Member Login
Username:

Password:


Not registered yet?
Click Here to sign-up.

Forgot Your Login?

June 22, 2018


<<  June 2018  >>
S M T W T F S
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Another Perspective

 

 

 

This page was originated by former Maintenance NBA, Don Foley, and titled A Business Agent's Perspective.  It has presented some of Don's articles offering opinion and commentary on APWU internal issues, the collective bargaining agreement and other topics.  Don made the point, "One of my chief objectives here is to stimulate critical thinking about our issues."  It is hoped that this page will continue to be relevant to the issues of the Craft, the Union and labor with new submissions.


Jan 13, 2014

          I did not attend the all-Craft conference this year and, consequently, was not in attendance for the installation of officers after this year’s historic election. However, I have listened with great interest to the address by our new President, Mark Dimondstein, on the occasion of his installation to office. I was impressed, though not surprised.

          Brother Dimondstein has long presented himself as a unionist very consciously connected with labor’s history. And it was this connectedness that made his speech memorable. His numerous allusions to great figures from labor’s past and use of quotes from the labor movement’s early leaders gave a welcome richness to his remarks. One must hope to see Brother Dimondstein’s spirit of unionism animate this new administration in a way that will bring a spirit of renewal to the APWU.

          Our new President sounded the call for what he termed “a grand alliance” between postal unions and the whole community to wage the fight against the dismantling and privatization of the Postal Service. In this endeavor, we must all wish him the greatest of luck; for it will take an enormous amount of good fortune to find a way to motivate union officers and members, other activists and the public toward this goal. Certainly we, as postal workers, need to achieve the saving of the Postal Service, and certainly American citizens need the public Postal Service more than they realize. Just as certainly, though, these are very difficult times for movements that attempt to capture enough momentum to accomplish great things. The country is beset by a multitude of conflicts generated by the failure of our capitalist economy to fulfill the promises Americans have come to take for granted. Freedom of speech is drown out by the megaphone of money as the consequences of the Supreme Court’s obsequious-to-the-rich decision in Citizens United has unleashed billions of dollars to sponsor persistent lies that pose as issues of consequence. And these false issues continue to put ordinary Americans always on the defensive and at odds with each other – only to insulate the very wealthy from having to answer for their crimes against society. Thus we have a plethora of issues that dominate public discussion. To get the issue of the true ills of the Postal Service into that arena seems at time nearly impossible. One need only look to what passes for activity in Congress to see that true reform that would benefit the Postal Service barely draws anyone’s attention. And outside those communities where a beloved Post Office building is on the auction block, little media attention is given the Postal Service. To energize the public in a way that will achieve what is needed truly demands a “grand alliance”.

          But what we can expect may be illustrated by what has been going on with the AFL-CIO of late. I was intrigued to read, surrounding the recent AFL-CIO convention, of initiatives to move labor into “grand alliances” with other elements of the progressive community. We have needed for too many years to develop alliances between labor and civil liberties advocates, between labor and healthcare reformists, between labor and student activists, between labor and justice reformers, between labor and peace advocates, between labor and environmentalists. Yet, in later reading the resolutions that were adopted in the convention, one can find little constructive movement. There is a great affinity between the interests of labor and the broader interests of the public that goes unaddressed and underdeveloped. Samuel Gompers famously said,

What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails, more books and less arsenals, more learning and less vice, more constant work and less crime, more leisure and less greed, more justice and less revenge. In fact more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful and childhood more happy and bright.

In other words, labor is all about the so-called American dream. And, yet, labor cannot seem to manage to develop real alignments with progressive organizations that are working toward the various parts of that dream.

          For the American Postal Workers Union to create the “grand alliance” necessary to bring the salvation of the Postal Service into focus for ordinary Americans, we have a lot to overcome in the stifling effect of society’s current multitude of problems. But if we succeed, perhaps, we will lead the labor movement into other much needed alliances.

 

 

 


Nov 01, 2012

          Are you a Republican? Because your father or your mother was? Because you view yourself as conservative? First let me ask, are you an American with the values I believe are held by most Americans? Most Americans are possessed of a deep desire to see the world of our children a better place than the world we grew up in. Most Americans are compassionate; we often favor the underdog. We feel a dedication to the idea that all men and women are created equal and ought not to be trampled upon by the wealthy and powerful. We believe avarice is a vice not a virtue and that each of us deserves to be protected from the powerful and avaricious. We expect protection from exploitation of ourselves, our fellow human beings and our land. We expect government to spend our tax dollars wisely and to protect us; we want good highways, good schools, real and adequate public services. We have a belief that every human being has a right to a decent standard of living, and to receive assistance in achieving that, if needed. We believe that poverty is an evil that an enlightened society can alleviate, and that everyone deserves adequate health care.
          If you believe these things, either take back the Republican Party from those who have commandeered it to serve only the wealthy and powerful – or admit that the “Grand Old Party” can no longer represent you. But whatever you do, don’t believe for a minute that today’s GOP is a conservative party representing ordinary American citizens.
          Today’s Republican Party is not the party that put Dwight Eisenhower into the White House – nor Richard Nixon nor, even, Bush No.1. It is not a conservative, fiscally responsible party dedicated to American values.
          It’s not your father’s GOP. The Republican Party has apparently abandoned its old role as the voice of conservatism in America. You remember, the Democratic Party was the “liberal” side of American politics; the Republican Party was the “conservative” side. Two sides of one coin. Well, in case you have missed it that coin is now held exclusively by the Democratic Party. The Republicans, on the other hand, have been taken over by a radical element fully supported and manipulated by the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the world. The GOP proclaims the supremacy of the individual, as if that could create a civilized world.
          Certainly, the allure of the lone individual carving out a homestead, a settlement, a business on his or her own – demonstrating strength of character and the ability to take advantage of opportunities that accrue from freedom – is attractive. But most of us know that those who strike out on their own, without help from anyone often barely eke out a living, struggle just to survive and often fail miserably. Most of us recognize that there is, indeed, strength in numbers; that humans are social animals who value the support of our families and of society in general; that it was a communal effort of thousands of individuals who joined together to form America as a nation. We recognize that we do not want to live in a dog-eat-dog world, having to compete for every scrap we can wrest from someone less fortunate. But that is exactly what today’s GOP offers America.
          Led now by Mitt Rmoney, the GOP advocates a radical perversion of traditional American values. He and the Republican party advocate radical individualism that would only protect the richest and most avaricious. They claim that the wealthiest Americans and the corporations they run should be set free of burdensome taxation and regulation – and that this “freedom” would benefit the entire country. Unfortunately, there is simply no evidence to support the propaganda.
          When the wealthiest and their corporations paid the highest taxes ever in the four decades after World War II, the country boomed and produced a vibrant “middle class” composed largely of ordinary working class Americans. The GOP’s darling Ronald Reagan began dismantling that and the “middle class” has spiraled down since then to a point, now, where it may soon not be populated by any ordinary working class Americans. After George W. Bush’s famous tax cuts for the wealthy (the so-called “job creators”) the country only declined and our national debt grew exponentially. We ended the Bush years of radical trickle down economics and deregulated capitalism with the Great Recession of 2008-2009. One of the consequences of that economic collapse was the transfer of billions of dollars of wealth from the “middle class” to the wealthiest. We have yet to fully recover from the plundering of our wealth, struggling under GOP obstruction of every effort by President Obama to produce jobs and recovery.
          Rather than pursue reform and recovery, GOP candidate Rmoney would continue, if not increase, the free ride for the wealthiest and their corporations on claims that “job creators” ought not be burdened with an “increase” in taxes. But, if decreasing the “job creators” tax burden were good for the economy, the GOP cannot explain why millions of jobs were lost from the economy during the Bush presidency and especially because of the Great Recession or why American corporations now sitting on more than $2 trillion dollars in unused capital are not “creating” jobs. In fact, neither Rmoney nor the GOP can rationally explain much. But then, maybe they don’t need to.
          Maybe the GOP is right. Maybe American voters will be persuaded by lies and distortions of fact. Maybe the radical minority who support the GOP radical social issues will turn out enough votes to put Rmoney over the top, because that minority really does not pay attention to what really motivates the Rmoney GOP – more wealth for the wealthy.
          But, if Rmoney and the GOP prevail in November, will you be prepared for their promises? Will you be prepared to see women denied all forms of family planning? Will you welcome the elimination of the school lunch program? The end of food stamps for poor people struggling to feed their families? The elimination of federal assistance for college loans and Pell Grants? The end of Social Security as a defined benefit program, converted to individual 401k Wall Street casino accounts? The end of Medicare as a defined benefit program, converted to individual health insurance shopping? Will you welcome the end to collective bargaining as unions become regulated out of existence? Will you be rewarded by the “I’ve-Got-Mine” GOP agenda? And, really, isn’t that what today’s GOP is all about? If you cannot make it on your own, tough shit. Roosevelt had the “Fair Deal” program to restore the economy, Johnson had the “Great Society” program to end poverty – today’s GOP has the “I’ve Got Mine” agenda for America.
          Will you vote for all these things? Or will you vote to preserve fundamental American values and send President Obama back to the White House in the hope of seeing him move the country forward?
          There are many things I had hoped for from President Obama that he has not done; there are many things President Obama has done that I find infuriating. But I will be working for his reelection and voting to return him to the White House. It is not merely the classic choice of the lesser of two evils; it is a matter of hoping to preserve what America is supposed to be about.


