The newly formed Workplace Environment Committee met on July 11-12 at the Tommy Douglass Center in Silver Spring, MD to correlate mediums, methods and procedures to deal with employee-employer relations on the workroom floor.
Established by Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman, the Committee deliberated on the union’s continuing efforts to address the real harm – both physical and psychological – that is cause by managerial harassment.
The Committee exchanged methods and means to deal with egregious mistreatment of workers, including bullying and intimidation of postal employees.
Views were exchanged on the ancillary impacts of poor staffing, lack of managerial training and accountability.
Existing resources – legal, regulatory and contractual regulations – were examined. Deliberations revealed a real need for employees to be proactive in order to address abusive aggressions facing many of the nation’s postal workers.
“Brothers and sisters, it is so important that you report any type of harassment or unwarranted behavior at the work place. You DO have the right to work in a hostile-free environment,” said Barbara Vaughns, Houston Area Local Clerk Craft Director.
The Committee is developing the instruments to educate and engage the assistance of every employee to help halt offensive behavior at work. Education is a vital tool. Trina Wynn, Wilmington DE/Malcolm T Smith Area Local President said, “Understanding your rights enables you to help stop workplace harassment.”
“This committee has brought issues and perspectives from coast to coast right off the workroom floor,” said Director Zimmerman. “Management’s divide and conquer strategy will no longer work.”
“We’ve had some really difficult discussions about harassment, about abuse, about intimidation, about safety, about bullying, and power dynamics – about the many, many types of harassment that postal workers face,” Director Zimmerman continued. “We’re strategizing a way to hold management aggressively accountable. Only with that accountability will our members feel empowered to speak up and management feel true retribution for their actions.”
Alex Acosta has announced his resignation as Secretary of Labor.
Four months ago, the APWU Executive Board called on Acosta to resign for his conduct in 2007 while working as a U.S. Attorney in Miami, when he brokered an unlawful plea bargain with billionaire hedge fund manager Jeffery Epstein to evade federal sex-trafficking charges. The charges could have sent Epstein to prison for life, but Acosta’s office instead allowed him to plead to state charges and a 13-month sentence in county jail, with work privileges.
Some of the details of the immunity deal were revealed in a Miami Herald exposé regarding the sexual abuse of dozens of teenage girls by the hedge fund billionaire. Epstein was charged this week with similar crimes by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York.
“Four months ago, the APWU Executive Board did the right thing and called for Alex Acosta’s resignation or termination,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “It is unconscionable that Acosta was given responsibility for labor laws, including human and sex trafficking and international child labor laws, to a man who brokered a get out of jail for free deal for a powerful billionaire instead of protecting young, working class women and girls. It’s a good thing that Acosta has been forced to resign.”
You can read the March 1 APWU National Executive Board statement here.
Passing of Robert C. Pritchard, Former MVS Director
July 10, 2019
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Robert C. Pritchard, former Director of Motor Vehicle Service, passed away Sunday, July 7, 2019. He was born May 2, 1949. At the time of his APWU retirement, May 10, 2013, Brother Pritchard was the longest serving craft director in APWU history with 17 years.
Robert “Bob” Pritchard began his postal career in 1978 as a clerk in Trenton, NJ. In 1980, he became a Motor Vehicle Mechanic. He was elected local craft director about a decade later, and served on the state Executive Board representing Southern New Jersey. By 1996, Brother Pritchard had moved up to 1300 L Street, serving as the National MVS Director.
He had a landmark career, fighting for the preservation of MVS jobs with significant wins, combating subcontracting and fighting for better working conditions for VMF and PVS postal workers. He fought side-by-side with current MVS Director Michael O. Foster for 12 years. Amongst many achievements, together they preserved jobs for drivers with diabetes, preserved air conditioning for PVS drivers, fought for position upgrades in VMF and fended off PVS subcontracting of the entire state of California in 2012.
Upon his retirement decision in 2013, Bob noted, “There is still a great deal of work to be done. But I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for more than eight years without my family. My youngest daughter is about to enter her senior year in high school, and this is my last chance to spend time with her before she becomes an adult.”
At the time of his passing, he was still a full-dues paying member of the Trenton Metropolitan Area Local. He was a true unionist. He will be fondly-remembered and greatly missed by the APWU family.
“Unionism often forges strange relationships. Before Bob appointed me as his Assistant in 2001, we were hardly friends, he lost my local in the 1995 election by 105-8. But he saw something in me and he believed we could work together for the advancement of the APWU and MVS Division.”
