Workers Under Attack and Fighting Back!
(This article first appeared in the May-June 2018 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)
By Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman
Today, more than ever, I am thankful to be a member of the APWU. Throughout my career the union has stood up when management may have wronged me and my coworkers and represented us all in negotiations that have provided a good living, benefits, and retirement. You and I are some of the fortunate in America today who have a union to do this for us. Most American workers do not have a union to represent them. Because they don’t have a union, along with their families, they are suffering.
The current administration has taken actions to curtail worker rights that have been in place since 1925. The administration is proving that all its rhetoric about caring for the American worker during the campaign was nothing more than lip-service.
In May 2018, the Supreme Court rendered a decision on National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc that will affect 25 million workers. This decision stripped workers of the right to take claims for things like wage theft to a court for adjudication. Now workers will be required take individual complaints to arbitration, at their own cost, rather than sue as a class in court over large-scale infractions. Unfortunately, claims of workplace harassment, equal employment opportunity offenses, and discrimination will now be forced into individual and costly arbitration.
In June, five out-of-touch justices ruled against workers once more, in Janus v. AFSCME. This ruling will allow workers employed in state and local government to skip out on paying dues, but still receive the benefits of union representation. It’s another example of rich corporate interests trying to destroy our labor movement.
Our enemies will soon learn it’s harder than it looks to squash the democratic rights of working people. The Janus decision, for example, won’t change how APWU operates. Under federal law, our union is already required to provide services to non-members. That hasn’t stopped APWU members from building an active, militant and effective union – and the same is true of many of our brother and sister labor unions in “right-to-work-for-less” states like Nevada, Florida and others.
Did Trump stand up for workers? Of course not. Instead the administration took a stance that Janus should not have to pay fees, that “right-to-work-forless” should be the law of land in the public sector, and that unions should be weakened.
Meanwhile, postal workers are under direct attack by the administration. The 2019 budget calls for increases to your cost for your retirement by 6%, decreasing the employer share of health insurance costs to 65% from its current level of about 73%, eliminating the annuity supplement if you retire before you are eligible for Social Security, and eliminating any cost of living allowance raise on your retirement. The proposal calls for cuts to your leave time by changing annual and sick leave to “paid time off.”
In June, President Trump released a plan to end universal service and privatize the U.S. Postal Service, a national treasure. And in August the President’s Task Force on the Postal Service is due to report. The order creating the Task Force claims “the USPS is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured….” They will report on the USPS business model, and on USPS costs, including the costs of the workforce. The task force is also required, after considering the mailers and our competitors views, to make recommendations for legislative and administrative reform. Likely, they will call for cuts to our compensation packages and to the service the
American people deserve.
These are challenging times for postal and American workers. But as we stand together, fight together, and work together we can overcome all these challenges. Together we will prevail against those intent on destroying the working class and protect our basic rights to fair wages and a fair standard of living.