Contract Negotiations Update

Vance Zimmerman

August 27, 2021

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

The APWU and postal management have now been engaged in negotiations for more than two months. The APWU National Negotiations Committee (NNC) consists of President Mark Dimondstein, Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy, Secretary/Treasurer Liz Powell, Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman, Clerk Craft Director Lamont Brooks, Maintenance Craft Director Idowu Balogun, Motor Vehicle Service Director Michael Foster, and Support Services Craft Director Stephen Brooks. The Negotiations Committee meets weekly, at minimum, to plan, refine proposals and develop strategy. In addition, the Craft Directors met individually with Lead Negotiator President Dimondstein and Chief Spokesperson Director Zimmerman to coordinate efforts. Many other officers and staff are also working diligently with research and planning.

Throughout the process, the NNC has kept the National Executive Board and Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee apprised on the process and developments of negotiations.

Generally, at this stage of early negotiations we are focused on proposals addressing work rules, working conditions and workforce structure. Later in the negotiations process, the economic provisions (wage increases, COLA, step increases, etc.) will be proposed and discussed. To date, the APWU has submitted over 90 proposals and management has less than 15 proposals for discussion and negotiation. The union proposals include nearly 50 craft proposals covering the Clerk, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle Service and Support Services crafts, and over 40 general article proposals. These include numerous proposals to protect job security and work opportunities, increase career opportunities and improve conditions of work. The APWU will submit additional proposals over the next weeks, including our wage and financial package.

Since negotiations opened on June 22, there have been twelve “Main Table” meetings between the APWU and postal management, where proposals are exchanged and assigned to various negotiators or to the craft tables for further discussion and development.

Each APWU craft is conducting at least weekly meetings with their counterparts at the Postal Service. I am regularly meeting with the Postal Service Chief Spokesperson and President Mark Dimondstein is meeting regularly with the Deputy Postmaster General to discuss the overall picture of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The parties are currently planning to “lock down” in the same location for a week of negotiations beginning September 7. Each day will consist of intense main table negotiations, craft tables and any other sub-committees where the parties agree to work on the various proposals. If an agreement is not reached before the expiration of the CBA on September 20, the parties will begin to move towards interest arbitration. An APWU team consisting of national officers, attorneys, and staff members is preparing for interest arbitration at the same time negotiations are ongoing. Furthermore, negotiations can continue beyond the expiration of the contract even while preparing for interest arbitration. It is always best for the parties to reach a voluntary agreement rather than have an arbitration panel impose new wages, hours and working conditions.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Changes

You often hear “elections have consequences.” That is especially true with the 2020 presidential election. With the election of President Joe Biden, the agency that governs labor relations has undergone a significant turnaround. Under the previous administration, the NLRB took an obvious pro-employer and anti-union stance.

President Biden has appointed pro-labor board members and general counsel to the NLRB. The NLRB is now getting back to its job of protecting workers – not businesses. For the first time, the NLRB will have an African- American woman, Gwynne Wilcox, sitting on the board. Also confirmed to the board was David Prouty. Both served as general counsels to large Service Employees International Union (SEIU) locals. The new NLRB General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, who previously worked as a special counsel at the Communications Workers of America, “…will spearhead the anticipated pro-union shift on workers’ rights.” I personally look forward to having an NLRB who fights for workers once again.

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