Arbitrator Limits Use of Non-APWU
Casuals to Perform APWU Work
APWU News Service Bulletin #12-02, July 11, 2002 | PDF
The APWU won an important case July 3, when Arbitrator Shyam Das issued a final ruling in a case regarding the number of casuals management may assign to work in APWU crafts. The APWU sought to require the Postal Service to count Mail Handler and Letter Carrier casual employees against the limit on the number of casuals it may employ in APWU crafts, since casuals from the other crafts are sometimes assigned to work in APWU crafts.
Arbitrator Das ruled that the number of Mail Handler casuals eligible for cross-craft assignment to perform APWU work without being counted against the APWU cap is limited to 5.9 percent of the Mail Handler workforce. In addition, he ruled that the Postal Service must determine when it hires a Mail Handler or Letter Carrier casual whether the casual is eligible to be assigned to perform APWU work.
"This is a great win for the APWU," said APWU President William Burrus. "This award will protect the APWU bargaining unit from being adversely affected by casual percentages negotiated by another union over which we have no control."
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, casuals employed for use in APWU crafts may not exceed 5.9 percent of the number of employees in crafts represented by the APWU. Under separate collective bargaining agreements, the Postal Service may employ up to 12.5 percent casuals in the Mail Handler Craft and up to 3.5 percent in the Letter Carrier Craft.
The Postal Service claims the right to use Mail Handler and Letter Carrier casuals to perform work in APWU crafts. In this case, the APWU contended that all such casuals, even those designated to work in other crafts, must be counted against the 5.9 percent limit in the APWU National Agreement.
In his decision, Arbitrator Das relied heavily on bargaining history and the parties' application of Article 7, Section 1.B., of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which places limits on the number of casuals management may hire. He said, "Clearly, the APWU, which had no role in negotiating the Mail Handler cap, is entitled to protection based on its own negotiated cap." He also concluded that if the Postal Service were required to count all casuals in other crafts against APWU limits, "the Postal Service would be faced with a severe reduction in the overall number of casuals it can employ compared to its current operations."
In an earlier award in the same case, Arbitrator Das issued a ruling that was generally supportive of the APWU's position, but deferred a final decision on the remedy. He remanded the case to the parties for 120 days to see if they could settle their own dispute. When the parties failed to resolve the dispute, the APWU returned the case to Arbitrator Das.
The case was complicated by the history of the casual cap, which was negotiated when the APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and the Mail Handlers Union bargained jointly for a single collective bargaining agreement. At that time, the cap on the number of casuals covered all three bargaining units, and there was no limit on how many casuals could be designated for a particular craft. However, in 1981 the Mail Handlers Union negotiated its contract separately from the APWU and the NALC, and in 1994 the APWU and the NALC began to bargain separately. Since that time, the casual cap has been set at a different percentage for each bargaining unit.
The principles established in this case regarding Mail Handlers would apply to letter carrier casuals, but that will not arise under the present circumstances, because the percentage of casuals designated to work in the Letter Carrier Craft to less than 5.9 percent. The NALC intervened in this case in support of the APWU's position.
"This award will restrict the Postal Service's ability to use non-APWU casuals to perform APWU work," said Industrial Relations Director Greg Bell. "It would be a violation of this award for the Postal Service to use Mail Handler casuals to perform APWU work if they were not designated as eligible for cross assignment when they were hired," he said.
Discussion is taking place at the national level to ensure compliance with the Das award. In a separate case, the APWU is disputing the Postal Service's right to use casuals from other crafts in APWU crafts.
Senate Panel OKs Ergonomics Bill
Would Set Time Limit to Issue New Rules
On June 19, 2002, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), voted 11-10 in a party-line vote to approve a bill requiring the Department of Labor to issue new rules to prevent workplace injuries.
The intent of the bill (S.2184), introduced by Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), is to reduce the number of workplace injuries caused by repetitive motions such as typing, lifting and assembling. More than 500,000 workers suffer such injuries each year.
In late 2000, President Clinton issued an executive order requiring the Department of Labor to issue an ergonomics standard after 10 years of study. Last year, the Bush administration and the Republican-led House and Senate, passed a law (P.L. 107-5) overturning those rules.
Earlier this year, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced voluntary guidelines for business to replace the Clinton regulations. Her decision was promptly denounced as a major setback for organized labor's efforts to provide a safe workplace for workers.
The Breaux-Specter bill would require the Department of Labor to issue clearly defined rules that outline the circumstances under which employers would be required to address repetitive motion injuries and the standards by which they would be measured.
The following senators voted YES or RIGHT:
The following senators voted NO or WRONG:
It is anticipated that S. 2184 will be added as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2003 Labor Appropriations bill in July. Thirty-five U.S. senators have co-sponsored the bill.
APWU Action Needed:
President Burrus requests that all APWU officers, members, retirees, and auxiliary members contact their senators and ask that they co-sponsor S. 2184, and vote for it when it is considered as an amendment or as a free-standing bill.
House Passes Flawed GOP Prescription Drug Bill
On June 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2002, a bill that was backed by the drug industry and the Bush administration, by a near party-line vote of 221-208.
The GOP leadership refused to permit a vote on a bill favored by Democrats that would have provided far more comprehensive prescription drug coverage for senior citizens under the Medicare program.
