Benefits of Being Union

May 1, 2017

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(This article first appeared in the May-June 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

By Organization Director Anna Smith

Sometimes, we forget why we are union members. We may fall into a trap of feeling as if we solely pay dues.

Too often, I hear members say, “I just pay my dues, and the union never does anything for me.” I recently spoke to a member who was employed for 30 years and is now nearing retirement. She said, “I have never used the union.”

Is that really true? Let’s be honest with ourselves.

We do not have to work where we do. Some people are forced to have a job that pays minimum wage, with no vacation time, no holidays and no protections against the employer. Many work for an “at will” employer, meaning the employer could fire us for any reason, without cause and without warning. I do not think most of us would choose to have one of those jobs, if offered.

The reality is, we all benefit every day from being union.

USPS employees enjoy union representation for your needs, including in contract negotiations and the grievance process. Other benefits include an effective grievance procedure to adjudicate disputes with management; protections against unjust discipline, including termination; prohibitions against unilateral actions by our employer, and provisions for safe working conditions (with union safety representatives to enforce them).

Below are some other examples of what APWU members have achieved by working together.

APWU Career Employees Enjoy:

Protections and Rights

  • Night differential pay
  • Enforcement of overtime provisions – time-and-a-half for overtime and penalty pay for excessive overtime
  • Sunday premium pay
  • Out-of-schedule premium
  • Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)
  • Hourly wages that may not be unilaterally reduced
  • Job Security
  • Jobs awarded by seniority, not favoritism
  • Access to training opportunities
  • 50-mile excessing limitations
  • Protections against layoffs


  • Good health insurance, in which the employer must pay at least three quarters of the total premium
  • Basic Life insurance with additional insurance options
  • Ten paid holidays (PTFs are compensated by receiving a higher straight-time hourly rate throughout the year)
  • Annual and sick leave accrual
  • Flexible spending accounts for health care and dependent care
  • Holiday scheduling rights
  • Allowances for uniform and work clothing
  • Retirement planning

Postal Support Employees (PSEs) Enjoy:

Protections and Rights

  • Regular pay increases
  • Night differential pay
  • Time-and-a-half for overtime work in excess of 40 hours
  • Higher level pay when performing higher level work
  • When scheduled to report for work, work hour guarantees


  • Health benefits eligibility upon employment
  • APWU Consumer Driven Health Plan after first 360 day term and upon reappointment, in which the employer must pay 75% of the total premium
  • Annual leave accrual and unused leave can be cashed in
  • Six paid holidays and an option to have annual leave balance credited in lieu of holiday leave pay if you work
  • Annual uniform allowance

Fair Promotion Standards

  • Strong contractual language that provides for career appointments
  • Reappointments by seniority, not favoritism

All postal workers are also entitled to union democracy. Every member has a voice and vote in union elections and membership ratification of contracts. There are direct elections of all union officers and opportunities to participate at all levels of the organization.

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