Organizing at Orientation

Anna Smith

January 11, 2021

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

Organizing is our union’s strength and essential to our survival. This past year we all faced obstacles like never before in both our home and work environments. As postal workers we are fortunate to have this precious right that many workers can only dream of, the right to organize.

During the 2020 peak season, virtual orientations were definitely an organizing challenge. I know moments tested my frustration tolerance. Our existing online process was still at the beginning stages of phase 2, which meant only those who were already in the APWU database had the ability to use the Online Join process.

Populating our database typically takes a pay period or two from the date a person begins working in an APWU represented assignment. Virtual orientations meant that we needed to quickly come up with a way to not only provide essential benefits, rights, and what it means to be union information, but we also needed an avenue to provide these new employees the opportunity to join the APWU.

Over the next few weeks, the department will be updating the online join process. For many new employees who are not yet in our database, this will offer the ability to complete and send their membership application via their phone or computer within a matter of minutes.

So, while obstacles can create challenges that we want to avoid, they can also bring innovative ideas.

PSEs are PSEs

A designated email was set up for APWU represented employees who attended virtual orientations so they could reach out to the department with any questions they might have pertaining to their membership, and to return membership forms electronically.

One of the most frequent inquiries received from new employees was for clarification on what “type” of PSE they were. While this was covered in detail during the virtual orientation, many workers were inquiring because they were told and/or being called by management, and in some cases, coworkers some of following names: ‘Just PSE holiday clerk,’ ‘temporary help,’ ‘casuals,’ ‘Christmas help,’ ‘short-termer,’ ‘non 360-PSE’ vs. ‘360-PSE,’ and the list goes on.

These names do not go hand in hand with a PSE Job title. In accordance with the MOU Re: Postal Support Employees, Other Provisions:

PSEs may be separated at any time during their term of appointment for lack of work. Separations for lack of work shall be by inverse relative standing on the appropriate PSE roll. Such separations are not grievable except where the separations are pretextual. PSEs separated for lack of work will be given reappointment ahead of other PSEs with less relative standing on the PSE roll (or hiring a new PSE) within the installation if the need for hiring arises within one (1) year of their separation. PSEs are separated for five (5) days between appointments.

PSEs are not Holiday Clerk Assistants (HCAs) and it seems that management tries every year to make these interchangeable, thereby referring to a PSE as a Holiday Clerk. HCAs are not represented by the APWU, and have none of the rights or benefits afforded to PSEs. If you are a PSE who is still receiving conflicting information as to your job status, reach out to your local union representative. They will be your best avenue and support in getting clarification.

Upcoming Contract Negotiations

As we prepare for another round of contract negotiations, we need to show solidarity on the workroom floor. We all have the same goal, to form a better union and a better life for postal workers.

The right to organize is a union’s foundation, its path to success, and without it there is no future. We need to ensure our union uplifts all. A non-member weakens the union, but they harm themselves more. I challenge each one of you as a member, to reach out to a non-member, and ask them to stand with you.

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