Imperfect Storm

Mark Dimondstein

March 9, 2021

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

The mail system is in chaos. Postal workers are tired and frustrated. Customers are angry.

Despite the courageous efforts, hard work and dedication of postal workers throughout this dangerous pandemic, service has deteriorated to levels never seen in modern times. On-time first class mail delivery has fallen below 50 percent in many areas. Medicines, greeting cards, holiday gifts and vital correspondence are arriving late, not by days, but by weeks.

Several factors have created such an “imperfect storm.” The Postal Service suffers from chronic understaffing. COVID-19 pressures have exacerbated staffing issues, as has large turnover of the workforce. Packages have reached record volumes. Congress has still not resolved the manufactured postal financial crisis created by the absurd 2006 mandate to pre-fund retiree health benefits.

One can debate how much the arrival of PMG Louis DeJoy has led to this debacle with the mail. Certainly, some problems were inherited, others are results of management policies. We certainly welcomed the recent positive step of increasing career staffing in mail processing.

But there is no argument that DeJoy is the captain of the ship that is sinking on his watch. He must be held fully accountable by the Postal Board of Governors, elected officials and the public for the delays, loss of revenue and business, and for breaking the bond of trust between the people and the public Postal Service.

The Postal Board of Governors is responsible for setting the policy and direction of the Postal Service. The Board, not the U.S. President, hires, fires and directs the PMG.

The APWU initiated a petition campaign urging President Biden to quickly nominate strong postal advocates to the four vacant Board positions. More than 400,000 signatures, many from members like you, were recently presented to the White House.

These are critical appointments. We have submitted recommendations for passionate pro-worker, pro-postal nominees to the Biden administration. A strong Board can go a long way to holding the current postal leadership accountable to the needs of the people and the requirement of the law that promises “prompt, reliable and efficient” services.

We can influence the direction of the Postal Service in other ways, as well.

National negotiations for a new union contract (collective bargaining agreement) are around the corner. Our current contract expires September 20, 2021 and official negotiations commence in June. We will be dealing with many issues critical to postal workers – including wages, COLA, job security and safety. It is also a great opportunity to “bargain for the common good.”

We have a role to play in defense of the people and their right to robust public postal services. Issues including staffing, expanded services such as financial services, reducing turnover in the workforce and increasing hours of retail operations can all be discussed and bargained with management. We plan to do so.

Others have helped light the way of progress through unity between unions and the needs of the people. Karen Lewis, the outstanding former leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, recently passed away after a long illness. Her passing is a huge loss for the labor movement. A major part of her wonderful legacy was positioning the union on the side of parents and students – bargaining for smaller class room sizes, more social workers and keeping neighborhood schools open. In turn, parents and students stood with the workers. Unity between the workers and the community has been key to their union’s success in winning better public schools and education, along with better working conditions.

The only way that postal privatizers can succeed is to break the tremendous bond between the people and their Post Office. The union will continue to defend and build this bond as it is the key to ensuring good jobs and vibrant public Postal Service for generations to come.

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