At the opening bargaining session for a new collective bargaining agreement between the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the US Postal Service (USPS), APWU broke with tradition by proposing changes to the Postal Service that will protect and expand this vital national service, so that it can better serve the public good.
“The APWU is passionate in our support for the crucial mission of the public Postal Service,” said Dimondstein. “But today this mission is in jeopardy. It’s threatened by a congressionally manufactured financial crisis, by those on Wall Street that would like to get their hands on the Postal Services’ $65 billion in annual revenue, and by ideologues who oppose the very concept of the public good.”
The Postal Service is an essential though often overlooked catalyst for commerce and communication in the US, and APWU’s bargaining proposals include those that reward APWU members for their important work.
“We’ll seek to end a “three-tiered structure that pays workers significantly different amounts for performing the same work,” said Dimondstein. And “we believe that all postal workers should be justly compensated, provided a safe workplace, and after our careers have concluded, enjoy a dignified retirement.”
But in addition to seeking fair pay and benefits, APWU will use this round of collective bargaining to seek service improvements.
“We will be putting forth proposals for maintaining overnight delivery standards, halting plant closings, expanding hours of service and staffing for the customers, and providing financial services such as postal banking,” said Dimondstein.
Postal banking may sound far-fetched, but 2014 the USPS Office of Inspector General proposed doing so.
“APWU supports allowing the Postal Service to provide basic financial services to the 68 million American adults who don’t have bank accounts or have limited access bank services,” said Dimondstein.
Many of these workers turn to check cashing stores and payday loan companies for their banking services.
“In 2012 Americans without bank accounts spent 10 percent of their budget on interest and fees at check cashing companies and payday lenders,” continued Dimondstein.
Non-profit postal banking would help many of these workers keep more of their paychecks.
Dimondstein pointed out that Post Offices already sell money orders and between 1911 and 1967, they were places where workers could open and maintain secure savings accounts.
Postal services in other countries provide basic banking services. The Pew Charitable Trust reports that, “three of four postal operators worldwide offer financial services, which are used by more than 1 billion people.”
APWU will also be proposing ways to end delays in mail delivery.
APWU reports that in January USPS lowered service standards that virtually eliminate overnight mail delivery. Mail delivery will continue to deteriorate if USPS carries through with its plan to close 82 mail processing centers.
The union will be bargaining to keep open distribution centers slated for closure and for adequate staffing levels that will make it possible to raise service standards.
Another APWU negotiating goal is to protect the public good by stopping privatization. USPS has already entered into a secretive, no-bid contract with Staples, the office supply store corporation, to provide postal services and has outsourced some of its ancillary work.
“Privatization of postal services doesn’t just hurt postal families, it thwarts a constitutional right that is guaranteed for all Americans: A public Postal Service,” said Dimondstein.
To emphasize that there is more at stake during these negotiations than just improving wages and benefits, APWU has initiated a contract campaign to mobilize both its members and the public to support its fight for quality postal services.
As part of this campaign, APWU has won the support of more than 60 national organizations. According to the union, “this unprecedented alliance is comprised of national religious coalitions, retiree organizations, educational and postal and other unions, lawmakers, and progressive advocacy groups.”
To show their solidarity with APWU, representatives of some of these groups attended the first bargaining session.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and Danny Glover, the famous actor whose parents’ were postal workers, both gave brief speeches expressing their support for APWU’s goals.
In a video explaining why he is supporting the union’s goals, Glover said that “now more than ever we need the Postal Service to thrive and innovate for the future.”
“Join me in a Grand Alliance to strengthen a cherished institution, our Postal Services, a public trust and a national treasure,” added Glover.