Interest Arbitration and the Fight to Come

Vance Zimmerman

September 11, 2019

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

Interest Arbitration has begun! On Sept. 4, the APWU began presenting our case for a good contract before the three-member Arbitration Panel chaired by neutral Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg. Sitting on the panel alongside Arbitrator Goldberg are APWU appointed arbitrator Phil Tabbita, APWU Manager of Contract Negotiations and Special Projects, and the USPS appointed arbitrator, labor attorney Robert Dufek.

The first day was a productive hearing day. Both sides outlined and overviewed what they believed you should get out of a new contract. We put forward our demands for wages that reflect the hard work, productivity, and contribution you make to your jobs keeping the mail and e-commerce moving in America.

We are demanding changes to the divisive two-tier career wage structure by restoring steps at the top of the scale. We are demanding work rules that would improve the scheduling and ability of Part-time Flexibles (PTF) and Postal Support Employees (PSE) to plan and manage their weekly and daily lives.

Other demands include proper staffing of all crafts, improvements to address difficult and abusive work environments, and the elimination of supervisors/postmasters performing bargaining unit work in Level 18 offices. We are also demanding changes to our workforce structure. We are seeking many more conversions of PSEs to career, reductions in PSE usage, and additional opportunities for PTFs to become Full-time Regulars.

At the hearing, President Mark Dimondstein laid out the importance of the work you do for America, your contributions to the economy throughout the country, and how Postal Service work keeps millions of Americans in decent standards of living.

The Postal Service asked for the panel to give you a onetime lump sum payment instead of a raise that would not become part of your salary, and for no other salary increases throughout the contract unless negotiated by the parties at a future date. Your Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) would also be lump sum payments not included in normal wages.

The USPS is demanding that you pay more for your health insurance and that no-layoff protections be changed significantly for currently employed career employees and completely eliminated for future career employees. Rather than more career opportunities for PSEs, the USPS is demanding the panel grant drastic increases in the use of PSEs in all crafts, changes to PSE wages and changes to the level of benefits the PSEs receive.

The USPS’s work rule change proposals also include changes to the moratorium on contracting out bargaining unit work and increases to the amount of bargaining unit work supervisors can perform.

What Comes Next

With Opening Day behind us, we now move to our evidence and witness portions of the case. We will present evidence and research prepared by experts, including labor economists and professors. Our witnesses will testify that our jobs as postal employees are challenging and require training, skills, and abilities that compensation should reflect.

But it is not just our experts who will be testifying. Rank and file members from all crafts – whether they be a PTF, PSE, or FTR – will be our strongest witnesses. These witnesses will be the people who could move the neutral arbitrator. Their testimony will humanize the work we do and give first-hand accounts of the difficulties and challenges you face each day on the workroom floor. They will also explain what their lives as postal employees receiving postal salaries have meant to them. This testimony will show how the postal life and salary must be improved. You, the employees, are our greatest asset and our best witnesses to make our case.

As arbitration continues, your executive officers, craft directors, and assistants are all working together – fighting for the contract you deserve!

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