Two USPS unions unite to fight job cuts

Two US Postal Service unions wrote a joint letter to the Postmaster General Megan Brennan criticizing her administration for “wholesale and massive job cuts” that have disrupted the lives of thousands of postal workers and degraded postal services across the country.

Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), and Paul Hogrogian, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU), said that the job cuts are a violation of their collective bargaining agreements and that the two unions “have drawn a line in the sand and are standing united against Postmaster Brennan’s continuous ‘cost-saving’ shortcuts.”

For the past ten years, Postal Service has been cutting costs at the behest of the US Congress and Presidents.

The Postal Service Office of Inspector General estimates that between 2006 and 2015 Postal Service labor costs have been reduced by $10 billion largely by relying more on a casual workforce, reducing work hours, and eliminating and consolidating jobs.

The method it uses to eliminate jobs is called “excessing.”

Local managers are required to prepare excessing impact statements in which they try to determine what jobs they manage can be eliminated or consolidated.

The Postal Service uses these excessing impact statements to cut jobs at mail processing facilities and local Post Offices.

Union members are protected from layoffs by no-layoff clauses in the collective bargaining agreements, but when jobs are excessed those holding the jobs are transferred to other jobs, which may be on different shifts in different locations that can be as far away as 50 miles.

The unions have documented 1500 excessing events that have affected more than 15,000 workers.

Excessing jobs is just one of a number of cost cutting measures that has consumed management’s attention during the last ten years.

According to the Inspector General, the Postal Service’s cost cutting mission has affected its quality of service.

The Inspector General reports that as the Postal Service cut costs dramatically over the last ten years, “it also reduced both its quality of service and capital expenditures.”

While the Postal Service was consolidating facilities and eliminating jobs, it also “eliminated overnight service for single-piece First Class Mail and did not reach its stated performance goals for any First Class Mail categories in 2015.”

“The impact of cost reductions on customer service has been considerable,” continues the Inspector General.

In their letter, the two unions say that the Postal Service in its headlong attempt to cut costs has ignored its collective bargaining agreements and thrown “away any good faith efforts and constructive relationships (with the two unions)”

While urging the Postmaster General to engage in a dialogue with the unions to resolve this grievance, the unions told Brennan that it will maintain a united front in order “to resist the misguided actions and violations of your agreement, and commitment to, our members.”


Low-wage workers brace for pay cut in St. Louis

As the fight to raise the minimum wage gains ground all over the US, it suffered a serious setback in St. Louis.

On August 28, the city’s minimum wage of $10 an hour will drop to $7.78 an hour.

To make matters worse, the St. Louis minimum wage was set to increase to $11 an hour in January. That anticipated raise is now off the table as well.

The pay cut for more than 35,000 St. Louis low-wage workers is the result of new law recently passed by the Missouri Legislature.

The new law prohibits local governments from passing ordinances that set the minimum wage higher than the state minimum wage of $7.78 an hour.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens just before the July 4 Holiday weekend was to begin announced that he will allow the new law to go into effect on August 28.

Gov. Greitens said that local minimum wage ordinances such as the one passed by St. Louis “will kill jobs.”

But Sierra Parker, a St. Louis janitor whose wage was increased to $10 an hour in May because of the local minimum wage ordinance, said that Gov. Greitens isn’t really concerned job opportunities for workers.

“Gov. Greitens’ announcement (that he will allow the pay cut to become law) was never about Missouri’s working families,” said Parker, a member of SEIU Local 1. “It was always about lowering wages and making his rich donors happy.”

Gov. Greitens’ quaint platitude that increasing the minimum wage “will kill jobs” is nothing new.

When the US in 1938 established the nation’s minimum wage at 25 cents an hour, opponents said the same thing.

But history and research suggests otherwise.

For example, Seattle in 2014 enacted a minimum wage ordinance that raises the city’s minimum wage over a four-year period to $15 an hour.

Two studies of the impact that Seattle’s minimum wage increase have found that raising the minimum wage has had little if any impact on jobs.

One study conducted by experts at the University of California Berkeley’s Institute for Labor and Employment found that when Seattle raised the minimum wage, wages among low-income workers increased but “employment was not affected.”

Another study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington found that Seattle’s minimum wage had little impact on employment.

The University of Washington study, however, did say that the increased minimum wage caused some employers to reduce hours worked by employees.

Right-wing opponents of minimum wage laws jumped on this part of the study to criticize Seattle for raising the city’s minimum wage.

