The Gift That Keeps on Giving...

Mark Dimondstein

January 14, 2022

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(This article first appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

One of the greatest gifts ever given to postal workers was not one delivered by Santa. It is our right to collective bargaining over our wages, benefits and conditions of employment. It was won and passed on to us by the courageous actions of our foremothers and forefathers in the Great Postal Strike of 1970! It is these hard-won rights that laid the foundation for the GOOD NEWS of our new tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement, our Union Contract.

The new “Tentative Agreement” (TA) is very positive and achieves many of the union’s goals: annual wage increases, continuation of full Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA), more opportunities for conversion to career status, addressing the needs of PTFs and protecting job security. It represents advances for every group of APWU-represented workers and every single member.

I am extremely pleased the TA has the unanimous approval of the National Negotiations Committee and the support of the National Executive Board. The TA received the unanimous approval of the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee for a membership ratification vote.

Since many of the pages of this magazine will delve into details of the TA, I will simply share some observations. First, unlike management of non-union workplaces who are free to dictate almost every aspect of employment, postal management must meet us at the bargaining table and negotiate over wages, benefits and working conditions. Provided the union leadership organizes, mobilizes and unifies the membership and community allies and refuses to engage in concessionary bargaining, the results of collective bargaining are a "gift" that indeed keeps on giving.

Second, the success of negotiations comes down to building and exercising power and leverage. Our power begins with you, the member, and is amplified through the union activism of thousands of postal workers. The contract campaign many of you participated in included a strong “kick off” rally, union gear days, buttons/stickers, and “talking” union. All these activities helped send the message to management, from the workroom floor to postal headquarters, that postal workers are united in the struggle for a good contract. The APWU and its leadership has established itself as a strong force to be reckoned with. That was reflected in the outcome of these negotiations.

Third, management and the union generally have opposing goals. The union strives to advance the general well-being of postal workers and the cause of all labor. Since we are not negotiating with ourselves, hammering out an agreement is always difficult. This holds true even when postal management comes to the negotiating table in good faith, as they did in this round of bargaining. We should judge the results of any TA in its entirety.

Fourth, planning is vital to success. Led by our chief spokesperson, Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman, immense preparation and coordination went into negotiations. Economic analysis on wage trends, assessing the history of collective bargaining, research of other union contracts, study of Convention resolutions, development of proposals, and much internal discussion and debate within the negotiating committee took place over the last year and more. Throughout this process the Craft Directors, members of the negotiating committee, officers and union staff worked extremely hard and effectively in the necessary planning and preparation, as well as in the negotiations themselves. Kudos to a job well done!

Lastly, I am extremely honored to have been your lead negotiator and proud to have worked alongside the entire negotiating committee. In addition to myself and Vance Zimmerman, the committee included Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell, Clerk Craft Director Lamont Brooks, Motor Vehicle Service Craft Director Michael Foster, Maintenance Craft Director Idowu Balogun and Support Services Director Stephen Brooks.

Throughout the battle, you, the member, proudly stayed “Union Strong All Day Long!” The ratification vote is now up to you. Our negotiating team encourages you to let your voice be heard and urges you to “Vote Yes!”

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