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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Postal workers union launches national effort to protect jobs and postal services

The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) said that a new method that the US  Postal Service is using to determine duty assignments in local post offices “is an all out assault on our jobs” that will reduce service to customers and disrupt the lives of thousands of post workers.

The union also said that the new duty assignment method, which local managers are supposed to use to determine staffing levels at local post offices, “blatantly violates” the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the Postal Service.

Consequently, APWU has launched a nationwide, coordinated effort to stop the contract violations.

“We are gearing up for a large fight,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “I know that if we stick together and stay united, then – just like the Stop Staples and contract struggles – we will be victorious.”

APWU successfully mobilized members, postal customers, and other unions to stop the Postal Service’s plan to privatized services by contracting with Staples, the US’ largest office supply retailer, to provide postal services in Staples stores.

APWU also mobilized members to win a fair contract through its Good Postal Service! Good Jobs! Good Contract! campaign. The solidarity shown by members during this campaign made it hard for the Postal Service to win the concessions it was seeking during the negotiations, which lasted nearly a year.

When an impasse between the two sides was declared, the contract went arbitration.

As a result, according to Government Executive magazine, “the union won a series of new rights and benefits for non-career workers, and protected the benefits of regular, full-time employees the Postal Service had previously threatened.”

The union also won protections against layoffs .

But the Postal Service now appears to be using the back door to achieve what it couldn’t achieve through contract negotiations–reducing layoff protections for career postal employees.

Article 37.3.A.1 in the postal workers collective bargaining agreement with the Postal Service contains specific language about how managers are to determine duty assignments at local post offices.

This language requires Postal Service managers to use “all available work hours” to determine duty assignments.

The new method that the Postal Service wants managers to use ignores Article 37.3.A.1 and instead relies on a fanciful estimation of work hours needed to determine staffing levels at local post offices.

The union is concerned that if the Postal Service uses this new method, local post offices will be left under staffed, customers will be under served, and postal worker jobs will be in jeopardy.

 

The union is planning a national strategy to protect jobs and services at local post offices.

In addition to meeting with management at all levels of the Postal Service to protest the new duty assignment method, the union is conducting a national coordinated fight to stop its implementation.

The union is providing local officers and members with specific training about the duty assignment issue across the country, so that if local managers ignore the collective bargaining agreement when assigning duties locals of APWU will be able to file effective grievances.

Locals are also conducting a public outreach campaign aimed at informing the public about possible threats to services created by the new duty assignment method.

The Baltimore APWU local on June 10 held an informational picket at the city’s main post office. The picket was attended by local members and community supporters.

The union has also designated National Business Agents in each area to work with local officers and members “to develop strong grievances, coordinate our actions, and put our best foot forward in addressing these issues.”

“As postal workers we must fight together against the Postal Service ongoing willingness to blatantly violate the contractual agreements they made with us. It is important that postal workers attend their local union meetings where we can learn from each other and work on strategies to slow or stop management’s plans to reduce service to the community and disrupt the workforce. If we come together in an organized manner, we can win a better Postal Service and a better workplace,” reads a statement issued by the union.

Postal banking could benefit millions

The US Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a report showing how postal banking could be expanded.

Post offices already provide limited banking services such as the sale of money orders, the most widely used alternative banking service in the US.

Expanded postal banking would make safe and affordable basic banking service available at local post offices for all postal customers, especially those living in rural and urban communities that are either not served or under served by traditional banks.

After the OIG report was released, unions representing employees of the Postal Service issued statements supporting postal banking.

“It’s a no brainer,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). “The Inspector General’s report confirms that the Postal Service can act now to provide consumers with affordable financial services while strengthening the public Postal Service.”

APWU is currently negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the Postal Service and postal banking is one of its priority bargaining proposals.

“We look forward to the day when people can get their checks cashed by their trusted neighborhood (postal) clerk,” added Dimondstein.

A statement by the National Postal Mail Handlers Union issued in response to the OIG report said that the union supports legislation that will expand financial services at post offices.

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, praised the OIG’s report and said that postal banking has worked for years in other countries.

“(The OIG’s postal banking) model has been successful in many other countries and has the potential, according to the OIG, to generate at least $1.1 billion of revenue annually, which would allow the Postal Service to continue its innovative efforts,” said Rolando. “The OIG’s recommendations are a good place to start, and we urge the Postal Service to take steps to immediately pursue these opportunities to fill the unmet needs of those in under served communities.”