“Working together for over 12 years at 1300 L Street we became brothers, confidants, and friends,” said Director Foster. “Under Bob’s leadership we were able to resist the attempts at privatization from an often-unreasonable employer. These accomplishments were hard-fought and sometimes misunderstood by the membership. The life of a union representative often takes a toll on an officer’s health and family life, but Bob never complained and fought for the craft until the very end.”
“I am privileged to have known and worked with Bob Pritchard for many years and his contributions will benefit MVS members for years to come.”
President Mark Dimondstein said: “The APWU family is deeply saddened at the news of Brother Pritchard’s passing and we extend our condolences to his family. The legacy of his tireless years of work for our movement carries on in the wellbeing of postal workers across the country.”
Regional designees of the Young Members Committee met in Washington, D.C. this week. The designees discussed how to bridge the gap between seasoned, new and young members to drive the union forward.
"APWU young workers, it's your time to shine and carry the torch for the generations that are coming behind us," said Dominique Ballinger, Eastern Region designee from the Nation's Capital Southern MD Area Local.
The Committee also worked on the upcoming Young Members’ Meeting, which will be held at the All Craft Conference on Saturday, October 26th at the Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel. All members, especially those 35 and younger, are encouraged to attend this meeting to discuss the labor movement and exchange tactics and strategies to get young workers involved in the union. Click here to register for the Young Members’ Meeting.
“It is essential that we work now to educate young and newer members to not just organize butmobilize to ensure the viability of the Postal Service and our union,” said Teresa Marie Oller, the most recent Committee addition from the Portland Oregon Area Local.
(This article first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
“A workplace free of harassment is beneficial to everyone. The environment in the postal workplace, however, can be difficult if not miserable.” These are first two sentences of an issue statement that we submitted to the Postal Service during contract negotiations, but they may actually understate what many of the members of the APWU face in the postal workplace.
The USPS states the following in its Postal Service Policy on Workplace Harassment:
The Postal Service workplace must be one in which all employees are treated with dignity and respect by supervisors, subordinates, and coworkers. Supervisors and managers will take prompt action to prevent, address, and remedy workplace conduct that is contrary to this policy.
However, we know from our own experiences, and through many reports from the field, that your supervisors’ and managers’ behavior can be aggressive, abusive and in complete disregard of their own policy. The data shows that hostile work environments like these are widespread throughout the country.
The APWU demanded the USPS address this hostile work environment, and we engaged the USPS in discussions and attempts to come up with solutions. It is well-established in all sectors that where supervisors and managers create tense, miserable and difficult work environments, there is lower worker morale, high absenteeism and high grievance activity. As we head into interest arbitration, we still have active proposals on the table to address the work environment. It is a problem that the Postal Service must face, and we won’t back down. While management chooses not to act, your union is going to take steps to come up with meaningful solutions.
Forming a Committee to Combat Harassment
In the very near future, a select committee of ten local officers from around the country will convene to work on this issue. They will come up with ideas and plans that can be used in the field to identify the issues, specific supervisors/managers, and workplaces that need to be addressed.
The committee will use its knowledge of workroom floor conditions to develop this program. You can also expectthat the committee will reach out to members and locals to get your input and stories, as well as locate problem areas. Your participation is vital to the development and success of the program.
You have a right to a safe workplace, free from intimidation, bullying and abusive, aggressive and authoritarian behavior. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. These should not just be words that you hear in a stand-up talk or read on a bulletin board. Treating employees with dignity and respect is the Postal Service’s own written policy that the union will enforce.
The Postal Service seems to believe that the solution to workplace harassment is moving their “problem” supervisors and managers to new offices, districts or cities. This doesn’t fix the problem – it only allows them to continue their reign of abuse in a new office with different employees.
With your input and help, this new committee will be the first step in addressing the miserable work environments that exist throughout the Postal Service. A harassment and hostility-free workplace is your right. As we stand united and work together, every postal worker will get the workplace that we deserve.
(This article first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
I believe that many postal employees take for granted the benefits they are afforded through the efforts of their union. Postal employees have the ability to earn a significant amount of annual leave over periods of time. These rates are as good, if not better than you may receive in private industry.
While earned vacation time may be comparable, in some respects, to other employers, our sick leave – a benefit bargained for by the union – tends to be much better than what other companies offer. Postal employees can earn 104 hours of paid sick leave per year, to be used for medical purposes. Sick leave is accrued in addition to annual leave, and can be carried over from year to year with no limitations.