Nov 01, 2012

“. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Implored by Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

. . . government of the people, by the corporations, for profit . . .

          Sometimes images of the first RoboCop movie come to mind as I contemplate our circumstances today and what lies ahead. These images derive from one of the movie’s basic premises – that a corporation owned the city and operated its services. And, indeed, it was that for-profit corporate control that brought about the disastrous circumstances faced by the public in that dystopian future.
          As we move further and further from Lincoln’s entreaty for the country, we desecrate the enormous sacrifices he sought to honor. As capitalist corporations exert more and more control of how society operates, the interests of the public diminish toward nothing. Today we continue to suffer the consequences of corporate capitalism gone wild. With the dismantling of the wise regulatory boundaries on the financial sector of private enterprise (under the unwise leadership of Bill Clinton) venture capitalists ran rampant – devising ever riskier tricks to serve their greed. Financial schemes became an industry unto itself. But the wealth with which the schemers gambled was not their own; it was house money, thus making the risk so much easier to take. And when everything fell apart – as a few predicted it would – it was as if no one was prepared for it. And, of course, the huge financial institutions that had not previously existed, but which were now “too big to fail” had to be salvaged. And when they were, because of the lofty position of those who had brought this all about, no one was truly held to account – no one, that is, but the public.
          The public had made the grievous mistake of failing to pay sufficient attention. Clearly, then, it was all our fault. We had not demanded that the old regulations not be dismantled. We had felt comfortable investing money in the Wall Street casinos. We had accepted the staid advice that investments need no attention, just stay the course, get in for the long haul, investments always gain in the long haul . . . Really?
          Thus, corporations and their dutiful servants gained enormous wealth while the rest of the world suffered, and continues to suffer. The collapse of the economy in late 2008, early 2009 was the greatest transfer of wealth that may have ever occurred. It transferred enormous amounts of public wealth into the hands of the Wall Street casinos and, thus, into the pockets of those who run the casinos. Those who gained so much have never been required to restore to the rest of us what we lost, not the wealth, not the jobs, not the personal independence, not societal equilibrium. While 99% of the American citizenry continue in the downward spiral that started in the 1980's and have fallen precipitously since late 2008, the wealthiest are doing quite well. The large corporations – not your Mom and Pop small businesses, but the real corporations – are now sitting on more than two trillion dollars excess capital. Since corporate capitalists have suffered little and gained tremendously from the economy’s collapse, does it not stand to reason that it should be they who spend that wealth to improve our economy? No, not according to the capitalists, not according to Republican politicians – no, the wealthy have no debt for the havoc they wreaked.
          Instead, what passes these days for public policy debate is a narrative created by the so-called “conservative” think tanks with an ideological imperative to dismantle government in service to the public and to replace it with a government in service to corporate capitalism. There is nothing truly conservative about this. It would dismantle our American democracy. It would place greed as the chief motivation for policy, instead of public good. That narrative spews its venom through legislative initiatives written by ALEC and promoted in state legislatures and through political propagandizing protected and encouraged by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. That narrative seeks to turn ordinary Americans against their own government, to convince them that government ought not protect public interests because that inhibits capitalist enterprise, and to convince them that – because government is the enemy – their neighbors who work in public service, government jobs are also the enemy. This is why the Republican party has chosen to target public sector employees (and, of course, their unions) as being over compensated and leeching taxpayer money for extravagant benefits and pensions. And, apparently, that narrative is succeeding – judging by the result in Wisconsin’s recall election, in which 37% of union labor households voted for Governor Walker! All around the country public employees, their wages, their benefits and their unions are under attack.
          Do you really believe that is because the Great Recession of 2008/2009 was caused by the excesses of public employment? Do you really believe it was the teachers, the fire fighters and police officers (nearly 70% of state and local public employees) who brought down the economy? Do you really believe simply continuing to pay for public service as we have for generations is preventing the economy from moving forward? If so, then you have accepted the radical corporate capitalist Republican party narrative. But the narrative has nothing to do with reality. (See the report Some Basic Facts on State and Local Government Workers, October 28, 2011, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, www.cbpp.org)
          Once the public accepts the idea that the government and public employees are to blame for the nation’s woes, it should be an easy sell to convince them that private enterprise should assume control. Wisconsin has already passed laws to sell off public assets to private enterprise. After all, what good is an asset if the wealthiest cannot make a profit off it? Take health care, for example. The United States provides lousy medical service to its population in a system dominated by for-profit insurance companies, who have only recently been required to use 80% of their revenue for actual medical services. That leaves 20% to pay for overhead – including substantial profit. Compare that with the U.S. Government Medicare system. Medicare operates at a 4% overhead, expending 96% of its revenue for actual medical services – sorry, no profit.
          But, again, reality has little sway these days. Unless the American public quickly realizes neither government nor we, the ordinary citizens of this country, are the enemy, corporate capitalism will continue its relentless drive to control America. And we will truly become a government of the people, by the corporations, for profit.


