Importance of Contract Action Teams
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Clerk Craft Directors
Contract negotiations will begin in June, and the membership has democratically decided on resolutions to improve the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
In general, most postal workers are sick and tired of the understafﬁng, daily contractual violations, and poor service that the Postal Service is providing to the public. Most union members would like to see better service to our communities, as well as improvements to working conditions, wages and beneﬁts. Contract negotiations will be an opportunity to make progress on these important issues.
Hostile Opposition in Negotiations
However, we will face strong opposition in our efforts to improve the Postal Service. Many of the large mailers – who are among the largest corporations in the world – and their friends in Congress will again be pressuring the Postal Service to seek concessions from postal employees. These large mailers continually push the Postal Service to cut stafﬁng and reduce service to the public in order to reduce how much they pay for postage.
In addition, many of the large mailers are media companies like Time Warner, who have signiﬁcant inﬂuence on the public’s understanding of what is occurring at the Postal Service. Corporate-owned news and information will reﬂect the interests of corporate ownership and their advertisers. The labor movement today lacks the type of media outlets that can explain our story to millions of people like corporate media can.
In this hostile environment, simply asking for an improvement in our contract will not be enough. Collective bargaining without the willingness to engage in collective action is merely collective begging, and will not change the balance of power.
Collective Action is the Historical Recipe for Success
All signiﬁcant gains in the past – either in the labor movement, civil rights movement or any other movement – has come about from collective action. Gains were made through strikes, boycotts, working to rule, public campaigns and other efforts where large groups of people worked together to bring pressure to bear on important decision makers. It takes a movement to make progress.
The wildcat, Great Postal Strike of 1970 was the key collective action that the people who came before us did to win many of the beneﬁts that we enjoy at the post ofﬁce today. More recently, the many volunteers who participated in the Stop Staples boycott stopped the Postal Service from utilizing large chain stores to contract out Clerk Craft work. When people came together and sacriﬁced for the greater good, we made progress.
Contract Actions Teams Are the Key to Success
APWU Contract Action Teams (CATs), where individuals come together to carry out collective action, will play a critical role to bring pressure on the USPS to win contractual language that management would not otherwise provide.
Actions usually begin small and gradually escalate as the CAT teams get stronger. For example, it might start with education within the team so that everyone is on the same page, then education to employees on the ﬂoor, to “Wear Your Union Gear” days, to safety enforcement day, to informational pickets, etc. Working together as a large group in collective actions is surprisingly fun and empowering.
In order to get the Postal Service to agree to any improvements in the CBA, the APWU will need a corresponding amount of leverage. A little bit of power will translate to a little bit of improvements – a lot of power, a lot of improvements. It is up to us.
The more employees that participate in Contract Action Teams, the more the APWU can gain improvements in the CBA. Join the ﬁght for a better tomorrow. Sign up today to participate on a Contract Action Team in your workplace. If your local or state union does not have a CAT Team set up yet, speak to your local/state president about forming one.