On February 14, Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Powell was awarded the 2016 World Peace Prize, “Roving Ambassador for Peace,” presented by the World Peace Prize Awarding Council (WPPAC), headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Secretary-Treasurer Powell was honored alongside former AFL-CIO President John Sweeney at the award ceremony at the AFL-CIO Headquarter building in Washington, D.C.
Secretary-Treasurer Powell received the award because she “personifies the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Fr. Sean Mc Manus, president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus and chief judge of the WPPAC. “She blazes the trail for justice, equality and peace, thereby building up the ‘Beloved Community’ – the term Dr. King made famous.”
“I once read that social justice is the belief that every individual and group is entitled to fair and equal rights and participation in social, education and economic advantages,” said Secretary-Treasurer Powell in her acceptance speech. “I am a huge believer in giving back and helping out in the community and the world because I believe that the measure of a person’s life is the affect they have on others.”
“As Dr. King would say, the time is always right to do what is right,” she continued. “Therefore I would ask that each of you reach out and take somebody’s hand, keeping in mind that it is not necessary to put out anyone else’s light in order for yours to shine. The more light we have, the brighter and clearer the path for us all.”
Reverend Dr. Han Min Su, a Presbyterian Minister, started The World Peace Prize in 1989. Su has given his life to promoting world peace through uniting the East and West.
02/15/2017 - Career employees represented by the APWU will receive a 16 cent per hour cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) effective March 4, in accordance with the 2015-2018 Collective Bargaining Agreement (Postal Support Employees are not eligible for cost-of-living increases, but they receive five general wage increases under the 2015-2018 contract). The increase is the result of an increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). The increase will appear in paychecks dated March 24 (Pay Period 06-2017), and will total $333.00 per year.
This is the second cost-of-living increase under the 2015-2018 contract.
APWU COLA benefits “underscore the importance of collective bargaining rights,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “It is because APWU members have joined together in a union, and negotiate together, that the contract includes COLA raises based on the CPI.”
The next COLA increase will be based on the July 2017 CPI-W and will be effective in September 2017. Additional COLAs will be based on the January 2018 and July 2018 CPI-W.
The cost-of-living adjustments are in addition to general wage increases.
02/01/2017 - The U.S. Offices of Personnel Management (OPM) and Management & Budget (OMB) published a joint memorandum on Tuesday, January 31 providing guidance regarding the Federal Employee hiring freeze on January 23, 2017.
The hiring freeze does not include the U.S. Postal Service.
On Jan. 28, the APWU and community volunteers joined the Veterans Administration (VA) to give a helping hand to veterans in need at the 23rd annual Winterhaven Stand Down. This was the thirteenth consecutive year that the APWU participated in the event – providing assistance to more than 700 homeless and underserved veterans from the DC Metropolitan area.
Veterans were transported from neighborhood shelters and off the streets in order to receive useful resources and a variety of beneficial services. When they arrived to the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center they were greeted with smiles and handshakes thanking them for their service. All of the veterans were afforded hot meals, and given care packages, toiletries, blankets, insulated work boots, winter coats and other necessities to help sustain them. Health and vision assessments, HIV testing, dental exams, employment and educational services, legal aid, financial planning, substance abuse and rehabilitative counseling, and one-on-one sessions with mental health professionals were also made available.
This year several officers, staff and friends of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) came together to distribute an assortment of items that were purchased through APWU local and member donations. Backpacks filled with survival gear, hygiene kits, warm clothing and fast food gift cards and other supplies were given to the men and women taking refuge in shelters and trying to manage on the street in nature’s harsh elements. Veterans living in VA transitional facilities and those that have been placed in permanent housing were given one of our APWU “Welcome Home” packages to help them settle into their new place. The giveaways included fleece blankets, dish sets and utensils, cotton towels or sheets. Veterans were permitted to make their selections based on their personal preferences and individual needs.
“It’s about dignity and respect for all veterans” Carney told The Andrews Gazette in reference to providing relief options, employment opportunities and expediting VA benefits if we are going to succeed in our ongoing commitment to end veteran homelessness.
