Defending the BMCs

January 1, 2009

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(This article appeared in the January/February 2009 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Mike Gallagher, Eastern Region Coordinator

First off, I want to wish everyone the happiest and healthiest New Year…

On a more somber note, however, we see that the Postal Service has begun to act on its strategic plan to contract out our parcel-post business to private companies. They have asked mailing companies to describe how they would handle the distribution and transportation of parcel mail, and to bid on the work, which is currently performed by union members at Bulk Mail Centers.

This giveaway of our work could eliminate thousands of postal jobs. The APWU is, of course, committed to fighting against any such action.

Once the USPS gets out of the parcel business and reduces or converts its current capacity for processing parcels, the Postal Service will be unable to process and transport that volume in the future, unless there were an enormous ramp-up in equipment and employees, which is what would be necessary to take back the product line.

Déjà Vu Again and Again

We have seen this blunder before: Do you remember the subcontracting to Emery Worldwide in the late 1990s when the USPS outsourced all Priority Mail distribution and transportation on the Eastern seaboard? The venture culminated in huge losses, with Emery and the USPS arguing in court about which organization was to blame for the failure to meet service standards.

The entire contract was a disaster. The USPS had to get out of that contract, and then negotiate with the APWU to bring back (“in source”) the work we previously performed.

Or how about the subcontracting of the Remote Encoding Centers? The Postal Service had to give monetary subsidies to some subcontractors — above the price they contracted for — to get them to do the work. It was another disaster.

If the USPS subcontracts BMC jobs in the clerk, maintenance, motor vehicle, and mailhandler crafts to a private company, the competitor would soon be able to control pricing for the distribution and transportation of the parcel product line. After a substantial amount of subcontracting, when the USPS no longer has the capacity for processing and transportation of parcels, consumers nationwide would be at the mercy of our competitors, not just for pricing, but for service standards.

Under the mailers’ subcontracting dream scheme, the USPS accepts the parcels and then the contractor picks them up, processes them, and transports them to the appropriate post office for delivery. All the subcontractors would have to do is increase their rates for distribution and transportation, which would require the USPS to raise the price to consumers.

In other words, the private mailers could run the Postal Service out of the parcel business merely by raising the cost of the service to the USPS product above their own product’s cost. Why would any consumer continue to use the Postal Service?

And what if the subcontractors’ employees go on strike, as UPS workers have on several occasions? Those work stoppages caused a crippling overload to the USPS.

We need each APWU local and its members to contact their senators and representatives to object to this misguided scheme. We insist that the Postal Service’s ill-advised practices be stopped.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the bulk of the work at the BMCs is subcontracted, the Postal Service will use that subcontracting model and then begin to “study” outsourcing the work currently being performed at the P&DCs.

The loss of these decent-paying postal jobs would further reduce employment opportunities for our American veterans at a time when many who have suffered debilitating injuries cannot find work.

Excessing Ad Nauseum

There are currently more than 100 excessing events going on in the Eastern Region, from a single individual being excessed out of an Associate Office because of a Function 4 review, to the excessing of more than 100 employees in Function 1 operations.

I have been told by the Postal Service that there are more than 3,000 excessing events underway nationwide, including bargaining unit and non-bargaining unit employees. In the Eastern Region, every location is withholding residual vacancies because of excessing.

The largest withholding affects 1,787 Letter Carriers, and is in the Northeast Region, which encompasses the New England states, eastern New York, and northern New Jersey. The radius of withholding is 500 miles, ranging as far south as North Carolina and as far west as West Virginia and Ohio.

We have reached a saturation point: Employees who have been notified they are to be excessed must wait until additional residual vacancies become available, as there simply is nowhere to place them. In the interim, we hope that their home office experiences some attrition to make the excessing unnecessary.

Excessing is nothing new, but the current levels – both in the number of employees involved and the distance in miles of relocation — are unprecedented. Thankfully we have maintained the no-layoff clause in our Collective Bargaining Agreement: You can’t help but notice what is happening to other workers throughout the country who lack protection against layoffs.

We will continue to fight each and every excessing notice, regardless of the number of people affected. Management is contractually required to meet with the regional coordinators on every excessing; I make it a point to get our National Business Agents as well as officers from the affected locals involved in the Regional/Area meetings to contest these actions. In some cases we have stopped the excessing completely; in most we have reduced the number of affected employees.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank NBAs Jeff Kehlert, Lamont Brooks, and Pete Coradi for their tireless assistance in our fight to combat every employee dislocation.

Regional coordinators Liz Powell, Sharyn Stone, Omar Gonzalez, Bill Sullivan, and I will continue to wrestle with the disruptive movement of employees, and the associated reduction in mail volume and Postal Service revenue.

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