Convention Adds National Business Agent
(This article first appeared in the November-December issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Delegates made some tough decisions at the union’s 2016 national convention, including a few that have a direct effect on Support Services Division employees and officers. Thank you to Orlando Anderson, Saint Louis Gateway District Area Local; April Mellen, Twin Cities PDC Local, and Mike Simmons, Twin Cities PDC Local, who served on the Support Services Committee at the convention.
The most important convention action for members of the Support Services Division was approval of a resolution to add a full-time National Business Agent (NBA) to the craft. Similar resolutions had come to the floor at the past few conventions and the votes were close then. This time it passed overwhelmingly.
I have appointed Judy McCann of the Twin Cities PDC Local to fill this important position, effective Nov. 12. Judy has been a great union activist for many years. She joined the APWU at the start of her postal career 36 years ago and has served in numerous union positions at the local level, including delegate to the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, steward, arbitration advocate and president.
She has also served on the IT/AS (Information Technology/Accounting Services) contract negotiation committee and on the Support Services Committee at the 2012 and 2014 National Conventions.
We now have another full-time officer to help with the numerous issues before our very diverse craft, which includes Information Technology/Accounting Services (IT/AS), Facility/Operating Services, Nurses and Private Sector Mail Haulers.
Some big issues are coming up, so the timing could not be better. We are about to start negotiations for another IT/AS Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current extension expires on Jan. 20, 2017, and we expect another battle over the recurring issues of subcontracting computer programmer work and our 10/4 alternative work schedules, among others.
Convention delegates approved two other Support Services resolutions. The votes indicate union approval of the goals; to implement them, we must negotiate agreements with management:
The first resolution states that hourly and/or monetary grievance settlements should be processed by bargaining unit employees. The second resolution would give APWU-represented private-sector truck drivers the right to file grievances with the USPS. This would mean that if the USPS denies badge privileges to drivers, the drivers would have recourse with the Postal Service, rather than the current appeal process.
A Disturbing Development
We have been dealing with a disturbing issue regarding the private-sector Mail Transport Equipment Services Center (MTESC) in Wayne, MI. The company that held the USPS contract was PAE, but in July the USPS awarded the contract to another company, Hollingsworth Logistics Group (HLG).
Since then the APWU has made many attempts to get HLG to recognize our bargaining unit and transition the employees from PAE to Hollingsworth. The work was set to be completely transitioned between companies by Sept. 23, 2016. As of the due date of this article, PAE employees were being laid off.
Despite the fact that we have involved U.S. senators and representatives and filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the company has failed to respond to our request. Stay tuned.
Health Insurance in Trucking Units
The big issue in our private-sector trucking units is health insurance. Due to the rising cost of health care, the Salmon Companies’ health plan is going to see an outrageous increase in premiums. We normally see yearly increases, but last year there was an 18 percent increase, and this year management is quoting an additional 34 percent increase!
The drivers are covered by the Service Contract Act (SCA), which requires companies to make “health and welfare” payments that are supposed to cover health insurance and other benefits the company offers, such as life insurance and disability insurance.
With the increases in premiums, drivers can barely cover the health benefits; if they elect family coverage, the health and welfare payment doesn’t cover it.
Salmon Contract Negotiations
The Collective Bargaining Agreement for Salmon Companies expires in March 2017, so negotiations will likely start in mid-January. This will be a contentious negotiation session. The company is going to have to cough up some money towards benefits or we may be looking at a strike.
Idell Mitchell, the former president of the National Professional Postal Nurses (NPPN), passed away Sept. 18, 2016.
Ms. Mitchell served as president of the NPPN for nearly 20 years before her retirement in 2013 and was instrumental in forging the merger of NPPN with the APWU.
In 2007, she recognized the need for the small, independent NPPN to join forces with the APWU. She earned support from NPPN members, and at the group’s 2008 National Convention, won a unanimous vote from delegates in favor of merger into the APWU’s Support Services Division.
Ms. Mitchell was a spirited NPPN president who fought vigorously for the rights of USPS nurses. In 1992, when the Postal Service attempted to close all of its Medical Units and replace the staff with contract nurses, she led the opposition. Her testimony was instrumental in convincing the arbitrator who heard the dispute to keep 52 health units open.
Her strength and determination enabled the union to protect the nursing positions; it also preserved the jobs of postal doctors. A postal physician said, “Without her, I can confidently say that we, as physicians, would not have jobs with the USPS.”
Ms. Mitchell’s was an optimist: Her most commonly used phrase was, “Be encouraged.”
She will be remembered by NPPN members, postal physicians, and USPS Labor Relations representatives as a fierce fighter for the staff nurses. She will always be remembered by those she touched over so many years.