In September of 2015, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13706, Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors. The EO requires certain parties that contract with the Federal Government to provide employees with up to seven days of paid sick leave annually, including paid leave for family care. The EO became effective September 30, 2016.
Under the EO, a contractor must permit an employee to earn not less than 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours of leave. In other words, if the employee carries over 40 hours from one year to the next, the company has the right to only credit the employee with an additional 16 hours for the upcoming year. Not a true carry-over of hours, right? In addition, the EO states that vacation leave can count as hours given to an employee for medical purposes so there is no separate category of leave designated as “sick leave.”
The addition of what the EO called “sick leave” looked like a great thing for our private sector APWU-represented mail haulers. However, in their collective bargaining agreements, there is no provision for paid leave specific to “sick leave.” In fact, we have tried to introduce it to no avail. Now we would be able to negotiate separate sick leave into their contracts because it was an EO signed by the President of the United States of America. Now, three years after President Obama signed the EO, Michigan has passed a “Paid Medical Leave Act” through legislation. Many articles have been published in newspapers and on labor employment websites calling this law the “Mandatory Paid Sick Leave”, and “Michigan’s New Sick Leave Law”. This is a great law that will help those who do not currently have paid time off in their employment.
We are heading into interest arbitration with the Postal Service over terms of the APWU/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement, and everything that we have previously achieved through the bargaining process is now subject to attack. The USPS could attempt to reduce or eliminate the “true” sick leave accrual benefit that we have enjoyed as union-represented Postal Service employees. The union will fight to retain those hard-won benefits. I fully appreciate the efforts that go into retaining the rights and benefits that we have fought so hard for.
(This article first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
Sisters and Brothers, it is that time in the APWU constitutional cycle to make the decision to run for office – in my case, to run for an eleventh term of office, dedicated to serving the interests of the members of the American Postal Workers Union.
For 30 years I have faithfully executed my oath of office, to do my duty to the best of my ability and serve the membership unwaveringly as a National Officer.
After extensive consideration and soul searching, I have decided that it is time for me to pass the torch to the next generation of union activists to continue the fight for truth, justice and the American way.
I started my employment with the USPS in 1974, giving me 45 years of seniority, and I was elected to a local union position in 1981, giving me 38 years of APWU service with the last 30 years as a National Officer. Having worked for the APWU, in the best interests of working people my entire adult life, I can say that I truly made a difference. I will always cherish the opportunity the union has given me to make a living, raise my family, make so many friends and meet so many new acquaintances along the way.
I have served the APWU under four administrations: Presidents Biller, Burrus, Guffey and Dimondstein. I have also worked with some remarkable APWU officers, stewards and members over the years at the national, regional and local levels, and will never forget the efforts and experiences we shared together to make life better for our members and all workers.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give special recognition to my mentor Larry Gervais, a Minneapolis Region National Business Agent, who in my opinion was the brains behind the scenes of the APWU operation under the Biller administration.
I have had the pleasure of working with many dedicated office staff whose hard work and diligence has made me and the APWU shine. I thank them for their former and continuing commitment to the union.
I found that breaking new ground and advancing our members rights contractually and in disciplinary cases as an NBA to be most rewarding. The most disturbing and challenging of times as a Regional Coordinator came when I was required to shepherd our members through the Postal Service’s implementation of Area Mail Processing, which displaced thousands of employees nationwide while shuttering hundreds of Processing and Distribution Centers.
I now have the opportunity to look back on the challenges, the fights, the setbacks and the ever-satisfying successes, and it is a life filled with gratification, friendships and accomplishments. I am proud that I chose a union life. So I encourage and challenge you to choose a life that has purpose, has principle, is satisfying and is full of daily challenges and rewards. You will never regret it.
I have enjoyed working with the National Executive Board the last twelve years and would like to give a final shout out to my fellow coordinators: Sharyn Stone, Omar Gonzalez, Kennith Beasley and Ron Suslak, as well as to my recently retired friend, colleague, and partner in crime from the Northeast Region, John Dirzius.
I am looking forward to the next stage of my life, to enjoy= my family, my hobbies and my continued interest in getting quality individuals elected to local, state and federal government positions, to represent us in our continuing fight for the American worker.
I wish each and every one of you the very best in all you do for working people and in your personal life. Thank you for allowing me to serve as a representative of the American Postal Workers Union – the greatest union in the world.
