It Pays to Be Union! Retroactive Pay and COLAs in Recent Paychecks

September 16, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

As this issue goes to press, most APWU members received their retroactive pay in their paychecks dated September 4. This retroactive pay is the back pay entitled from the 2018 and 2019 pay increases and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) from November 2018 – April 2020, as part of the 2018-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Additionally, career employees received a COLA increase of $208 per year ($0.10 per hour) starting August 29, 2020, which was reflected in their paychecks on September 18. Postal Support Employees (PSEs), who do not get COLAs, received a $0.20 per hour pay increase in May 2020.

During negotiations and Interest Arbitration, management tried to eliminate these earned benefits, arguing to convert COLAs into a onetime lump sum payment. However, the union prevailed, and full COLAs were preserved for the duration of the contract, including retroactive payments. The APWU is now the only postal union that has protected and maintained full COLAs.

“These hard-won retroactive payments and cost of living adjustments would not be part of this agreement without the work of members agitating on the work room floor, testifying in Interest Arbitration hearings, and participating in our contract campaign,” said Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman. “I want to thank all of the members who participated for their efforts in securing this vital part of our contract.”

“I also want to thank our APWU sisters and brothers in the IT/AS unit, who had to extensively reprogram the payroll system to make sure all hours, differentials, and pay/step levels were properly included in the retroactive pay,” Industrial Relations Director Zimmerman continued.

“They did this all while also reprogramming the payroll and time keeping system for the additional leave available under the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act (FFCRA). I want to thank them for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic to see that we are all paid properly.”

“The commitment of members to the Fighting Today for a Better Tomorrow campaign was key in earning a good union contract that includes retroactive pay and full COLAs,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “Now, we must renew our commitment to One Team, One Fight, as we protect these hard-earned victories against hostile management, cuts to service, and attacks from privatizers.”

The retroactive pay was included with your regular paycheck, not sent as a separate check. Retirees will receive retroactive pay for the hours they were actively employed and worked during the period of November 24, 2018 until their retirement date if their retirement date was prior to April 10, 2020. If they retired after April 10, 2020, they would receive pay for hours worked during the full retroactive pay period. This check will be sent to their last office of record.

Additional Pay Increase November 2020

Additionally, effective November 21, the basic annual salary for each step will be increased by 1.0 percent for career employees and 2.0 percent for PSEs (PSEs do not receive COLAs).

Speak to Your Co-workers About Joining the APWU

It is through our collective strength that it “pays to be union.” Your union is the reason for your recent salary increase, and retroactive pay check. The APWU also provides every postal worker a voice on the job and the ability to enforce a safe workplace.

Now is the time to speak with your coworkers about the importance of being union. Management did not just “decide” to give postal workers a raise and retroactive pay.

It is easier than ever for a nonmember to join. Have them go to, and fill out their information today. If you have any questions, contact the Organization Department at or 202-842-4227.

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