Mar 20, 2012

          Early last week, in the second of two National Executive Council meetings set up to discuss restructuring of the APWU, the Council adopted a motion to . . . do nothing . . . again! This Union has been on a financial downward spiral for a good many years; the members have attempted on more than one occasion to address its financial problems by working toward a restructuring of national officer positions; and time and again the administration of the Union has thwarted that legitimate effort.
          Allow me to revisit two articles I wrote on this issue – one related to the aftermath of the 2008 National Convention, the other in the run-up to the 2010 National Convention.
          Early in 2009, I wrote about what had transpired in the 2008 Convention and what it should mean to us –

          “We heard for several years prior to this Convention, from the administration, that the Union’s financial status was a serious concern. . . Simply put, a Union of 220,000 members cannot afford to operate as if it had the revenue base of 300,000 members. Unfortunately, the message from our administration about our finances was again and again presented as if from a split personality. We repeatedly were being given two, conflicting presentations. . . The frustration with this mixed message in the 2006 Convention resulted in Resolution 523. The resolution called for a study by a national committee to determine what our real situation was, how we ought to change in order to (at least) be prepared for what seemed to be an inevitable continuing decline in membership and, thereby, revenue, and to make a report to the 2008 Convention. Well the Committee was formed, met and issued a report.
          “I and others castigated the Resolution 523 report as a meaningless failure of the committee to satisfy its mandate. And, it seemed, the 2008 Convention agreed. Where we hoped to see specific recommendations about how the Union would change – perhaps restructure itself – to be ready for impending financial decline, we got nothing. The committee report, apparently dictated by the administration, was a deferral to the President and the Executive Board. It recommended only that the Union allow the President and the Executive Board to make structural changes to the organization purely at their discretion. . . No specific model for restructuring of this organization was developed. No specific plan of action was put forth that would guide our budgetary determinations in light of dwindling income. A well deserved dues increase proposal found no support in the administration, in spite of declining revenue and in spite of failure to reduce anything about our structure – again the self-contradictory message. The approach of this administration to our financial health has been very similar to the Republican Congress approach to America’s financial health – cut, cut, cut expenses, but do nothing to increase revenue.
          “To the credit of the delegates to the Convention, they once again took charge of the Convention. And their success, once again, was a success in stymying the administration’s plans – the President would not be allowed sole discretion whether or not to fill a vacant officer position; and any decision to close or move a field office would require Convention action.
          “We were still left, because of the abject failure of Resolution 523 to realize its potential, with no plan that would lead us through the rocky economic events that have since the Convention befallen us. We are now, in large part because of the collapse of the American economy (more particularly the Wall Street Casino), faced with real economic difficulties. . .”

          I followed that up, as we approached the 2010 National Convention, with a call for the members to prepare to take the reins of the Convention and determine a specific restructuring plan for the APWU –

          “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. . .
          “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 . . .
          “President Burrus repeatedly warned the assembled participants in the [2009] 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. . .
          “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.”

          Well, again in the 2010 National Convention, the best interests of the Union were thwarted by obstruction and timidity. We did not adopt a comprehensive restructuring plan; however, we did mandate that the National Executive Council meet for the express purpose of doing so. The NEC was to meet for study, discussion, debate and – if possible – consensus on a comprehensive plan to restructure the APWU in order to meet our desperate economic needs. Almost two years subsequent, the NEC has – just as the Resolution 523 Committee did six years ago – abdicated its responsibility. It has, once again, acquiesced to those who continue to claim we need not do anything. There were a few among the Council who made the attempt to do what the Convention had called for, but they were in a small minority.
          Once again, it will fall to the full body of the APWU National Convention, assembled in Los Angeles, to make the structural changes we need. And, again, let me offer my own suggestion of major elements of restructuring as I put forward as we approached the 2010 National Convention –

          “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 [the OPEIU bargaining unit employees have only recently been taken out of the old 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.”

 

          We are now at a membership level of, not 220,000 but, about 160,000, with the Postal Service hemorrhaging employees even as we fiddle. This is not the time for the APWU administration to circle the wagons, hunker down and protect the status quo; it is time for bold action to serve the Union.