But Seattle Mayor Ed Murray praised the minimum wage increase as an important step toward reducing inequality and pointed out that the University of Washington study, “excludes 38 percent of workers who work at multi-site businesses (such as Starbucks or Target). This and other limitations are openly acknowledged by the study team members, and they do not recommend changing the law.”

Mayor Murray also said that “Seattle’s economy is thriving and our employers are competing for workers. Hotels, retailers and restaurants are scrambling to find employees.”

Seattle’s unemployment rate is 2.7 percent, well below the 4.3 percent national unemployment rate.

Back in St. Louis, low-wage workers are bracing for the impact that the looming pay cut will have on their lives.

Those making the minimum wage could see their hourly wages drop by $2.22 an hour, or $354 a month. That’s a 22 percent pay cut.

If you use the $11 minimum wage that is to go into effect in January to calculate the impact of the lower minimum wage, the pay cut is even steeper.

“The $10 minimum wage has already changed my life for the better,” said Parker. “Now, Gov. Greitens intends to take money out of the pockets of more than 35,000 St. Louis working families. For me and so many others, that means going back to living paycheck to paycheck.

“He thinks he can sneak his decision by us over the holiday, but this doesn’t change anything. Working people will keep up the fight to hold him accountable.”



NY Times employees walk out to demand respect and save jobs

Hundreds of employees at the New York Times on June 28 took a collective coffee break and walked off the job to protest a plan by management to restructure the newspaper’s editing process and eliminate jobs.

The restructuring plan, which will result in the loss of more than 50 out of 100 jobs in the editing department, was announced after The Times management spent 18 months trying figure out how to reconfigure the editing process.

During that time, employees whose jobs were at risk were demeaned by management who compared their important work to “dogs urinating on fire hydrants” and dismissed it as “low-value editing.”

The walkout was at once a demand that management respect the work done by copy editors and others involved in the editing process and a plea to save their jobs.

In a letter addressed to The Times top newsroom management, editing staff who are members of the News Guild CWA Local 31003, said that after 18 months of mistreatment by management, “we are finding it difficult to feel respected.”

During that time, copy editors and other editing staff have been tested, inspected, and, in some cases, rejected, as management tried to figure out how to make its editing staff do more with less.

They also endured restructuring experiments that didn’t work.

The final blow came when editing staff were informed that they would need to reapply and interview for the jobs that would remain after the restructuring plan goes into effect.

The letter from News Guild members includes a simple request to management: “We only ask that you not treat us like a diseased population that must be rounded up, inspected, and expelled.”

Copy editors and other editing staff ensure the quality and accuracy of the stories reported in The Times by checking facts and sources, clarifying confusing wording, correcting misleading or inaccurate information, and correcting grammatical and spelling errors.

The walkout began during the afternoon when the editing department is the busiest.

Editing staff and other employees at The Times gathered together at their usual break time, picked up signs prepared by the union, then walked out the building together.

As they descended the stairs, employees on other floors joined in the walkout, and they marched out the door together.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” tweeted one New York Times employee. “Each floor of the NYT newsroom is full of folks walking out in solidarity with the coming layoffs.”

Outside, The Times employees stood together in solidarity holding up signs that stressed the importance of the work done by the editing staff.

The job action lasted more than 30 minutes before the employees returned to work, and it received the backing of the New York City Labor Council.

“At a time when journalism is under attack, the New York Times should lead by example and protect these good jobs for its hardworking employees,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the labor council. “The Times is known for balanced, responsible journalism, and we stand with the News Guild in urging the Times to maintain the quality and integrity of its newsroom by maintaining these dedicated careers.”

The Times management has said that it wants to eliminate editing jobs in order to free up more money to hire more reporters, but many Times reporters joined the walkout and sent their own letter to top management criticizing it for its treatment of the editing staff.

The reporters’ letter calls on management to reconsider its decision to restructure the editing process by eliminating copy and photo editing jobs.

The reporters described the copy editors as “their safety net” who “save reporters and The Times every day from countless errors large and small.”

The letter also criticizes management for the lack of respect that it has shown its editing staff.

“Your plan adds insult to injury by requiring many longtime, highly skilled employees to apply and interview for a greatly diminished number of jobs, in sessions that were instantly dubbed ‘death panels’ in the newsroom,” says the reporters’ letter. “Requiring them to dance for their supper sends a clear message to them, and to us, that the respect we have shown The Times will not be reciprocated.”