The OIG’s report, entitled “The Road Ahead for Postal Financial Services,” lays out four approaches for establishing postal banking.

Approach #1 would expand financial services that post offices are already authorized to provide including the sale of money orders ($21 billion in 2014), electronic money transfers, check cashing, bill paying, and postal operated ATMs.

At some point, the OIG would like to make more financial services, such as affordable interest-rate loans and savings accounts, available at post offices.

Between 1911 and 1966, the US Postal Services did offer postal savings account, but pressure from the banking industry ended this service.

Postal loans are available to postal patrons in UK at affordable interest rates.

Implementing postal lending and saving services would require legislative action.

Making these services available at post offices would be a great service to the 68 million people who live in communities under served by traditional banks.

According to the Campaign for Postal Banking, one in 13 US households doesn’t have a bank account. One in four households live in communities under served by banks.

Traditional banks have pulled up stakes in many of these communities. The banks have been replaced by the alternative financial services industry–check cashing stores, payday lenders, auto title lenders, etc.

They charge high fees and interest for the services they provide.

The average under served household, whose annual income is $25,500, spends $2,412 a year on fees and interest charged by alternative financial services companies.

Postal banking would provide an affordable alternative to the high-cost alternative financial service industry.

Postal banking would also provide easy access to financial services,

There are more than 30,000 post offices in the US, considerably more retail outlets than other large retail companies.

Many of these post offices are located in communities that have been deserted by banks. The Campaign for Postal Banking reports that 59 percent of US post offices are located in zip codes where either no bank (38 percent) or only one bank (21 percent) is located.

The OIG reports that the Postal Service has the infrastructure and the capacity to provide financial services to its customers. Expanding those services “would help the Postal Service improve the lives of millions of Americans as it fulfills its universal service obligation.” said the OIG report.

Postal workers fight for contract that improves customer service

During a May 14 Day of Action by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the union and a broad coalition of supporters called for a new collective bargaining agreement that improves customer service.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on May 20, and the union and the US Postal Service (USPS) have been bargaining since February for a new agreement.

APWU has put forward a number of contract proposals to improve customer service, including halting post office closures, expanding post office operating hours, bringing back overnight delivery of first class mail, and expanding services available at post office.

“What we are fighting for . .  .  is good postal service, living-wage jobs, and a good contract, now!” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein at a Day of Action rally in Washington DC. “The American Postal Workers Union and all of you are fighting for the people of this country, for a vibrant public Postal Service for generations to come. That’s what the people deserve and that’s what the people should have.”

The Washington DC rally was one of 130 Day of Action events in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Postal workers were joined by supporters from a number of community and labor organization who are standing with postal workers in their fight to protect and improve postal services.

“We are sending a clear signal that we are fighting a struggle and we plan to win that struggle,” said the actor Danny Glover at the Washington DC rally. “We are not just supporting postal workers. We have the chance not only to save the post office, but to change the nature of how we deal with the public.”

Glover also talked about one of the union’s contract proposal–postal banking.

The union is proposing that USPS provide basic banking services such as check cashing, bill paying, and small loan lending at post offices.

Banks have largely abandoned communities with high concentrations of low-wage workers.

Banks in these communities have been replaced by payday lenders, which charge high interest rates, and check cashing companies, which charge fees.

Postal banking would provide a banking alternative in these under served communities.

The union’s fight to expand services and protect the ones that many of us take for granted comes at a time when the Postal Service is under attack.

According to its critics, the US Postal System is in a state of crisis that demands cuts in services rather than their expansion.

But this so-called crisis is one that has been manufactured by those who want to dismantle the Postal System and privatize its most lucrative services.

It began in 2006 when Congress passed a law that required USPS to pre-fund its retiree health care benefit for the next 75 years with billions of dollars of payments over a ten-year period.

Pre-funding retiree health care, a practice that no other private company or government entity does, has siphoned away an average of $5.6 billion a year away from postal services.

Without this unique and unprecedented pre-payment requirement, USPS would have generated a $1.1 billion surplus in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015. For fiscal year 2014, the surplus would have been $1.4 billion and for fiscal year 2013, it would have been $600 million.