The labor movement has opposed the Republican proposal (H.R. 4954) as unreliable, inadequate and unworkable for senior citizens and the disabled. Prescription drug benefits under the GOP plan are 40 percent lower than those under the Democrats' plan. The GOP plan calls for higher premiums, and it would force seniors to pay a huge portion of their prescription drug bills out-of-pocket.
According to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, "Not only are the Republican proposals stingy - they would cover barely one-fifth of what drug companies currently cost Medicare beneficiaries - but they are fundamentally unworkable. They would force seniors into private HMOs to get drug coverage instead of providing it directly through Medicare - even though the insurance companies that are expected to offer this coverage have already said they won't participate in a program they believe can't work."
"The bill claims to respond to the needs of older Americans for affordable prescription drugs, but would benefit the pharmaceutical companies more than the seniors they say they would help," Sweeney added.
The following eight Democrats voted Yes (WRONG): Reps. Leonard Boswell (IA), Gary Condit (CA), Ralph Hall (TX), Steve Israel (NY), Ken Lucas (KY), James Maloney (CT), James Matheson (UT) and Collin Peterson (MN).
The following eight Republicans voted No (RIGHT): Representatives Mac Collins (GA), Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Jeff Flake (AZ), Gil Gutknecht (MN), John Hostettler (IN), Ernest Istook (OK), Donald Manzullo (IL) and Nick Smith (MI).
Three Bills Introduced to Correct Windfall Elimination Provision
Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Max Sandlin (D-TX) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) each recently introduced separate bills in Congress to correct an inequity affecting many Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuitants who are eligible for Social Security benefits.
The inequity was created by the "windfall elimination provision" of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1983 (P.L. 98-21), which revised the formula used for calculating Social Security benefits for CSRS annuitants who have substantial earnings credited under the Social Security system. The new formula lowers Social Security payments for many CSRS retirees. Consequently, those affected by the provision do not receive Social Security payments that reflect the full value of the contributions they paid into the Social Security system.
The so-called windfall elimination provision does not reduce CSRS annuities. It only applies to workers who reach age 62 or become disabled after 1985, and who first become eligible after 1985 for both CSRS pensions and Social Security benefits. The provision does not affect workers who were first employed by the government in 1984 or later, or workers with 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.
H.R. 1073, introduced by Rep. Frank, would amend the law to restrict the application of the windfall elimination provision to those whose combined monthly income exceeds $2,000. Frank's bill currently has 229 cosponsors.
H.R. 848, introduced by Rep. Sandlin, would repeal the windfall elimination provision. His bill has 144 cosponsors.
S. 2521, introduced by Sen. Kerry, would restrict the application of the provision to individuals whose combined monthly income from benefits exceeds $2,000, and create a graduated implementation of the provision on amounts above $2,000.
The APWU endorses all three of these bills, and encourages its members to also request that their representatives and senators act on these bills soon.
Bill Introduced to Change Government Pension Offset
Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced bills (H.R. 664 and S. 611, respectively) that would remove the Government Pension Offset for anyone whose combined government pension or annuity and spousal Social Security benefit is less than $1,200 per month.
The offset reduces the amount of your spouse's or widow's/widower's Social Security benefit by two-thirds of the amount of your government pension. If you get a monthly civil service pension of $600, for example, two-thirds of that, or $400, must be used to offset your spouse's or widow's/widower's Social Security benefit.
The Social Security spouse's benefit provides income to husbands and wives who have little or no Social Security income. Since the beginning of the Social Security program in 1935, spouses' benefits were intended for men and women who were financially dependent on spouses who worked in jobs covered by Social Security.
The APWU endorses both bills.
Both bills have many co-sponsors, but there is no timetable for legislative action. APWU members, officers, retirees and auxiliary members are urged to write their members of Congress to request legislative action this year.
Natural Disaster Victims Eligible for Aid
APWU members and other employees of the U.S. Postal Service who suffered substantial damage to their homes and property due to natural disasters recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are eligible to apply for an assistance grant from the Postal Employees Relief Fund (PERF). Application forms and eligibility criteria are available from PERF by calling (202) 408-1869 or at the Fund's website, www.postalrelief.org.
The latest in a number of major natural disasters that occurred in 2002 include Typhoon Chata'an in Guam; severe storms, flooding and tornadoes in Texas, Montana, Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana; and wildfires in Arizona and Colorado. In recent years, FEMA also declared disasters in parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Oregon, New York, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas due to severe storms, flooding, tornadoes, earthquake, ice, snow or winter wind storms.
APWU members who suffered substantial damage to their homes and property due to natural disasters that were not declared by FEMA or who were denied an assistance grant from PERF may be eligible for an assistance grant from the APWU Disaster Fund. Applications may be obtained from the APWU Human Relations Department, Sue Carney, Director, (202) 842-4271, or by writing to her at 1300 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 20005.
APWU POWER to Caucus
Post Office Women for Equal Rights (APWU POWER) will hold a caucus in Minneapolis, MN, following the recess of the APWU National Convention on Monday, Aug. 12, 2002, at the Convention Center in Rooms 102 A, B & C.
To show support for APWU POWER, delegates are encouraged to wear black-and-white APWU POWER T-shirts with white bottoms to the convention on Monday. The T-shirts will be on sale Friday and Saturday at the Convention Center.