Sep 22, 2011

          Yet another newspaper article, citing the potential problems that would arise for small communities should the Postal Service close their Post Office, appeared in the paper Monday. And, as usual, it recited the stock assertion that the dismal economy and the advance of email have caused the Postal Service’s present financial crisis. And this article failed, as so many do, to look critically at what is actually happening in the Postal Service today.
          The financial problems for the Postal Service have certainly been exacerbated by today’s economy – just as this economy has sorely tried so many industries. But that is not the root cause of the crisis in the Postal Service. Nor – contrary to easily repeated cliches – is the use of email and other electronic communications the cause of today’s Postal Service impending disaster. Certainly mail volume has been affected by electronic media. However, long after these other forms of communications had become widespread, in the middle of this past decade – 2005, 2006, 2007 – the Postal Service was handling the highest mail volume of its entire history.
          The Postal Service’s financial demise has been, instead, the direct result of Congressional action and its own acquiescence to the mailing industry. The Postal Service established a mailing rate discount for large volume pre-sorted mail that has actually cost the Postal Service for its handling of this mail. It has been the Postal Service that has driven the development of high speed mail processing equipment – from relatively simple canceling machines, to mail sorting machines that employ the most sophisticated bar code and optical character recognition technology. And that machinery is also utilized by the large mailing industry presort houses. While mail volumes that made it difficult at times for the Postal Service to meet its own service standards may have implied that having mailers perform pre-sortation work was a good idea, the postage discounts given to those mailers did not. Instead of simply reflecting cost avoidance, these discounts caused the Postal Service to actually lose money on the handling of this mail. If the Postal Service eliminated the excessive discounts for this pre-sort mail, it could perform the sortation and further processing of the mail at cost benefit to its own operations. Yet even with this loss of revenue, the Postal Service flourished – at least until Congress took action. And even with this loss of revenue, the Postal Service would have operated in the black for the past five years were it not for an act of Congress.
          In 2006 Congress passed and President Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). Apart from placing further impediments on the Postal Service’s ability to regulate its own fees for services (i.e., postage rates), this act placed on the Postal Service an onerous financial obligation truly unique. No other governmental agency has ever been so required, nor is any private sector business obligated in the manner Congress demanded of the Postal Service. Congress had already obligated the Postal Service to make higher than necessary contributions into the funding of federal pensions for postal employees. Now, in the PAEA, Congress decided that the Postal Service would be required to fund the future 75 years of retiree health benefits by annual payments to be completed in just 10 years – at a rate of about 5.5 billion dollars annually. Although the overfunding of federal pension accounts over the years (the earlier Congressional mandate) cost the Postal Service about 75 billion dollars – now held by the federal government – in excess of its actual liability, it has been the additional, unique retiree health benefit funding at 5.5 billion dollars annually that is the immediate cause of the Postal Service’s impending demise.
          This is most certainly a manufactured crisis. And its existence is now being manipulated to frighten the American public into thinking that anything – anything – that will salvage some semblance of their revered U.S. Mail would be worthwhile. Even if it means handing the whole business of transporting and processing the mail over to private enterprise, if it will save their own Post Office, it would be worth it. The existence of this manufactured crisis also has given the radical right a new platform from which to attack unions, claiming that the cost of having workers protected by collective bargaining is too much for the Postal Service to have to bear. Never mind that the Postal Service was surviving quite well for nearly forty years in a collective bargaining relationship with the unions who represent postal employees, through several recessions and even in spite of milder Congressional interference.
          The disaster Congress created, it must resolve. And Congress cannot be allowed to resolve it by destroying the Postal Service itself. Originally the Post Office Department, later converted into the wholly owned federal agency Postal Service, this institution is established in the Constitution of the United States and has always served the primary function of ensuring universal communication service to and by the American public. It is owned by the American people and has been fully self-supporting (i.e., no tax money) since becoming the U.S. Postal Service forty years ago. It is one of the largest single-entity employers in the country, providing its workers decent middle class earnings that reach into and support the economies of every city, town and hamlet in the United States.
          Unfortunately, this Congressionally created crisis is bringing together anti-union, anti-government, and pro-privatization ideologues in Washington; and they are marshaling their forces behind the Darrell Issa proposed legislation, H.R. 2309. This bill, if enacted, would spell the end of the Postal Service as the public service it has always been. On the other hand Steven Lynch’s proposed legislation, H.R. 1351, would simply allow the Postal Service to resolve its future retiree health benefit obligation by recouping funds from the 75 billion dollars of overpayments into the pension funds – that is, solve the cash flow problem without costing the Postal Service, the federal government or the American people one penny – and it would not mandate changes to the Postal Service’s institutional structure.
          Only time will tell. But, believing the American people would really prefer to keep their “Post Office” as it is, we cannot allow radicalism and greed to steal the Postal Service from the public to whom it belongs.

Donald L. Foley
Maintenance Craft NBA, retired


Sep 22, 2011

Yet Another Appeasement in Store?

          Not to state it over-broadly, but the fate of collective bargaining for postal employees and the fate of the Postal Service itself may well depend upon the decision of the National Mediation Board concerning employees of the Federal Aviation Administration. Altering a rule of some 75 years standing, last year the Board ruled that union certification votes in the aviation and railroad industries should be by ordinary rules for counting votes in a democratic election. That is to say, the Board revised the old rules in a manner that requires a union certification election to be controlled by the votes of only those who vote, not including votes of those who choose not to vote. Under the old rules, in a union certification election for a bargaining unit of 100 employees, if 75 employees cast ballots, the remaining 25 employees who chose not to vote were all counted as ‘nay’ votes – meaning in effective that, regardless how many employees voted, the only way to achieve an affirmative result would be to register a full majority of all 100 employees in the bargaining unit. In nearly all democratic election processes, a majority is of those who vote; it does not count those who fail to exercise the right to vote. So the National Mediation Board changed the rule – a majority vote would be of those who vote.
          As one might imagine, this rule – making it easier to achieve a majority in favor of union certification – ran afoul of the agenda of most Republican Congress persons. And, because of this rule by the National Mediation Board, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives brought the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a very near standstill earlier this year. The House refused to adopt the normally perfunctory funding bill for the FAA, causing the FAA to experience a circumstance not unlike the economic situation presently confronting the Postal Service. In short, the FAA did not have the money to operate all of its functions – contracted work was halted, inspections were delayed or terminated, nearly everything other than manning the control towers of our airports stopped. Finally, before Congress recessed, a very short term extension of funding the FAA was adopted – with a requirement to revisit the issue after the summer recess (stop-gap funding expires September 16).
          When Congress gets back to work very soon, Postal employees would do well to pay very close attention to what happens with the FAA funding and the Federal Mediation Board rule. We ought not to simply sit on the sidelines, either.
          It amazes me that so little has been said about this fight in labor or progressive media sources, though there does appear to be some appetite among some Democratic members of Congress to take on the fight – one of the few that may bear fruit for labor. Labor should get behind this issue in a big way. And I believe we would be right to fear that, at some point, President Obama will decide to exercise his unique “negotiation” skills to resolve the impasse over FAA funding. Should President Obama negotiate away the gain achieved through the National Mediation Board ruling – recognizing simple democratic voting principles – in order to appease the Republican radical right (once again) it would be a significant setback for labor. But even more important to Postal employees, it would signal to us that we cannot count on this administration to protect the collective bargaining rights of Postal employees. Where, supposedly, little is actually at stake – the FAA is not all that big a government agency, and no presently protected union employees’ jobs are threatened – one might easily see Obama cause the National Mediation Board ruling to be reversed to achieve ordinary financing of the FAA operations.
          However, such a move by Obama – unfortunately typical appeasement of the radical right – would also signal that he will have no stomach for the support necessary to save the collective bargaining rights of Postal unions in the struggle to save the Postal Service. The stakes for the economy in the battle to save the Postal Service from itself and from Republican radicalism are so high that, I’m afraid, they will sway Obama in exactly the wrong direction. If Obama cannot muster the intestinal fortitude to protect future union recognition votes in the aviation and railroad industries, he will fold like a house of cards when confronted with the need to protect the Unions while preserving the Postal Service. My deepest hope is that Obama never becomes involved “resolving” this fight; my deepest fear is that he will.
          While we wage our campaign to convince Congress to save the Postal Service and to save our jobs, we should also take the time to convince Congress to save the National Mediation Board ruling in favor of democratic union certification elections. Or ignore it at our peril.