“Anyone can end up on the receiving end of this situation,” added APWU Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Powell. “It can happen to any one of us at any time.”
Only 8% of America’s population can claim veteran status but veterans more than double that figure in our homeless population. According to the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) and other credible resources, veterans are 50% more likely to become homeless than other Americans due to unemployment, underemployment, service-connected disabilities, delays in disability ratings, a lack of support networks, and social isolation after discharge. Approximately 500,000 veterans become homeless each year. On any given night 50,000 can be found sleeping on the streets and another 1.5 million are living below the poverty line and paying more than 50% of household income on rent - placing them at eminent risk for homelessness. The DVNF reports that the VA only reaches 20% of the veterans in need, leaving more than 400,000 veterans without supportive services.
For more information about veteran homelessness or to learn how you can how you can support veterans in your community visit www.va.gov/Homeless/ or contact a veteran organization in your area.
The APWU Human Relations Department has numerous ongoing programs that benefit U.S. Service members, veterans and their families. If you would like to contribute to these worthy causes, make donations payable to the APWU Support Programs and mail them to:
American Postal Workers Union
Attn: Human Relations Department
1300 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
Any questions about our Support Programs should be directed to Sue Carney, Human Relations Director by calling (202) 842-4270.
02/07/2017 - On Feb. 7, a hearing was held before the full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 756). The legislation, introduced on Jan. 31, is sponsored by the Oversight Committee’s Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) as well as Representatives Mark Meadows (R-NC), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA). H.R.756 is very similar, but an improved version, to the postal reform legislation passed out of the committee in May 2016.
The bill addresses two serious key issues of concern: the pre-funding mandate and increasing postage revenue. Judging by the criteria that this bill will move the Postal Service towards solid financial footing, and should not place any undue burden on active members and retirees, the APWU joins its sister postal unions in encouraging the adoption of H.R. 756.
“This legislation is a necessary step to solving the disastrous pre-funding mandate that is dragging down the Postal Service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Postal reform has been a great concern to postal workers, the four postal unions, the USPS, commercial mailers and the American people for a long time. We are encouraged by the bipartisan effort to fix the financial problems currently facing the USPS while preserving good union jobs and public postal services.”
H.R. 756 addresses the pre-funding mandate through “Medicare integration” within the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHB). It would place Medicare-eligible postal workers in Medicare Parts A, B and D. At this time, approximately 80 percent of Medicare-eligible postal workers and retirees are voluntarily enrolled into Medicare A and B. Many APWU members say that having a FEHB plan and Medicare saves them money in the long run. In addition to expanding Medicare’s role as a primary payer, FEHB plans would be given access to discounted prescription drugs through an Employer Group Waiver Plan with Medicare Part D.
The bill achieves the following goals of the union:
The program remains part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program;
Medicare integration is part of the comprehensive reform bill, not a stand-alone measure;
Medicare Part D results in no additional costs to employees and retirees;
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act’s (PAEA) required payments to pre-fund future postal retiree health care will be virtually eliminated by Medicare integration because it will create a huge reduction in the current unfunded liability costs.
Whether or not they enrolled, postal employees have long subsidized Medicare, paying over $30 billion in Medicare taxes since 1983. Postal employees, retirees and the Postal Service can realize the benefit of those contributions through Medicare integration. The APWU believes, although not perfect, this bill provides a workable route to achieve a robust future for America’s Postal Service.
Postal Rate Increases
The bill restores and makes permanent half of the exigent rate increase (postal rate increase) which expired in April 2016. This would result in increased postal revenue of approximately $1 billion annually. The APWU firmly supports a responsible rate increase to adequately cover costs and support the postal network.
Legislation in House Committee
During the hearing, National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando testified on behalf of the four postal unions (the APWU, with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and Nation Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, contributed with full input to the offered testimony).
