Hollingsworth Contract Ratified

Steve Brooks

November 19, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

On Sept. 11, new APWU members working at Hollingsworth LLC, a private-sector distribution company, ratified the terms of their initial collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Negotiating an initial contract is a very challenging hurdle to cross. APWU members who have worked under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with the Postal Service since the 1970s just worry about successor agreements, and if any of the working conditions will be changed.

The agreement between the APWU and Hollingsworth did not come easily. The Postal Service awarded the company a contract for Mail Transport Equipment Service Center (MTESC) work in July of 2016. Hollingsworth took over the contract from a company called PAE. PAE was an APWU-organized unit with members belonging to the Detroit District Area Local.

When the work was awarded to Hollingsworth, the company moved the operation from the Detroit area to a facility in Temperance, MI- approximately 50 miles from the original site. With this move, Hollingsworth refused to recognize the union and the represented employees. They rejected the attempts we made to transition the PAE employees to employment with Hollingsworth.

Long story short, the APWU filed NLRB charges against the company. It was not until Sept. 2017 that the parties came to a settlement on the matter. As part of the settlement, Hollingsworth agreed to recognize the APWU as the sole representative of the bargaining unit. In addition, the employees from the former company, PAE, were offered employment opportunities in the Temperance, MI facility. In Feb. 2018, the parties began the negotiation process to reach terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

The APWU proposed that we adopt many of the terms that had been agreed to in the prior PAE contract, but Hollingsworth was not open to that proposal. That meant we were starting from a blank piece of paper – creating new language for every article we desired.

We think that the Postal Service is hard to deal with, and they are, but they are nothing compared to this company. Imagine having to come to terms with a company that had no desire to have their employees represented by a union, let alone request that they change their established work rules per our proposals. Every request we made was resisted. The negotiation process seemed to never end.

In Nov. 2018, we found out why the company was resistant, and delayed in making their decisions. In private industry, whenever a contract period is expiring the company, or employee of the company, can file a petition for decertification with the NLRB. In this case, we believe the company encouraged a worker to file a petition. This petition meant that a union vote had to take place to determine whether or not the employees would continue to be represented by the union.

Fortunately, in Dec. 2018 the majority of the employees of Hollingsworth voted to retain union representation. The APWU conducted meetings with these employees and learned what tactics the company was using to try to get rid of the union. I think you can imagine the lies the company was telling the employees about what union representation could and could not do for them.

With the certification vote out of the way, and the company realizing that the APWU was there to stay, we continued to meet with management and negotiate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. Again, it became a struggle to get language that we needed to ensure that our represented bargaining unit members had decent protections under the agreement.

By developing an initial union contract, a base agreement is established that the workers evaluate over time, and build upon in future agreements. That is the position we have been in with our USPS contracts for years. Now that we have a base established for this Hollingsworth group, we are ready to continue building.

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