Donald L. Foley
Maintenance Craft NBA, retired


Apr 13, 2011

          It would certainly be an understatement to merely say that the new tentative National Agreement is complex. It is that, but the complexities of the Agreement also reflect the facts that it contains several bold initiatives and that it addresses changes to so many different parts of the contract that full comprehension of its benefits and its disadvantages is very difficult. I’ve read one commentator’s remark that the new contract is “transcendent”. I believe that is apt. And this contract certainly seems to me to be generating far more in-depth, critical thinking and debate than any in memory. There have been those who have voiced opinion, apparently, without much critical analysis – satisfied, instead, to respond to its whole because of just one of its parts. That, I think, cannot serve much useful purpose. This contract demands more consideration by our members – and more guidance by those who stand in leadership roles – than any prior National Agreement. It proposes to make some very important and fundamental changes that ought to be studied and taken as a whole. (And I’ll note that I’ve always believed one of the essential responsibilities of a leader in this Union is to assist the members when issues are presented by giving wise counsel as to what their course of action ought to be. To offer opinion about this contract and to demur from advising a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ vote shirks that responsibility.)

          There are certainly a good many things to like about this contract and a good many things to dislike. I cannot address all the intricacies of the effects of Craft-specific terms of the Agreement, but I can address the changes to Article 38. What draws compliment here is the absence of provisions – the absence of the new non-traditional full-time (NTFT) duty assignment for the Maintenance Craft. And it is impressive that we were able to regain custodial work in small offices through invention of the Postal Support Employee (PSE) category (more on this later). But the plain Article 38 provisions I find perplexing, at best, and (closer to reality) infuriating. First, there is the elimination of the reference point for all our occupational groups, by way of key and standard position descriptions, with the writing out of the Agreement the reference to Handbook EL-201. While we have known for years that the Postal Service does not maintain the EL-201 as it does most of its handbooks, it is a whole other matter to explicitly write it out of our National Agreement. And we have done so without counterbalancing language to protect the continuing integrity of the position descriptions and occupational groups. With as many potential, negative implications as this change has, there simply was no good reason for it.

          Then we have the changes to Section 4.A.2. and 4.A.3. These changes – especially the introduction of absolute permission to revert a position because of a staffing package – will undermine more than thirty years of history. We have had remarkably consistent success over the years restoring reverted positions, based on the prior language and the parties’ explicit agreement that the reversion process had a defined 40-day window of opportunity. These changes will irreversibly alter this contract protection.

          Section 5.B.5. previously put forth a progression of bid and promotion actions with specific “break points” at which the process would restart. The “break points” have been taken out. Now, one ET, PS-10, vacancy posting will trigger a continuous bid/promote cycle that will only end with the last residual – perhaps Custodian, PS-03. While the Maintenance Craft has prided itself for more than thirty years on our unique bid/promote process, we have never denied it places a unique burden on our members. This change will increase the burden on members of every occupational group in the office to monitor job postings and to speculate on the potential, downstream ramifications of every one – or, possibly, get unexpectedly placed in a new job. There could and should have been some countervailing terms that would have required a daily progress report by management on how the bid/promotion process would play out during the time a posting is open. As with other detractions from rights in Article 38, there is no counterbalance for placing more onus on the workers.

          The additional language in Section 7.E. pertaining to circumvention of 204b detail limitations may be the only plus among changes. Though its expression is rather obtuse, it will probably serve its intended purpose.

          Finally, going back to Section 5. Here we see at 5.B.2. the deplorable retreat of the Craft from what has been one of our primary objectives for the past forty years – the achievement of senior-qualified promotion for every position in the Craft. All senior-qualified promotion eligibility registers (PERs) have been eliminated!! Wiped from the contract in their entirety – not modified, not improved upon, but thrown on the trash heap of history. Year after year, one Craft Convention after another, the Maintenance Craft has reaffirmed our commitment to – one day – persuade the Postal Service it need only determine whether or not an employee is qualified for promotion and then to promote by seniority; to end the vagaries of managerial manipulations to decide who among employees seeking promotion is “best qualified” for any given position. With recent changes to the Maintenance Selection System that have made the interview panel process nothing more than a pass-fail element of the evaluation, coupled with this regressive elimination of senior-qualified PERs, we now have completed the reversal of the decades old, fundamental principle of promotions that written examinations not be controlling. Now the written examination score is the control. To tout “seniority within the banded score” as if that were an accomplishment is to ignore the fact that we achieved that step-in-the-right-direction in the 1990-1994 National Agreement. Each of the subsequent changes in this part of Article 38 has been made as incremental progress toward the objective of ultimately making seniority the only determinative factor in selection for promotion of qualified employees. Each subsequent change, that is, until this . . . I cannot, in good conscience, advocate for rejection of a whole National Agreement because of changes to one Craft Article; however, this change to Article 38 is nothing short of an outrage.

 

General Article Changes –

          As we approached contract negotiations, there seemed to be no one who thought that negotiations would be anything but difficult. In fact, the consensus seemed to be that we were in for, perhaps, the most difficult contract negotiations ever – that the Postal Service economic condition, the overall national economic circumstances and the political climate presented grave problems for our prospects. Some of us were of the opinion that a negotiated agreement was a virtual impossibility. And yet we have a contract.

          There should be no surprise that a contract was achieved only because it contains significant changes. The Postal Service sought monetary savings and flexibility; the Union sought countervailing gains. One may second guess whether the gains of this Agreement are sufficient, in balance, to offset our losses; but one ought not second guess either the difficulties of the process or the will of Union negotiators – the results dictate otherwise.

          It seemed surprising to me that the contract contains any provisions whatsoever for contractual wage increases, yet it does. It seemed expected that we would lose significantly (in dollars and cents) on the Employer share of health benefit premium payments; yet we did not. The benefit to our bargaining unit members of holding APWU health insurance, instead of any other plan, was expanded upon and ought not be ignored. This benefit of Union membership is exactly the type of contractual benefit we ought to negotiate – it helps the individual member and it helps the Union. Although COLA increases have been deferred, they have not been lost; and the deferral comes during a time when COLA increases are not to be expected to be of much significance anyway.

          Clearly, the greatest negative economic impact of this Agreement is the fact that the Union has agreed future employees will be compensated less earnings than present employees. It has been amply pointed out that the new, reduced pay scales will cause future workers to have diminished lifetime earnings as a consequence. What is forgotten in that complaint is the fact that each time our contract previously saw reduced starting steps in the pay scale, the affected new employees’ lifetime earnings had been diminished; when pay anomalies resulting from changes to our pay scales were remedied, affected employees were never made whole for what they had lost as compared with what they might have earned had changes never been made.

