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.”

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Despite rising profits, GE plans to eliminate more good paying jobs

At its recent meeting, the General Executive Board of UE, America’s largest independent union, announced that May 31 will be a day of  solidarity actions to support 3,500 members of UE Local 506 at the GE Transportation plant in Erie, Pennsylvania. UE will hold solidarity demonstrations in each of its three regions to protest GE’s plan to eliminate as many as 950 union jobs in Erie and move the work to a non-union GE plant in Fort Worth, Texas. The main solidarity demonstration will take place at GE’s Erie plant.

The solidarity actions are part of a multi-pronged campaign to save good-paying union jobs in Erie. The campaign will include work floor actions, grievances, legal actions, media and community outreach, and a petition that will give supporters all over the globe a chance to protest the job cuts in Erie. UE Local 506, which represents production workers in Erie, has named the campaign, “Keep It Made in Erie.”

GE Transportation makes locomotives and wheel motors for large mining trucks at its Erie factory. The Erie plant also serves as the global headquarters for GE Transportation.

The work done by members of Local 506 have helped make GE Transportation quite profitable. In 2011, GE Transportation’s reported a profit of $757 million, double what it reported in 2010. In 2012, profits rose another 36 percent to $1 billion.

That trend continued through the first quarter of 2012 when GE Transportation reported a 12 percent increase in revenue and a 15 percent increase in profit over the previous year’s first quarter.

Despite the company’s profitability, GE is seeking to lower its labor costs by moving some of the work done in Erie to Fort Worth where the average pay for a GE production worker is about $10 an hour less than in Erie.

When GE and UE agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, the company told the union that its new Fort Worth plant was only intended to handle overflow work at the Erie plant and that the work in Erie would not be affected.

But on April 9, GE Transportation announced its plan to move work from Erie to Fort Worth.

UE responded a week later with a rally of more than 2,000 workers at the Erie plant’s main gate.

“I see a lot of people here who have dedicated their whole lives to GE,” said Wayne Burnett, Local 506 business agent, as he spoke at the rally. “I see children in strollers who might have a job here someday. I see people who have made this plant the most successful in the GE chain. Is this our reward?” GE needs to learn “that we are the ones who put you where you are today.” He added that the loss of jobs affects more than just 950 people, “but thousands of people in Pennsylvania and the tri-state area.” He concluded, “This cannot happen!”

Scott Duke, newly elected Local 506 president, urged members to resist GE’s attack on their jobs and wages and reminded workers that their good jobs and good wages were the result of union struggles that spanned generations of workers. “Your paycheck may say GE on it,” said Duke. “But never forget that those are union wages.”

Local 506 and representatives of GE Transportation have held negotiations about the work transfer.

According to reports made to Local 506 members, GE representatives told Local 506 negotiators that the company wants the union to propose wage concessions to keep the work in Erie. Union bargainers responded that the union will not propose any wage cuts, freezes, or reductions.

The negotiation deadline has been extended from June 8 to June 22.