Planning Ahead: Preparing for 2015 Contract Negotiations
(This article appears in the March/April 2014 edition of The American Postal Worker.)
Tony D. McKinnon Sr., Industrial Relations
The Collective Bargaining Agreement, the union contract between the American Postal Workers Union and the United States Postal Service, expires in May 2015. Negotiations with the USPS will begin 90 days prior, in February 2015. APWU preparations are beginning now. As part of our preparations, we are seeking input from union members and officers at all levels of the organization.
We encourage union members to provide suggestions to their local APWU stewards and officers, or to the national union headquarters. Suggestions may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Tony D. McKinnon Sr., Industrial Relations Department Director, APWU Negotiations 2015, 1300 L Street NW, Washington DC 20005.
State and regional APWU meetings also provide an important opportunity for members to voice their concerns. Resolutions adopted at these meetings will be submitted to the national union for consideration by delegates to the 22nd APWU National Convention in July 2014. At the convention, the Labor-Management Committee will review resolutions about the contract and make recommendations to the delegates, who will vote the proposals up or down. Resolutions approved by the convention are included with others to be considered during negotiations.
Click here for a compilation of previously-adopted Labor Management Resolutions [PDF]. Resolutions listed in the document are considered “standing resolutions,” so it is not necessary to resubmit them.
Of course, not every suggestion or resolution will become part of the new contract. But, as we prepare for talks and try to negotiate the best possible contract for our members, the National Negotiating Team will evaluate all proposals.
In addition to formal resolutions and proposals, the union’s national negotiators hear from local and state leaders, regional coordinators and national business agents about problems in the field that need to be addressed through contract negotiations.
Some may ask, “Why start so early on negotiations?” The reason is simple. We believe that negotiating a solid and improved Collective Bargaining Agreement is perhaps the union’s most important job. We take the responsibility very seriously. We believe preparing early is the only way we may be able to undo some of the damage done, and position ourselves to advance the issues that must be addressed on behalf of the membership.
We are committed to protecting full-time career work, creating a pathway for the conversion of Postal Support Employees to career employment, ensuring that part-time flexibles are afforded an opportunity to opt to career status, ensuring that excessed members are afforded the opportunity to return to assignments close to their homes, making sure arbitration awards and grievance settlements are honored — with payments issued in a timely manner when they are awarded — and ensuring that our members are fairly compensated for work.
The 2015 negotiations will be tough, but we, as APWU members, are resilient. We believe in the old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” We are ready to fight for your rights, for the preservation of the APWU, and for the great institution called the People’s Postal Service. To accomplish our goals during these trying times, we will need the support of the entire membership.
Justice Delayed, Justice Denied
A grievance is defined as “a dispute, difference, disagreement or complaint” between the union and management related to wages, hours and working conditions. Workers employed at non-union companies don’t have the right to file grievances or challenge management actions. Our union contract guarantees that right, and it is a great right for postal workers.
But the current process for resolving grievances often fails to work for union members. It takes far too long to get grievances adjudicated, and justice delayed is justice is denied. Postal management frequently frustrates the process by flagrantly violating the contract and then just daring the workers and local unions to, “Go ahead and file your grievance.”
We are working very hard to address the outrageous grievance backlog and to develop some new test programs to see what works best for our members and local unions. With more than 33,000 cases scheduled for arbitration, that is an urgent task. I will report to you in my next article any progress made on this important issue.
Failure to Abide by Agreements
I have found through my own experience and many reports from leaders and activists around the country that even when the union wins a grievance through a settlement or an arbitration award, postal management often refuses to comply with the award or the very document they agreed to and signed.
I believe strongly that if we are to have any type of real relationship, the USPS must first begin to consistently enforce the contract and must embrace the idea that compliance is not voluntary, it is absolutely necessary for all of their managers in the field.
We encourage union members to provide input to their stewards and officers or to the national union headquarters.
With that in mind, I am requesting that any officer, steward or member provide me a copy of any signed agreement or arbitration award that management refuses to honor. Please provide a short explanation of the issue and mail it to 1300 L Street NW, Washington DC 20005, or send it via email to email@example.com.