The Union Keeps Us Strong

Mark Dimondstein

May 20, 2024

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While Wall Street, bankers, and the billionaire class pad their profits by investing in and manipulating the stock market, the best investment workers make is with each other through our union.

The investment of our union dues and participation in the APWU is returned many times over in better pay, benefits, rights, safety, and job security.

Yet, many of the union accomplishments won over generations of struggle, especially resulting from the victorious 1970 Great Postal Strike, are often taken for granted. As we head into national negotiations, engage in our “Building Union Power” organizing drive, and face down management’s “network modernization” plan, it’s a good time to reflect on what a huge difference the union makes. Some highlights:

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) and Wages: Career employees’ union-won pay includes regular raises, COLAs, step increases, night and Sunday differential, overtime pay after eight hours and double time after 10. We remain the only postal union with full COLA. Due to high inflation, the COLA alone in our current contract amounts to $5,325.00 annually for full-time employees, and $2.67 per hour for part-time flexible employees (PTFs). Talk about financial security!

Incredible job security: Career employees with six years of service have “no lay-off” protection, a benefit few U.S. workers have. The 50-mile limit on excessing limits disruption to family life in situations where employees are moved due to changes in the network and mail mix. Protection against unjust discipline: Without unions, bosses can terminate employees “at will.” With “just cause” protection, discipline - including termination - can be challenged and overturned!

Grievance Procedure: Employees have the right to fi le grievances on the clock to address contractual violations. That’s worker power!

Seniority and Bidding: Seniority eliminates favoritism and discrimination in job assignments. Preferred off days, hours of work, and jobs are based on one’s years of service, not who the boss likes!

Guaranteed Hours: Prior to 1970, employees were often placed into a “non-pay status” when waiting for more mail to work, often having to work 12-14 hours just to receive eight hours of pay. Now, full-time career employees are guaranteed eight within nine or 10 hours, depending on office size. In addition, full-time career employees are guaranteed eight hours a day, and 40 hours a week. PTF guaranteed hours have improved!

Paid Leave: Strong annual leave, sick leave, and paid holiday benefits. Many other workers have no paid sick leave. Health and Safety: Safety grievances are prioritized. Workers have the right to report unsafe work conditions using Form 1767s. Union-negotiated COVID safety provisions literally saved lives and enabled workers to take needed time off to protect themselves, co-workers, and families without repercussions.

Non-career conversion to career: With the exception of four-hour POStPlan offices, Postal Support Employees (PSEs) receive automatic conversion-to-career after two years. Many are converted sooner due to negotiated provisions regarding the filling of residual vacancies.

Legislative Engagement: Legislation, good or bad, has a big impact on the Postal Service. The APWU keeps members informed and engaged around important legislative matters. The 2022 Postal Service Reform Act is an important example.

Your voice, your union: We are a democratic union. Local, state, and national officers are elected with one person, one vote. Any member can run for office. Regular union meetings enable workers to vote on issues. Locals and states send delegates to represent them at national conventions. Communications with the members: The APWU website, magazine, News Service Bulletins, mailings, social media, and podcasts keep members informed about the many challenges and opportunities facing postal, and all workers.

When you hear a nonmember say, “the union doesn’t do anything for me,” shout the answer from the rooftops – “who are you kidding?!” No union is perfect, but together, union strong, we collectively build better workplaces, stronger families, and more vibrant communities! Be proud to be union! ■

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