Members of the United States Senate have joined members of the House of Representatives in saying, "Don’t Sell Our Public Postal Service". On June 4, S. Res 99, introduced by Gary Peters (D-MI), gained its 51st cosponsor. The resolution expresses the sense that Congress should take all appropriate measures to ensure that the United States Postal Service remains an independent establishment of the Federal Government and is not subject to privatization.
H. Res 33, the companion resolution in the House, gained majority support in April. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8) on Jan. 9, now has 251 co-sponsors.
“Postal Workers have led this fight with the support of the AFL-CIO, many labor unions and A Grand Alliance to Save Our Postal Service. We appreciate the bipartisan support Congress has given us and will work to educate even more members of Congress about this ongoing fight,” said Legislative and Political Director Judy Beard. “This sends a strong message to the Wall Streeters and the White House that the U.S. Mail Is Not For Sale.”
“The majority, bipartisan support for the resolutions in both houses shows just how popular the public Postal Service is, regardless of political affiliation,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “The desire to maintain universal service to everyone in the country, regardless of income or zip-code, transcends party lines.”
APWU members are encouraged to reach out to their representatives to speak to them about the value of public, universal postal services, and ask them to become a co-sponsor; or thank them for their support, if they have already signed on to their respective resolution. To connect to your member’s office, call 844-402-1001.
For more updates on the fight against the White House’s plan to privatize the Postal Service, visit usmailnotforsale.org.
EMAIL TO YOUR CONGRESS MEMBERS
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What are the Requirements to Remain as a Chartered Local?
(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell
Under the provisions of Article 16.4 of the APWU Constitution, the Secretary-Treasurer’s Department must notify locals in writing that their charter will be revoked if they fail to meet their requirements listed below:
Filing annual financial reports with both the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as required by federal law.
Announcing nominations and conducting an election of officers at least every three years.
Maintaining a fidelity bond covering at least 10 percent of its assets if the local collects more than $5,000 a year in dues.
Abiding by a properly-adopted local constitution.
Secretary-Treasurer’s “To Do” List!
The Secretary-Treasurer’s department asks local unions to provide a copy of their DOL reports and IRS forms to us after submitting them to the appropriate federal agencies. Local unions are also asked to provide a copy of local election results and amendments to local constitutions to the Secretary-Treasurer’s department.
Retiring Local/State Officers
The Secretary-Treasurer’s Department has received manyinquiries regarding the status of local union officers/members who will be retiring or have already retired.
If the President or other elected officer(s) retire from the Postal Service, they may continue to hold local union office, with all the rights of membership, by continuing to pay full local and national dues. Any elected or appointed officer who retires and does not pay full dues to the local and national union must be removed from office and their former position filled in accordance with the local constitution. If the local constitution does not have provisions for filling a vacant position or for succession of officers, local elections should be held in accordance with Department of Labor regulations.
Every retiring APWU local officer/member has the option of continuing to pay full local and national dues to retain their current positions. Local officers choosing this option would become cash pay members of their respective locals and have the option to:
Pay the total of their local and national dues in accordance with their local constitution, or no less than quarterly, to their local treasurer. The local treasurer would then forward the national dues to the APWU Accounting Department.
Split payments. One payment(s) for the local dues, in accordance with the local constitution; in addition, no less than quarterly payments of their national dues, to the APWU National Office.
The local treasurer should provide a receipt for any dues payments, and the national APWU will mail a quarterly notice of national dues that have been paid or are due to the national union.
Article 3 sec. 4 (d) of the Constitution and Bylaws of the APWU has provisions for retirees whose full dues/per capita payments have lapsed due to extenuating circumstances.
It is important to remember retired officers are not postal employees and any compensation for union work should not be documented as lost time or reimbursement for leave without pay. Local and state unions should amend their constitutions, or adopt a motion, to authorize a pay rate for retired officers performing authorized duties for the union. Compensation for any union official who performs authorized union duties outside of their work schedule is also not considered lost time and is only compensable if constitutional language authorizes payment or a motion is adopted to authorize a pay rate.
Any compensation under these two circumstances should be identified as “Other Compensation” and annotated on the local vouchers when submitted for payment.
(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Vice President Debby Szeredy
Power is in the vote. We need each and every one of our postal workers to register to vote in every state, city and town in our country. We have over 153,000 members in the APWU. We would be more powerful if everyone registers and votes for issues and candidates that can save the public Postal Service.
