On Wednesday, September 30, President Burrus made it publicly known that he will not seek reelection in the 2010 national election of officers of the APWU. Thus we look toward next year with transition in mind. There is no doubt much can be said of President Burrus’ many years of service in the APWU; there will be accolades aplenty. That is not my task, leaving it to others better suited to it. My concern is where we will be in little more than a year from now.
Despite contentions to the contrary – uttered by some as if in a state of denial – the Union’s financial condition is not good. We were hit pretty hard by the economic disaster of late last year, because like any large organization we had money for certain purposes placed in investments. The losses suffered there compounded the shrinking revenue caused by a shrinking member base caused by a shrinking Postal Service work force. There is no doubt significant cost cutting measures have been taken, but cutting cost for its own sake is the way of corporate capitalism. And while cost cutting measures have been implemented over the past several years – even many small-dollar items of little real consequence – we have been unable to change some of our institutional, structural high-dollar costs. The best time to do this would have been in the last National Convention.
As I have previously written, the effort by the 2006 Convention delegates to move forward and set the stage for positive change in the 2008 Convention was thwarted by the subversion of the intent of Resolution 523. What we got, instead of a framework for real change, was an acquiescence to the status quo. So we now face the prospect for attempting to make real change in the 2010 Convention in the middle of the national election process. I suggest that we cannot allow this Union not to change by being timid about the effects on individuals’ aspirations for office.
President Burrus repeatedly warned the assembled participants in the Craft Conferences, "Do no harm. Do no harm." Which was taken correctly, I believe, by most to be an admonishment against structural changes to the organization. That warning has about as much validity as the speaker’s assertion that Postal workers go home "refreshed" at the end of the day!
What harms this organization is a failure in the administration to remember what the Union is all about. What harms this Union is the recent development of its corporate mentality. What harms this Union is an administration that prostrates itself to capitalism as disgracefully as do the corporate capitalist CEO’s who have pillaged the economy of this country. The efforts of the members of this Union to find a way to make the Union more economically efficient by paring down our structure, with an eye toward preserving and strengthening our core responsibilities as a Union, cannot be said to do harm. It cannot be so construed unless one views threatening the continued political careers of incumbents in unnecessary officer positions as the harm against which we are warned.
Here is the framework for structural change I suggest: Look first to dismantling the remnants of merger accommodations, consider the real utility of every existing officer position, analyze the necessity of appointed and other "managerial" positions and seek ways to strengthen our core function of representation. More specifically, as a starting point for discussion and debate, consider these possible changes:
Merge the functions of the position of Secretary-Treasurer into the Vice-President position, eliminating the Secretary-Treasurer position.
Merge the functions of the department director positions in Organization, Human Relations and Research and Education into one headquarters position.
Eliminate one Assistant Director from each of the Craft officer structures.
Eliminate the five positions of Regional Coordinator.
Give a Constitutional status to the National Executive Council that includes provision for the National Executive Council to elect – after each national election of officers – from its own ranks eight members to the National Executive Board (in addition to the President and each of the Division (Craft) Directors) to include one National Business Agent from each of the five regions.
Merge or reorganize certain of the fifteen regions and eliminate unneeded NBA positions.
Eliminate the APWU employee timekeeping system and whatever managerial positions control it, and dismantle most of the APWU human resources management structure.
These are real, possible changes that need exploration, discussion and debate. It’s time that we got down to the business of improving the Union’s structure in order to ensure the continued Union function we have all come to expect.
The King is dead; long live the king!