          The new pay scales are a distasteful consequence of worldwide economic problems. The United States economy – at least as it affects working Americans – began its decline with Ronald Reagan and his voodoo economics. It was abated a bit during the boom times of the Bill Clinton administration, but nosedived over the course of ‘W’ years, culminating in the crash of 2008. While it is easy enough to see the not-so-invisible hand of the market place squeezing the lifeblood of the working class in more and more ways, it is not so easy to identify any means to quickly overcome the breadth and scope of the damage that has been done. There was no way possible that the APWU contract with the Postal Service could happen in a vacuum or stand alone as redemption for workers and protection of labor values. Every time the Union has arbitrated a National Agreement, the arbitrator has told us that we exceeded ‘wage comparability’ a long time ago (thanks to our earliest contracts). In today’s economy, reduced wages should have been a foregone conclusion.

          The elimination of casuals has been dealt with by some critics as if it were a name-only change – on the contention that the new Postal Support Employee (PSE) is nothing more than a repackaged casual. That is simply untrue. When we negotiate terms that explicitly eliminate from the Postal workforce non-bargaining unit workers that have been part of our employment relationship for its entire prior history, that is a major accomplishment. The PSE is a bargaining unit position – it has rights and benefits and is susceptible to Union membership. The fact that many of the ways in which the PSE may be utilized by the Service are the same as ways it previously used casuals cannot change the fact that the two categories are worlds apart. Casuals had no rights; casuals had no benefits; casuals had no protections under the contract. This National Agreement accomplishes for these future PSE workers wages and benefits and conditions of employment they otherwise would never have had, and gives them a path to career employment in the regular work force as well. I find the percentage allowances for employment of this job category disappointingly high, coupled with provisions that some employment in this category does not “count against” those percentages, making it very hard but not impossible to accept what has been negotiated.

          Restructuring of what it means to enjoy the benefits of full-time employment is probably the most difficult change to the Agreement to accept – the non-traditional full-time (NTFT) duty assignment. This strange bird, not a new category per se but damned close, will create so many problems for current and future full-time employees it seems impossible to comprehend the full implications. Certainly, it will place a heavy burden on Local leaders during local implementation to find ways to control managerial discretion through the LMOU. The high percentage allowances for establishment of NTFT positions will, no doubt, present a wide array of problems for day-to-day bidding and assignment issues. And, as I said earlier, it is one of the few highlights for the Maintenance Craft that this new full-time status will not occur in Maintenance. This conceptual change to our understanding of full-time employment does run, in certain ways, contrary to long pursued and cherished labor principles. Was it truly necessary for our negotiators to accept the NTFT as part of a negotiated agreement? The only answer to that has to be, “It must have been.” Should it have been treated as a “deal breaker”? Some unionists would have balked and refused to agree to this new concept as part of a contract. I have noted (without hearing from anyone as to the intended significance of this) that all provisions for the NTFT are contained in MOUs – not in the body of the National Agreement. Perhaps, without saying so, we have negotiated here a temporary or trial concept, as perpetuation of MOUs is always less certain than perpetuation of terms of the articles. In the end, I have had to conclude that the significant alterations made to what constitutes a full-time position are not so violent or repugnant as to negate acceptance of the whole Agreement.

 

Where’s the Work?

          What ultimately, I believe, dictates that this contract deserves the members’ ratification are the new initiatives that address old problems and that protect our work. After all, where will we be if there is simply no longer any work to be done by the bargaining unit?

          Among items that resolve old problems, the changes to Article 12 are certainly of considerable importance. Although there is not an absolute bar to reassignments beyond a 50-mile limit, the new provisions make long-distance changes to employees’ careers far less likely than has been the case. Many, many present workers will be able to stay in their communities – keep their kids in school, not disturb their spouses’ employment, keep their homes – than would have otherwise occurred under present Article 12 terms and present day conditions. Additionally, the parties have managed to clean up some of the nagging problems with Article 12 that have surfaced again and again over recent years. These are, by and large, great changes.

          In this same general category of changes to address old problems – how often have we complained in the field that, if only ‘the boys in Washington’ would take care of this issue, perhaps we wouldn’t have to take it on locally again and again? I believe the new Section 2 of Article 19 is a very progressive step in the right direction. It sets up a separate arbitration panel at the headquarters level for Article 19 disputes and actually provides for arbitrators to render an award within 30 days of the close of the arbitration record! Previously when the Postal Service changed a handbook or manual and the Union challenged the change, we have nonetheless had to live for years with implementation of the change – affecting day-to-day operations and lives – until the Article 19 dispute could be addressed. (For example, we challenged ASM changes in 1992, but didn’t see an arbitration award on the dispute for a full ten years!) This new Article 19 section promises to make a significant advance against the Postal Service’s ability to make unilateral changes with impunity.

          For the first time ever, with this new Agreement, our Support Services Craft brothers and sisters will have a place in the same National Agreement as the other Crafts. This too holds promise of future improvements in the representation of our members.

          But the work initiatives are, I believe, of the highest significance in this new Agreement. From the new provisions for Lead Clerk positions to the return of subcontracted cleaning services work to the bargaining unit, this contract – for the first time – takes progressive steps toward recapture and protection of bargaining unit work. While Article 1 has, for decades, referred to “managerial and supervisory personnel” (under the exclusion clauses), this new Agreement contains explicit terms recognizing an expanded concept of what constitutes bargaining unit work. It promises, through several initiatives, to recoup – from EAS – our work. The parties have utilized the term “non-managerial or non-supervisory work to do this in the MOU, Clerical Work, and in the MOU, New Positions and New Work. The parties have also made explicit agreements about these issues as they had been addressed in the award of Arbitrator Carlton Snow several years ago, and which led to the protracted Step 4 and federal court disputes over the jobs and the work. The overall effect seems to me to be that the Postal Service has, in effect, conceded that there is work presently performed by EAS employees that more properly belongs to the bargaining work; and it has agreed to methodologies for the parties to identify this work and for the Union to recoup it.

          We also see in the MOU, Maintenance Craft Jobs, and the changes to the MOU, Subcontracting Cleaning Services, abandonment – to a significant degree – by the Postal Service of the subcontracting of custodial work. This, coupled with changes to Article 32 and separate provisions affecting Motor Vehicle Service Craft subcontracting, mark important concessions by the Postal Service in an area where we have fought and fought over the persistent erosion of our work base.