In 2019, APWU locals and members can mobilize other members to register to vote, and non-members to join APWU and register to vote at the same time. Multiple states around the country have purged voters from their registrars, so you should make sure you’re still on the rolls and re-register if necessary. People died for us to have the right to vote; we must use it to vote for representatives that will support our working interests. Voting can save our livelihood and can make the difference in stopping the destruction of the public Postal Service.
Privatization destroys our good wage jobs, cost of living adjustments (COLAs), health benefits, pensions, no-layoff rights, rights to secure and safe working conditions, and the right to have collective bargaining. We have to vote for the right representatives in Congress that will protect the Postal Service from a takeover or sale by a private corporation, and we need voters across the country to help us win the majority vote when our issues are being debated on the congressional floor.
Winning our fights in Congress requires a strategy plan that includes all postal workers, their family members, and their community. First, we must register to vote, and utilize absentee and vote-by-mail ballots when we can. Then, we need to help get voting rights legislation in our states to include vote-by-mail ballots and ease access to absentee ballots without requiring an excuse. Michigan passed such legislation in 2018.
Advocate for Vote-by-Mail and Absentee Systems
Now is the time to consider registering for and utilizing vote-by-mail best practices. All postal workers can help protect their job by supporting the right to request an absentee or vote-by-mail ballot without a required excuse. Using vote-by-mail ballots helps ensure the public Postal Service as a necessity, through the method of a paper election process, delivered by a public service that can’t be hacked.
Another important activity is getting involved in passing initiatives on the ballot that protect voting rights and make voting easier, including vote-by-mail and Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) referendums. Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have full vote-by-mail systems, proving their trust in the public Postal Service to make sure everyone’s vote counts. These three states ranked among the top six states in the 2018 mid-term elections in voter turnout. In vote-by-mail states, you can also track your ballot from the time it is mailed to you through when it is received by election officials.
Did You Know?
Did you know that in the Employee Labor Relations Manual (ELM section 519.32), the Postal Service states that they encourage employees to exercise their voting rights? In certain circumstances, they will even excuse and pay administrative leave to vote or register to vote in elections when certain conditions are met (except for temporary workers).
05/21/2019 - It is that time of the year when the Postal Service wants to take your pulse! Like previous years, the 2018 Postal Pulse survey showed the USPS what we already knew: Your work environment is not good; your supervisors treat you poorly and morale is low. The mean score changed by less than one-tenth of a point—suggesting nothing has changed at the Post Office. One statistic that trended in the right direction in the APWU’s opinion, was employee participation in the survey. It went down from 46% in 2017 to 42% in 2018. The APWU’s goal is a zero-participation rate.
The APWU implores you once again: Do not participate in the 2019 Postal Pulse Survey. You are probably being flooded with emails, postcards to your home, stand-up talks, posters on time clocks, and other tactics to try to get you to take the survey.
So, what has the Postal Service done in the last year? Have things improved since the survey was first put out and found that the USPS ranked low in every category? The reality is, the steps the Postal Service took to make the workplace “more engaging” are meaningless. You still have difficult supervisors and you are having more demanded of you, putting your health and safety at risk. Staff is being reduced, people are being excessed and morale is being decimated.
And now, in 2019, the survey is being pushed immediately before the APWU will begin interest arbitration with the Postal Service to establish a contract. There is more than a good chance that the results of this survey will be utilized, as has been done previously, in interest arbitration against you.
The Postal Pulse and any initiatives to get you to participate are not in your best interest. Participation in these programs will not fix the issues. Postal management has not listened to your direct pleas to your supervisors, either in your grievances or in meetings at the local, area and national level. Only collectively, demanding compliance of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and speaking in one voice, will we force management to change their ways. Stand united – and do not be fooled by these "wolves in sheep’s clothing" initiatives created to divide us.
Management may also ask people to join focus groups and participate in management-initiated events to make the work place more “engaging” or more “efficient.” These are not sanctioned nor approved by the union. They were not negotiated and use of them violates the union’s right as the sole representative of the bargaining unit employees under Article 1. Don’t do it!
We have a negotiated grievance process and a negotiated labor-management cooperation process to address workplace issues. Management needs to start following our contract, dealing with the grievances already filed and making sure the hostile frontline supervisors are dealt with. Your union knows the “pulse” of those we represent. If a local supervisor or manager cannot see the problems without a survey, then they are part of the problem.