But instead of surpluses, pre-funding has burdened USPS with deficits, which have led to cuts in services.

In January USPS implemented a new round of cuts that among other things virtually eliminated overnight delivery of first class mail.

Previous cuts caused the closure of 140 mail processing centers and under staffing, both of which have slowed mail delivery.

Eighty-two more mail processing centers are scheduled for future closings.

Critics say that the internet has made the Postal Service irrelevant and that most of the work it does can be done better by private companies.

But USPS, which provides service to every community regardless of whether it is profitable to do so, remains an important catalyst for commerce and communication.

In 2014, USPS delivered 155 billion pieces of mail. In January 2015, letter volume increased by 7 percent and package delivery increased by 14 percent over January 2014.

USPS provides these services efficiently and effectively. A test conducted by Consumer Report in 2014 found that USPS outscored Fed Ex and UPS, its privately-owned competitors, in convenience and reliability.

USPS also was less expensive than its competitors 92 percent of the time in next-day and second-day deliveries.

The importance of the Postal Service to the everyday life of the American people is one of the reasons that people like Danny Glover are joining the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.

“We have a Grand Alliance that is saving this national treasure that belongs to us,” said Glover referring to the Postal System. “We will make sure that it remains in our domain.”

Glover urged people to show their support for postal workers and the public Postal Service by signing and sending a postcard of support to the Postmaster General.

Union blames privatization deal for reduced Post Office hours

The US Postal Service reduced Post Office hours at 21 of its 39 stores in San Francisco. The reduced access comes at a time when the Postal Service is experimenting with a privatization deal with Staples, the office supply corporation, in the San Francisco Bay Area and other areas of the US.

“They’re shutting the doors (to the Post Offices) at 5 P.M. and posting signs sending people to private locations–including Staples–to conduct postal business,” said Geoffray Dumaquit, president of the San Francisco local of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). “This will inconvenience and irritate our customers who often need to visit a Post Office after work.”

In a related development, the AFL-CIO has endorsed the APWU boycott of Staples and sent a letter to affiliated unions urging members to honor the boycott.

The no-bid deal with Staples is a pilot program that involves 80 stores throughout the US, including several in the Bay Area. Under terms of the deal, Staples employees will provide a variety of postal services including accepting and handling packages and letters bound for the Postal Service.

APWU opposes the privatization deal because low-paid, high-turnover Staples employees with little training are handling the mail, putting the integrity of postal service at risk.

When the privatization deal with Staples was announced, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that the deal would not result in any closures of the 33,000 US Post Offices.

But the reduced hours at the San Francisco Post Offices, some of which are near Staples stores, is an ominous sign.

“First they take an hour, then they’ll take the whole day,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “We’ve said all along that this is a plan to close Post Offices and outsource postal work. They’ve got a sign on the door that says ‘We’re closed, go to Staples.’ It couldn’t get much more obvious than that. After driving customers away, postal management will conduct a study of traffic in Post Offices and find that it’s gone down. Then they’ll claim to have the evidence they need to justify closing Post Offices.”

To keep Post Offices open and accessible, APWU has launched a campaign to stop the privatization deal with Staples.

In April, thousands of postal workers and community supporters demonstrated against the privatization deal at 56 Staple stores in 27 states.

More recently, APWU members demonstrated at the June 2 annual meeting of Staples shareholders.

“Staples is a company with declining sales, with plans to close 200 stores by the middle of next year,” said Dimondstein in a statement issued prior to the shareholders meeting. “Shareholders need to ask management why they are involved in this kind of controversial deal when they have so many problems to fix in their core business.”

The endorsement of the Staples boycott by the AFL-CIO could create more problems for the troubled office supply chain.

Fifty-six unions representing 12.5 million members and potential Staples customers are affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Prior to the AFL-CIO’s boycott endorsement, three statewide teacher unions–the California Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, and American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire–endorsed the boycott.

School supply purchases comprise about one-third of Staples sales.

“Opposition to the Staples deal is growing,” Dimondstein said. “(In addition to the boycott), thirty members of the US House of Representatives from California have called on the Postmaster General to scrap the program. We’re going to keep educating consumers about this dirty deal. The U.S. mail is not for sale.”