Big Day Approaching!

Mark Dimondstein

May 18, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

On June 22, we officially open negotiations with the United States Postal Service for a new union contract. Our current national agreement covering some 200,000 postal employees expires on September 20, 2021. This is the third round of collective bargaining during which I have the privilege to represent you as the union’s lead negotiator.

I want to share my perspective on the challenges of negotiations followed by what we hope to achieve in bargaining. First, on negotiations generally:

  • Negotiations are never easy. We do not negotiate with ourselves, but with an employer that often holds opposing goals to our union. The union has the overarching goal of bettering the lives and working conditions of postal workers. Management’s goals normally include reducing costs and increasing “flexibility.” Negotiations are a contentious struggle.
  • Either side can place issues on the bargaining table that address “wages, hours and conditions of employment.” The key for the union will be to achieve a final agreement that advances the wellbeing of postal workers and our families.
  • The union must prioritize our objectives and focus on those issues that are most important to our members as a whole.
  • A voluntary, principled agreement with management is superior to interest arbitration. Interest arbitration leaves the results in the hands of one individual and holds great risks. With a voluntary agreement, we have more control over our own destiny, including the Rank & File Bargaining Advisory Committee making their recommendations and the members having the final say with a ratification vote.
  • The results of negotiations are affected by the general economic forces of society, contracts with other postal unions and the relative strength and weakness of unions across the country. We are not an island unto ourselves.
  • Most importantly the success of negotiations depends on power and leverage and the alignment of forces on each side. Our power derives from you, the members, and that we are organized into a union with a strong collective voice. Hence the need for every member to be involved in the upcoming contract campaign for a decent, new contract.

Our goals are not a “state secret.” Simply put they are to “protect” and “enhance.”

Protect: Largely building on the gains of the courageous Great Postal Strike of 51 years ago, our union contract contains hard-won rights and benefits that need to be protected against any management efforts to weaken or eliminate them. Some examples include: no lay-off protections, 50-mile limits on excessing, full COLA, seniority and bidding, just cause protections against discipline, and our grievance procedure.

Enhance: Postal workers have earned – underscored by your frontline courageous work during this year of the pandemic – a good, new contract. Postal workers deserve good annual pay increases, stronger safety rights, bridging the differences in the two-tier career pay scales, limits to sub-contracting, better work guarantees for PTFs, a quicker and clear path to career status for PSEs and expanded postal services for the people of the country.

Along with myself and Industrial Relations Director Zimmerman – who will serve as chief spokesperson – your “core” negotiating committee consists of the Executive Vice-President Debby Szeredy, Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Powell, Clerk Director Lamont Brooks, Maintenance Director Idowu Balogun, MVS Director Michael Foster and Support Services Director Steve Brooks. Intense preparations are well underway and your entire negotiating committee, along with other officers and staff, are united, prepared and ready.

The level of membership involvement as well as support from the public will have a direct impact on how well we do in negotiations. The union and our collective quest for justice and a better life for workers is not a spectator sport. To build our power we must field the strongest team where every member stands strong in the fight for a new union contract that respects and rewards our dedication and hard work. Onward!

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