(This article first appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Western Region Coordinator Omar Gonzalez
I’m not referring to New Year’s resolutions many of us already broke. I refer to what promises to be an interesting year.
Like millions of Americans, I, too, was devastated by last November’s election results. However the election is over and we are into the first 100 days of radical changes in government and our lives.
January 19 was the Obama Administration’s last day. I will not go into a litany of his accomplishments or failures. I want to focus on some events to come that promise to be – or at least have the potential to be – an impact on you in 2017. Please don’t fall for “alternative facts” or fake news.
Consolidation Moratorium Expires in April
April 1 promises disruptions and forced employee migrations. It is time for locals to re-educate members on the Principles of Seniority & Reassignment in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). There are three basic elements (among many) when excessing occurs:
- The USPS is required to give notice to the Region of the operational changes no less than 90 days in advance (six months whenever possible). Normally it includes a notice of withholding for residual vacancies to place impacted employees. To prevent erroneous information, local managers are not to discuss excessing from the craft or installation with employees until an Area/Regional Article 12 meeting is held.
- To minimize impact to career employees, all Postal Support Employees (PSEs) working in the affected craft and installation will be separated to the extent possible, depending if separating PSEs will yield sufficient hours for a regular duty assignment. The sole criterion for selecting excess employees is seniority.
- Affected employees get advance notice (not less than 60 days if possible) before involuntary details or reassignments are made from an installation. After attrition is applied, PSE hours are reduced, and volunteers are solicited, affected employees are issued a minimum 30-day notice that identifies their placement and report date. Employees need to be informed of their “Retreat Rights.” The local union should ensure the Retreat Right process and change in seniority is explained. Excessing employees outside the installation cannot occur more than once every three calendar months and is currently restricted to 50 miles (check your craft Memorandums of Understanding for more information).
The simplified process above contains the basic information a member needs to know when consolidations and excessing occur. While the CBA requires new Area Mail Processing studies, there are no provisions that prohibit excessing (involuntary reassignments) so long as the principles of reassignment and seniority are properly applied. You can access the Joint Contract Interpretation Manuel in Article 12 of CBA at apwu.org.
Postal Reform & Lay-Offs
Management’s legislative goals promise to impact your job. The GOP’s stated mantra basically is “the government works for the people, the people do not work for the government.” In other words, cut back government employees.
USPS is an independent establishment of the Executive Branch of our government. It is important to remember how the management of the USPS operates, from the President of the United States down to your direct supervisor:
- USPS is under the direction of a presidential-appointed Board of Governors, which directs their powers through management.
- Management blames much of what hinders USPS on labor costs, price caps and product restrictions. They claim these are “legislative restrictions” on USPS’s business model and seek to have Congress impose “postal reform.” This reform could affect our health benefits, our jobs through “right sizing” mail-processing infrastructure and transportation networks. This “leaning out” in reality is abolishment, excessing, consolidations and privatization of services including “optimization of retail services,” through closing post offices (replacing them with postal “stores” and retail partnerships instead).
- The Office of Strategic Planning and National Performance Assessment programs align management’s goals. With our government in the hands of corporate elites, such postal reform could possibly lead to the relaxation by Congress of the Private Express Statutes, which would have our Lay Off Protection Memorandum in the CBA expire.
Would management allow our postal monopoly to be undermined? They promised to have fair employment practices, safe secure workplaces, effective training, fair supervision, honest/open communication, job security and performance recognition. So, you tell me. Remember we are a part of the Executive Branch and as the recent hiring freeze exception showed, we can be impacted by White House whims by the stroke of a pen.
Worker Protections Weakened
The government agencies we rely on to ensure fair working and living standards will be directed by corporate elites. The new Department of Labor will tilt even further against workers. Regulations prohibiting manager’s unfair labor practices will be undermined. Weakened OSHA safety standards will increase injuries and deaths. Veteran Appeal Rights will give way to agency rights. Even time on the clock for grievances can go away.
So much promises to change. What must not change is our resolve to fight for better working and living conditions.
Fighting for better economic and social conditions, as well as against unjust laws, is what I and my fellow coordinators, Sharyn Stone, John Dirzius, Mike Gallagher and Kennith Beasley promise to do.
Join us and the APWU as we fight for our future!