          The protection of the work base is, perhaps, the most pressing issue we have. It has been the erosion of that work base that has led to many of the structural problems of the Postal Service, has led to an almost viciously contentious labor-management climate over many years and has led to considerable consumption of time, energy and money by both parties in disputes over jobs and work. If this National Agreement genuinely marks a change in the direction of the Postal Service on this fundamental issue, that alone would make it worthy of ratification. I realize that “if” is a huge question. The Postal Service, over all these many years of our contractual relationship with it, has always shown itself to be fully capable of duplicity and manipulation. And there is no reason now to suppose that Postal management has experienced some sort of beneficent epiphany – it has not likely “seen the light and the error of its ways”. But there are enough sound agreements made by the Service in mutual commitment with the Union under the terms of this Agreement that, I believe, we must ratify this contract and proceed as always to

Win by Persuasion When Possible

Beat Them at the Table When Necessary

And Give ‘em Hell Generally

 

Donald L. Foley
Maintenance Craft NBA, retired


Mar 22, 2011

I’ve read the comments of former president Bill Burrus on the tentative Agreement. And it seems no great surprise he has criticized it. You may have heard the rumors I did that Brother Burrus thought he ought to have been kept on for contract negotiations after the end of his term of office and that he told the Executive Board that, should the contract go unresolved to arbitration, the Union should hire him with an appointment as our arbitrator for the panel. Instead, the new Executive Board did as it should – took upon itself the full weight of securing a new National Agreement. And it would seem, it has been successful. That Brother Burrus disagrees with one aspect of the economic package merely reflects the tunnel vision that dominated his involvement in contract negotiations during his tenure.

As I have suggested previously, the Union has hamstrung itself for one negotiation after another by pandering, to the near exclusion of all other matters, to the obvious desire of the members for pay raises. Not that there is anything wrong with pay raises. Everyone wants to earn more for what we do. I’ve defended the professional athletes’ enormous pay packages, because they have derived from the effort to force ownership to share the enormous profits derived from the exercise of those workers’ skills. But, when the APWU has focused so narrowly on pay raises, it has done so at the expense of a great many other pressing issues. For thirty years it should have been obvious that there were problems in the workplace that, though demanding of correction, went ignored when the contract was negotiated (or arbitrated) every few years.

And, while Brother Burrus would place himself in the company of Stu Filbey and other great leaders of this Union, contract reality shows stagnation in National Agreement negotiations for thirty years. The APWU National Agreement – originally negotiated by a team representing the joint efforts of all the great Unions/Craft organizations – was a work of art perhaps unmatched by anything in labor management negotiation of a first contract anywhere. It established rights and procedures to protect the bargaining unit that were reflective both of long-held labor principles and of what was then the thought that the federal government ought to act as a model employer. And it was perfected (though with some difficulties and some setbacks even then) in the next couple Agreements. Thus, the great contract under which hundreds of thousands of postal workers have worked and been protected was that created prior to 1980 not by Brother Burrus or Brother Moe Biller, who first reached national office as the Biller-Burrus-Richards ticket in the 1980 elections. Since that time what dominated each successive contract negotiation was – how much more money are we going to get? And little attention was paid to our other issues.

Is it right that we have negotiated for future workers a less advantageous pay scale? For their long-term economic benefit, perhaps not; but on that point, all we can do is speculate. Consider that Burrus negotiated into the last National Agreement a transfer of jobs from career bargaining unit jobs to non-career, non-bargaining unit jobs; and consider that the last National Agreement did nothing to stem the persistent outflow of jobs from the Postal Service. How well did these factors of the last Agreement serve the interests of future postal workers – some of whom would never become career, some of whom would never even be postal workers? Not only does the new tentative Agreement eliminate the casual employment that Burrus helped to bolster, but it also creates a career path based on seniority for the new bargaining unit non-career assistant (NCA) workers. So, if one wanted to speculate about the cost to future workers, one would also have to speculate on such things as – how many more workers we will have; how many of those workers will be career instead of casual; how their pay scales may eventually be improved as this dismal economy regains its strength.

And, speaking of this economy, I cannot see any rational expectation that arbitration of this National Agreement could have accomplished a positive economic outcome, nor would it have achieved the bold initiatives we see in this Agreement. Additionally, there is simply no reason to suppose the economy will improve much any time soon. There are far too many factors in play, far too much damage has been done in the transfer of wealth to the wealthy, far too little political will exists for real job creation. In other words, the Union had to work with the hand we were dealt.

I fully expect I will have some good reason to offer specific criticism of some of the terms of this New Agreement – that seems evident from the highlights and talking points being presented. However, a full assessment of this Agreement cannot be made without having the opportunity to read and digest the entirety of it. Looking forward to that opportunity when the full tentative Agreement is published, let me urge every member to exercise due diligence and study what has been negotiated and then, VOTE.

Donald L. Foley
Retired, former Maintenance NBA


Aug 12, 2010

"You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick . . . And if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people . . . They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, . . . fifty people a day . . . And friends they may think it's a movement." 
(with my apologies to Arlo Guthrie)

I read in the paper the other day that the private sector - American corporate capitalist enterprise - is sitting on two trillion dollars ($2,000,000,000.00) capital, not spending it to hire, to increase production or to start new plants, just sitting on it. I have also been watching Wall Street and reading the reports. It seems Wall Street is doing very well - especially the banks and other financial institutions, the very businesses that caused the meltdown of the economy. Those in charge of those "industries" have not felt the pain, no, bonuses are up as are profits. Meanwhile a recently released study points out that the number of families whose household income has taken a drastic - 25% or greater - negative turn has continued the steady growth that has been occurring for the last several decades. It's the same old song - the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Add to that the follow-up line, and the poor become more and more numerous.

So what would we want to see done about this problem? For most Americans the economy is in the toilet; the ranks of the jobless seem to just grow and grow; American industry has, without any sign of conscience, shipped our jobs overseas; workers in third-world nations are exploited to increase profits while we just lose more and more jobs. The Republicans are relentlessly criticizing the Democrats and especially the President for allegedly failed attempts to shore up the crumbling economy. But what about those capitalists upon whom the Republicans would have us place all reliance for righting this sinking ship? If the corporate-capitalist-pandering politicians (of both parties) believe "free" markets are the answer, that "free" capitalist initiative is far better than government intervention in the economy, why are they not urging corporate capitalists to get off the dime and invest those trillions of dollars in generating new jobs, new plants, new industries? For that matter, why aren't those capitalists doing it of their own accord?

For most of us it seems simple enough - quit shipping industry and the jobs it supports overseas, get back to producing right here at home. But who will make that happen? The owners of industry won't. The politicians won't. And apparently, we won't. Apparently, we don't. Apparently, we are too unwilling to recognize what it means to be part of the problem.

Rather than being part of the problem, what are we doing about it? You and me, what are we doing? It is not as if we are completely impotent. Sure you could petition your members of Congress, for all that is worth. But do you speak with your dollars? Consider how significant "the markets" believe consumerism is. Where does Wal-Mart draw its revenue? Where do you buy? What do you buy?

You and I, brothers and sisters, are NOT entitled to the best bargain, the cheapest price. You and I have no special entitlement to participate with corporate capitalist CEO's in the rape of third-world labor, in the exploitation of child labor. You and I have no special entitlement. Instead, you and I have obligations.

