaterally without negotiations with the union, that it is not implemented consistently, and hinders what local safety and health committees are tasked with. You are asked not to participate in this program and should be filing grievances as necessary. Should you have questions on the program, please contact your national safety and health officers.