Making Progress

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(This article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.) 

Steve Brooks, Support Services Division Director

More than six months have passed since I took office as Director of the Support Services Division. Because of the diversity of the division, I have been working long hours and have traveled extensively.

I am pleased to report that both the postal nurses and our members at B&B trucking ratified their contracts in the spring. This summer we will focus on arbitrating the many old cases that are pending in all the units we cover.

We also have been busy preparing for interest arbitration on the IT/AS Collective Bargaining Agreement. Dates for hearings on the contract are heavy in July and August, with a decision expected in September. The members covered by this agreement have been without a pay increase since January 2010. Maybe we can get them a large retro check before Christmas.

Grievance Procedure

In between the contract negotiations, conventions, and labor-management meetings, I have been able to meet with postal management on about 80 outstanding Step 3 grievances. Some have been appealed to arbitration, so my goal is to get our new division advocates to handle some cases.

We have a group of eager-to-learn, active new members who are willing to step up. That is something that each division is looking for. I am convinced our new advocates are up to the task. Those of us who have been around longer will need to focus on training the leaders of the future.

The arbitration process for the private-sector trucking companies is very different than the process used by the USPS and APWU. When private-sector stewards have a grievance, they discuss it with the appropriate terminal manager or supervisor. Both Step 1 and 2 can be heard by the same company official. At times, Step 2 goes through the owner. If no agreement is reached, the case can be appealed to arbitration.

Once a case is appealed to arbitration, we follow slightly different procedures for each private-sector company. In our most recent contracts with B&B and Pat Salmon & Sons, we won the right to create a panel of arbitrators that will hear cases in rotation. We sent a formal request to the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service (FMCS) to supply us with a list of arbitrators within a determined range of the terminals in which they operate. The company and APWU then went through the process of eliminating arbitrators until we had a panel of five arbitrators who will rotate hearing cases.

The idea of having a set panel will be much more efficient than the old way of ordering a list and proceeding with a striking process for each individual case. We hope to achieve the panel process in our remaining private-sector contracts. I have just begun to schedule arbitrations on existing private-sector cases. I hope to get several done between the arbitration dates for the IT/AS this summer. I am sure my summer will fly by.

So far I can say that I like what I am doing and I’m glad I made the decision to take on this challenge. The members that I have talked with have been supportive and understand what it is going to take to get this division on track. I have set some individual goals and I think that will keep me motivated as we face the ongoing struggles.


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