Every American worker whose wages come as the result of a union contract has the obligation to speak with those dollars, to support union-labor jobs by spending those union-produced dollars. You cannot possibly decry the criminality of corporate capitalism's pillaging of the economy if you make no effort to speak with your dollars in support of union-labor products and services. When you shop at Wal-Mart instead of the local, unionized grocery chain, you cooperate with CEO's in the destruction of the American working middle class. When you buy that "inexpensive" pair of jeans made in Sri Lanka instead of Union Line or other union-made jeans, you help to eliminate jobs in America. When you contract with a non-union contractor for home repairs instead of seeking out a union contractor, you contribute to the persistent depression of wages for your neighbors - and, soon enough, for your children and grandchildren. The Wal-Mart motto - "Save money. Live better" - is a lie. If each and every one of us seeks only to find the cheapest means, the lowest price products, we become full participants in corporate capitalism's pernicious campaign to destroy the labor movement and the working middle class. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of union wages have a responsibility to see that those wages go to support the labor movement as fully as we possibly can. Does that cost more money? You bet your sweet ass it does. Be thankful for having been blessed with the opportunity to spend it.

But I should also note that the harder I look to find union made products and services, the more appalled I become at the abject failure of the labor movement itself, especially the AFL-CIO. Sure you can find on the internet the AFL-CIO Union Label & Service Trades Department. But don't expect that to provide a compendium of businesses where you can go to shop for union made products. There used to be an AFL-CIO sponsored website (which I cannot find now) that provided lists of companies offering union-made products and services; but that was always of minimal help in actually locating a retailer or contractor. No, each of us is left to our own devices to do what ought to be done - to find those remaining products and services that bear the union label. You will not find them at Wal-Mart, but you will find them on the internet.

It is certainly time consuming and it limits your scope of choices, but then that is really what this is all about - choices. Next time there is something to buy, think - think about the consequences of your choice; make a conscious choice that reflects working class principles and rejects corporate capitalism's race to the bottom. What will you choose? If you do not speak with your dollars to protect union-labor jobs, who will? Just who will save American jobs? It's your choice. If there is any truth to the capitalist principle that markets respond to demand, that demand should be the voice of your dollars.


Oct 18, 2009

 

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!


Mar 16, 2009

          I suggested early last year that the 2008 National Convention could be a “watershed” in the history of the APWU. It remains, probably, too early to tell whether that projection was realized in the events of August 2008. However, the last National Convention is certainly notable for some things we did and for some things we did not.

          Those things we did not are now drawn into sharper focus as the economy erodes and the financial status of the APWU strains. We heard for several years prior to this Convention, from the administration, that the Union’s financial status was a serious concern. We were told, years prior, because of the eroding ranks of membership the Union needed to find ways to reduce its expenditures. We needed to “capture” savings because we could not continue to operate in the same way we had for most of our prior history. Simply put, a Union of 220,000 members cannot afford to operate as if it had the revenue base of 300,000 members. Unfortunately, the message from our administration about our finances was again and again presented as if from a split personality. We repeatedly were being given two, conflicting presentations. On the one hand, we were told the Union must reduce expenditures to the tune of five million dollars annually. On the other hand, we were told in the very next breath the Union’s financial strength was just fine. The frustration with this mixed message in the 2006 Convention resulted in Resolution 523. The resolution called for a study by a national committee to determine what our real situation was, how we ought to change in order to (at least) be prepared for what seemed to be an inevitable continuing decline in membership and, thereby, revenue, and to make a report to the 2008 Convention. Well the Committee was formed, met and issued a report.

          I and others castigated the Resolution 523 report as a meaningless failure of the committee to satisfy its mandate. And, it seemed, the 2008 Convention agreed. Where we hoped to see specific recommendations about how the Union would change – perhaps restructure itself – to be ready for impending financial decline, we got nothing. The committee report, apparently dictated by the administration, was a deferral to the President and the Executive Board. It recommended only that the Union allow the President and the Executive Board to make structural changes to the organization purely at their discretion. Should a national officer leave office mid-term, it would be the President’s discretion whether we continue to need that office. Should the Executive Board believe (for any reason) one of the field offices – or all of the field offices – could be closed, it would be the Board’s discretion alone to so decide. No specific model for restructuring of this organization was developed. No specific plan of action was put forth that would guide our budgetary determinations in light of dwindling income. A well deserved dues increase proposal found no support in the administration, in spite of declining revenue and in spite of failure to reduce anything about our structure – again the self-contradictory message. The approach of this administration to our financial health has been very similar to the Republican Congress approach to America’s financial health – cut, cut, cut expenses, but do nothing to increase revenue.

          To the credit of the delegates to the Convention, they once again took charge of the Convention. And their success, once again, was a success in stymying the administration’s plans – the President would not be allowed sole discretion whether or not to fill a vacant officer position; and any decision to close or move a field office would require Convention action.

          We were still left, because of the abject failure of Resolution 523 to realize its potential, with no plan that would lead us through the rocky economic events that have since the Convention befallen us. We are now, in large part because of the collapse of the American economy (more particularly the Wall Street Casino), faced with real economic difficulties. Yet, even now, this Union is run as if Captain Queeg were at the helm with conflicting pronouncements about our well being emanating from 1300 ‘L’ Street one behind another.

          We cannot sustain if we cannot communicate openly and honestly about who we are and how well we are. It is also certain that, in order for us to continue to be the vibrant Union we have been for more than three decades, we must come to terms with the very real need to change. We need structural change. And we need the determinations about structural change to come from the body as a whole. The administration of this Union has demonstrated clearly that it is either not willing or not capable of leading the way to positive structural changes. It will only be the rank-and-file membership who will develop plans for this Union to remain true to its labor heritage, its commitment to aggressive representation of the members and fundamental democratic principles. We must do this; we will do this. It is time now to prepare for the 2010 National Convention.


Feb 07, 2008

Download: Campaign Finance Reform.pdf , Election of National Officers.pdf

Feb 07, 2008

Jun 12, 2008

Jun 12, 2008

Jun 12, 2008

Jun 13, 2008

Jun 13, 2008

Jun 13, 2008

Jun 13, 2008



Page Last Updated: Jan 13, 2014 (13:37:20)
Site Search
Site Map
RSS Feeds

More Resources

Join! APWU
Thrift Savings

PostalEASE


USPS Lite Blue
Retirement
Health Plan
FMLA Forms
OWCP Forms

Qualification Standards
Pay Information
Federal Holidays
Nat'l APWU website

 Past Contracts


Important Links
National APWU
National AFL-CIO


Visit Unions-America.com!
 Top of Page © Copyright 2018, American Postal Workers Union, All Rights Reserved.
Powered By UnionActive™
Hide the Right Hand Column