“Since 2012, [the USPS] has not been able to make the payments [for the pre-funding mandate] at all – though the expenses associated with the missed payments have continued to be recognized, driving the misleading impression that the Postal Service is failing operationally,” Rolando said. “All four postal unions urge the Committee to adopt this legislation as quickly as possible. We pledge to work with all of you and our broad coalition of mailing industry partners to make this legislation a reality.”
Also under consideration by the Oversight Committee is a postal companion bill (H.R. 760), introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch, allowing the Postal Service to invest retiree health funds. Investing a portion of the tens of billions of dollars in the Postal Service Retirement Health Benefits Fund in a Thrift Savings Plan-like vehicle can help the fund keep pace with growing health care costs.
Within the next few weeks, H.R. 756 is expected to be “marked up in committee,” where the bill can be amended and advanced to the full House of Representatives. As the legislation continues to be revised and works its way through Congress, the APWU will stay engaged in the process with lawmakers and staff to improve the bill every step of the way. As Congressman Connolly remarked at today’s postal hearing, “Until a bill has passed and been sent to the president for signature, it’s always a work in progress.”
“In these uncertain times and contentious political climate, we are heartened by the bipartisan support behind responsible postal reform,” said Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard.
The APWU continues discussions with congressional representatives on improvements to the bill. By doing so, we continue to keep the door open to possible allies and are growing bipartisan support for comprehensive postal reform. Stay informed about the progress of H.R. 756! Sign up for legislative updates and check the Legislative & Political Department’s webpage regularly.
02/13/2017 - The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the United States Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union has been sent to the printer and is available as a pdf. Hard copies of the CBA are available for purchase on the APWU store. The pdf is available under “Resources."
Missed opportunities to strengthen the APWU are happening every day. Each orientation for new hires, new career employees and PSE enrollment into Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB), is a chance for organizers and local union leaders to reach out to possible new members. Each of you can make a big impact by simply taking advantage of the language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). We must jump on these crucial minutes to provide education, outreach and empowerment.
The language in Article 17.6 states:
“During the course of any employment orientation program for new career or non-career employees… a representative of the Union representing the craft or occupational group…shall be provided ample opportunity to address such new employees.
“In addition, at the time non-career employees become eligible for health insurance, the APWU will be provided ample opportunities to address such employees on this subject…
“Health benefit enrollment information and forms will not be provided during orientation until such time as a representative of the Union has had an opportunity to address such new employees.”
The APWU and Postal Service reiterated and elaborated on the language in a recent Memorandum of Understanding. It is a waste of valuable opportunities to not speak to new career employees and PSEs at their orientations. They are a captive audience, wanting to know more about their new job. An APWU brother or sister can show how the union connects to the other aspects of the prospective members’ new job. It is easy to see how the CBA weaves into the pay scale, benefits and safety requirements for their position.
Resources Are Available
The national office does not expect you to do this on your own. We have numerous resources available for you to develop an orientation training program for prospective members.
The Welcome to the APWU book is geared to help guide you through the new employee orientation. Topics include the mission, structure, legislative efforts and history of the APWU. It also provides insight into the union’s safety standards and general benefits in the CBA. Information for all crafts and positions represented by the APWU is listed.
If you are presenting to PSEs, the recent PSE Brochure will guide you through the orientations. As the organizer, try to cover each bullet point in the brochure, but expand on the subject(s) that fit your local.
For organizers or local union leaders speaking to a group outside his/her own craft, see the Benefits At a Glance for Career Employees brochures. These pamphlets are craft specific.
All these materials are on the APWU website under the Organization Department, as part of the “Organizers’ Tool Kit,” www.apwu.org/organizers-tool-kit. If you want a print copy for the local or state organization, the order form is also available on the website.
Everyone Can Be An Organizer
Organizing is a daily responsibility. It is shared by everyone. There are moments in everyday activities where each of us has an opportunity to reach out and talk with prospective members about what it means to be union. We must put a face in others’ minds, so the words “the union” is made up of brothers and sisters, not a third party.
Let it start with you and others will follow. Consider the last time you stood up and clapped at an event. Were you the first person to stand, or did you follow suit? All it takes sometimes is one person standing up, and the whole room will join.