The Role of Industrial Relations

Vance Zimmerman

July 25, 2019

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

You spend much of your time at work. You interact with co-workers, managers and the public. During the course of your employment, you build relations with those people, some of which transcend the workroom floor. Relations are important. However, most members are not familiar with another kind of relations that affects them one way or another every day – Industrial Relations. Our union’s Industrial Relations Department is a farreaching, multi-faceted network of officers and staff with both constitutional duties and labor employment responsibilities.

From the moment you get ready to clock in at work to the time you go to bed and start over again, the APWU’s Industrial Relations Department is functioning to protect your interests.

Let me give you a few examples of these “industrial” relations:

Postal Pay Issues – When major glitches occur (as they do from time to time) in the $2 billion per pay period USPS payroll system, this Department troubleshoots with Postal Headquarters to detect the problem, input adjustments and monitor full compliance with labor law. We also ensure that the pay scales, step increases and promotional pay adjustments are accurate. Ensuring you get a ‘Fair Day’s Pay for a Fair Day’s Work’ is a 24/7 job!

Consumer Price Index – Many employees take the Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) as a given. However, officers, staff and economists work to ensure the COLA formula of the contract is accurately tabulated.

Robberies, Assaults & Safety – On a 24/7 basis – in conjunction with USPS Contract Administration and the U.S. Inspection Service Watch Desk – our Department receives, monitors and relays incidents of employee assault, suspicious mail and other emergencies. We also deal with major catastrophes like wildfires, inclement weather and manmade disasters. We work in conjunction with USPS Headquarters, our Regional Coordinators and other Department Heads to respond as needed.

Privacy Act & Veterans’ Preference Act – These laws restrict management’s handling of your employment data and provide certain protections and benefits for our veterans. Our Department monitors postal compliance with the Privacy Act and the hundreds of regulations that cover close circuit televisions, wire communications, recordings, and electronic record keeping systems. Constant violations, once detected, are challenged and abated. On the Veterans’ front, our Department monitors postal compliance with the federal law that grants preferences in employee hiring especially Vietnam War and post-Vietnam wars, campaigns and the changes to the Civil Service Reform Act. Protecting those who served our country is one of our priorities.

National Labor Relations Act – Our Department deals with issues concerning employee rights to be free from coercion for union and grievance activity. You have a legal right to file grievances and management is prohibited from retaliating against you for exercising this right. We also handle Unfair Labor Practice charges that reach our level or that are filed at our level.

Occupational Safety & Health Act – One of our primary efforts is enforcing our contract’s safety and health provisions and ensuring management lives up to their responsibilities when it comes to your safety at work. This is a never-ending task, since many managers only pay lip service to safety. We strive to educate our members, stewards and officers on the safety issues that are critical on the work floor.

These are just a few highlights of the many responsibilities of the Industrial Relations Department, along with arbitration appeals, grievance tracking, contract administration, FMLA and much more.

Contract Update

At press time, we have completed our efforts to mediate a contract settlement with the Postal Service via the Federal government’s Meditation & Conciliatory Services. We now move on to the arduous task of interest arbitration. We shall have a contract! With your continued support we shall prevail! Learn more here.

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