Auto Workers Laid Off
(This article first appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman
Recently, General Motors (GM) and Ford announced massive layoffs and plant closings. GM announced that about 15,000 workers will be laid off in 2019. As this issue goes to press, Ford hasn’t announced how many workers will be laid off, but estimates put the number around 24,000 workers. The stress and emotions the workers and their families are going through is something many of us have never had to experience.
These workers – most of them unionized – face losing their collectively bargained protections, including strong wages, health insurance, retirement, and other benefits. All in the name of corporate profits!
The executives executing this layoff plan will probably be compensated unfathomable amounts for “successfully” restructuring the company. How they achieve this is by trampling on the working-class people they view as “excess.”
These announcements remind me how fortunate we are to have the protections in our contract that we do. First, we have the no layoff clause in Article 6 that protects career employees who have achieved 6 years of continuous career employment with the USPS. There are also protections for career employees who were in their roles as of July 8, 2016, based on a Memorandum of Understanding that is in our current contract.
APWU No Layoff Protection
The no layoff protection we have is significant and it is a management target in every negotiation. The workers at GM and Ford would be pleased to have such protections and job security. GM mentioned that some employees who currently work at closing plants could possibly be employed in other GM plants. But would they be required to uproot their families and move hundreds of miles away? Specifically, how many of the laid off workers will be absorbed by the other plants?
This is another example of how our contract protects us. Even if the Postal Service has to make adjustments and determines that there are “excess” employees, the Postal Service must find work for those excess career employees. This work can’t be just anywhere. Due to a Memorandum of Understanding in the current contract, it can only be work that is within 50 miles of where the person is assigned. Not even our brothers and sisters in the Mail Handler Craft enjoy this fifty-mile protection. This protection gives APWU-represented employees unmatched job security.
We also have contractual guaranteed income protections in the form of work or pay guarantees when you are scheduled and report for work, regular pay increases, and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increases for career employees. Other federal employees do not receive COLA increases!
In 2018, COLA increases for Postal Service employees totaled $1,165. For Level 6 career employees, these COLA increase equated, on average, to a 2.4 percent annual pay increase. It was a slightly higher percentage
for Level 6 career employees in the early wage steps.
The APWU Collective Bargaining Agreement protects us! We are proud of the job and income security provisions the APWU achieved through the collective bargaining process. These protections are the envy of workers throughout the country, and keeping them in our current and future contracts has and will always be a priority for your negotiations team.