08/08/2018 - APWU members can continue to volunteer in political campaigns under the long-standing leave-without-pay rules in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM). A national arbitrator rejected changes the Postal Service made to the Leave Without Pay (LWOP) rules for how employees request LWOP to participate in political activities organized by their unions.
In his award on August 6, 2018, the arbitrator upheld the APWU’s challenge to the Postal Service’s unilateral changes to the leave program that put the burden of managing LWOP requests on employees, rather than supervisors. The award protects employees’ right to request LWOP to volunteer through their union to participate in important political activities, like the upcoming November elections.
Postal employees have the legal right to campaign and participate in politics, subject to limits under the federal Hatch Act. The APWU challenged policy changes the Postal Service made that potentially restricted postal employees’ legal right to campaign on their own time away from work.
The Postal Service’s changes arose out of a complaint in 2016 about letter carriers participating in the AFL-CIO Labor 2016 program. The Office of Special Counsel found that postal managers mishandled valid employee leave requests, and the Postal Service reacted by unilaterally changing the leave rules to protect its managers, at the expense of employees being subject to discipline and prosecution for how they filled out leave request forms. The APWU immediately challenged the USPS changes, and the National Association of Letter Carriers and National Postal Mail Handlers Union both intervened and joined us in the dispute.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein commented that “this is what workers in a union do – make management respect their legal rights.” He went on to note that “process matters, and we earn process and have a real voice when we come together, both in bargaining and in politics.”
At the arbitration hearing, Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman testified that the Postal Service made the changes without contractually required notification or discussion with the APWU, in violation of the Postal Service’s commitments in the APWU National Agreement. The arbitrator sustained the union’s position and rejected the Postal Service’s claim that OSC’s allegations of managerial misconduct under the Hatch Act was a legal decision allowing the Postal Service to ignore its bargaining commitments to the APWU.
The arbitrator ordered the Postal Service to rescind the changes immediately and restore the previous leave rules unless it proposes changes that comply with the National Agreement.