Together, Stop Consolidations and Mail Delays!

May 1, 2016

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(This article first appeared in the May-June 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

A postal worker processes mail ballots in Washington state.

This is a crucial time for postal workers and people who depend upon a public Postal Service. While we are engaged in the continued fight against consolidations and closures of processing plants, we are also fighting crushing mail delays that have impacted people all across the nation. We also are fighting to return mail standards to pre-Jan. 5, 2015, levels.

To wage these battles, it is important for us to educate ourselves and our communities and to mobilize our allies to impact our elected representatives. To do so, we must defend the right to vote.

These are big jobs, but that’s what a union does: We take on big jobs that we cannot win alone. It is important to remember that “union” means all of us working together for our common good. And it is also good for us to see how others are waging struggle to bring about change as well.

Consolidations and Closures

The fight against management’s plan for consolidations and closures continues. By June 2015 we were able to stop 71 of the consolidations at least temporarily. Remember, management’s decision last year to place a one-year moratorium on consolidations didn’t take place in a vacuum. And the recent decision to “defer” consolidations didn’t either. They were the result of our struggle and the struggle of many others. We must remain vigilant in this fight.

During contract negotiations last year and this year, we pushed for continuing the moratorium. We argued that the moratorium should continue throughout the life of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The threat of consolidations has been hanging over our members’ heads since 2011.

In 2014, the APWU and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) filed a Step 4 grievance on the 81 sites listed for consolidation. At that time the 81 sites had been held hostage for over two years.

The Postal Service challenged – on a technicality – our right to contest the consolidations. But in February, Arbitrator Shyam Das ruled that the case could go forward and said the union could rely on the PO-408 Handbook in its argument.

The APWU filed a second Step 4 grievance because the USPS had claimed that closures were “deferred.” But management was cancelling consolidations in some places, as well as releasing residual vacancies to be posted for bid – residual vacancies that had been held for employees that may be excessed.

If residual vacancies are being released, the consolidation should be cancelled, not deferred.

We continue the fight. We are hoping there will be no consolidations for the rest of the year – or longer. We are still attempting to get the Postal Service to stop the consolidations.

A few locals where facilities have been partially consolidated have been notified that there is a plan to remove some Delivery Bar Code Sorter (DBCS) machines. The USPS wants to move the machines to a gaining facility or store them in Topeka, KS. Though people and mail are not moving, the plan is to work more hours on fewer DBCSs in the plant.

If your plant is experiencing these kinds of moves, please contact my office. We have been raising this issue with the Postal Service, arguing that DBCSs should not be moved.

I want to thank all of you for your continued efforts to educate the public and getting the word out through the media. We know that returning service standards to pre-Jan. 5, 2015 levels and stopping the consolidations and closures of mail processing plants are essential to stopping the delay of America’s mail.

Voting, Voting Rights and Voting by Mail

There is much at stake in the upcoming elections. While most of the focus is on the presidential race – and I’m proud that the APWU Executive Board endorsed Bernie Sanders for President – there’s more at stake. The fact that every member of the House and many key senators are up for election as well makes this election extremely important for APWU members.

Our first responsibility is to make sure that we are registered to vote. Once that is done, we have to make sure that our family, friends and neighbors are also registered. Once we have educated ourselves on the issues, we have to do what we can to make sure that those close to us understand the issues as well.

It should be our goal to mobilize the public, especially our allies, to get the best people to be our legislative representatives. We need people representing us who can play an important part in protecting mail processing operations. We need to elect members of Congress who want to save the people’s Postal Service, and restore and expand good services. Each of us can play a role, and more correctly, each of us must play a role. If we don’t fight for the public Postal Service, who will?

At our last APWU convention, we resolved to be active in the fight to preserve voting rights. There are forces that want to prevent working people and our allies from voting. There are a lot more of us than there are members of the billionaire class. Voting rights are under attack. We must fight to preserve and enhance the right to vote.

Universal Vote by Mail (UVBM) is a win-win for working people. It makes it easier for people to vote, saves money each election cycle, and utilizes the Postal Service. Three states have UVBM procedures: Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Since Oregon instituted UVBM, the state’s taxpayers have saved $3 million per election cycle.

When people vote by mail, there is an upsurge in participation. In a democracy, the more people who vote, the better. According to a report in Washington Monthly, in 2014, Oregon’s voter turnout rate was 70.9 percent, 23 percentage points higher than the national average. Colorado’s was 71.9 percent; Washington’s was 54 percent. These are phenomenal statistics. Why would anyone oppose UVBM everywhere?

It would be great if we could get a lot more states to adopt Universal Vote by Mail. We can play a role. Again, by educating ourselves and those closest to us, we can then mobilize our allies to take action.

It isn’t so far-fetched for us to get involved with the referendum or initiative process in our states to get UVBM on the ballot. This is a clear way to enhance our democracy, protect and expand the right to vote, and strengthen our public Postal Service. A great resource would be Check it out and get involved. 

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