2016: An Extremely Active Year

September 1, 2016

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(This article first appeared in the September-October 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Sisters and brothers, 2016 has been an extremely active year for the apwu and our members. We received our long-awaited arbitrated Collective Bargaining Agreement from Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg; we held our 23rd Biennial National Convention; local negotiations will begin in September; we will have the right and obligation to vote in our national union elections in September, and, yes, we will have the high honor to vote in our nation’s presidential elections in November.

A Sincere Thank You

It is with great pride and humility that I thank you for your support in my re-election as coordinator for the Northeast Region. I have had the privilege of serving the American Postal Workers Union since first becoming active in 1970.

My focus as a union officer has always been to protect the rights and benefits of our members, help grow the union, and enforce our Collective Bargaining Agreement.

You have my solemn pledge that I shall continue to do my very best and continue to work diligently on behalf of our members. It is my privilege to serve the membership as Northeast Region Coordinator and as a member of the National Executive Board.

New Contract

As we begin applying the new provisions of our contract, it is worth noting that the vast majority of workers in the U.S. today are not covered by a union contract. They are “at will” employees and subject only to the rules of management. So it is important to appreciate all the protections and rights a contract provides our members – in addition to improving their standard of living.

A perfect example is Article 6, No Layoffs. Ask some non-postal friends if their employers provide such protection. The answer will be No!

Our union has retained this important provision for employees with more than six years of continuous service. In addition, no lay-off protection was extended to all career employees who were on the rolls as of July 8, 2016. This covers approximately 32,000 postal workers recently converted to career who have not yet reached the six-year threshold.

Since 1971, the APWU has successfully built upon each new contract – improving wages, benefits and working conditions. While we carefully review the new provisions of the contract, let’s not lose sight of the many provisions and agreements that get carried over with little notice or fanfare.

  • A grievance procedure that allows our members to challenge any violation of the contract and to have their disputes heard before an arbitrator;
  • A requirement that discipline must be for “just cause;”
  • A safety and health program with protections to keep our workplace safe and our members free of hazards;
  • Annual leave and sick leave;
  • Holidays;
  • Seniority;
  • A 50-mile limit on excessing;
  • Uniform allowances;
  • Protections against subcontracting our work and our jobs;
  • Limits on management performing our work;
  • Right to transfer;
  • Pathway to promotion to full time, and
  • A bridge to career status for our Postal Support Employees (PSEs).

And let’s be mindful that our contract also provides continued improvements in our wages and other economic benefits. In addition to raises, we maintained our cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The arbitrator also rejected management’s request to expand the current two-tier career wage scale and offer even lower pay and fewer benefits to future career employees.

PSEs, who do not receive COLAs, received additional yearly wage increases. PSEs also will be paid for six major holidays.

Unfortunately, the arbitrator also continued the trend of the last few contracts by reducing the employer’s share of health plan premiums by 1 percent per year.

Over 6,300 Conversions in Northeast Region

Since July 2014, the Northeast Region has worked aggressively to have over 6,300 Part-Time Flexibles converted to full time and PSEs converted to career status, in accordance with the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Filling Residual Vacancies. This MOU has now been incorporated into our new contract. It’s an excellent achievement that will continue to result in many more conversions over the life of the agreement.

Our new contract also provides for the conversion of a significant number of PSEs to career status in all three crafts. All Maintenance Craft (Custodians) PSEs will be converted “in place” and thereafter the PSE category of employee will be eliminated in the Maintenance Craft.

All Motor Vehicle Service Craft PSEs will be converted to career – either as Full-Time Regular or Part-Time Flexible – and thereafter, the PSE category of employee will be eliminated from the craft.

There will be a one-time conversion of all Clerk Craft PSEs with over 2.5 years of service as of July 8, 2016, in the same “200 work-year installation.” On a personal note, I would have liked to see some PSE conversions in Associate Offices, however that was not awarded.

We all should take great pride in these outstanding accomplishments. Without question, the union has sufficiently improved the standard of living for our members, including PTFs and PSEs.

Conversion to full-time or career has an immediate and long-lasting positive impact on these employees. Our membership continues to grow, due in large part to these provisions and their enforcement.

And for our members working at the three Processing & Distribution Centers (Southern, CT; Stamford, CT, and Mid-Hudson, NY) affected by plant consolidations, there will be no further plant closings and consolidations until at least April 2017.

As my local president often says, “Even a good contract needs to be enforced.” So, on behalf of my fellow coordinators, Sharyn Stone, Omar Gonzalez, Mike Gallagher, and Kennith Beasley, we look forward to working together to enforce our contract as well as doing our best to give it meaning and life.

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