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Maintenance Craft Information
USPS Testing New Machine to Automate Craft Work
Mar 27, 2017

USPS Testing New Machine to Automate Craft Work

(This article first appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

By Maintenance Craft Directors 

The new year certainly started with a bang! while we are, of course, very proud of the efforts of the Maintenance members involved, all the members of all American Postal Workers Union (APWU) bargaining units are deserving of praise and congratulations for a hard won success on the Staples issue. Everyone, regardless of craft, came together to press for what was right.

Whether you actively walked a picket line, talked with family, friends, etc., or just supported the effort by simply respecting the boycott, this was a significant event demonstrating that the force of the APWU is with the membership.

USPS Management Meets R2D2

Around Oct. 16, 2016, we received notification that the USPS will be testing two different robots from two different manufacturers at two different locations in 2017. 

An example of a Postal Service idea for a new custodian.

The proposed test sites are Margaret Sellers Processing & Distribution Center (P&DC) in San Diego, CA and Phoenix, AZ P&DC. Postal management gave the APWU only a few days notice, and the Maintenance Officers were unable to make the site visit in San Diego, although the local union did participate.

In mid-December, Assistant Maintenance Craft Director A Idowu Balogun was dispatched to Phoenix for the site visit with management to view this recent attempt by USPS to automate our work. National Business Agent Jimmie Waldon and members of the Phoenix Metro Area Local were also in attendance.

The equipment being tested are robotic cleaners, approximately the size of R2D2, the famed droid from the Star Wars movies. The Postal Service looked into robotic cleaners before and none measured up.

The robots are programmed to automatically clean the perimeters of the workroom floor, based on mapped memory or historical data memory from a previous assignment. They have dozens of sensors all around them and will stop in a matter of micro seconds if and when they are obstructed. Then the robots will try to find a way around the fixed obstacle.

They also will have the ability to call and ask for help if unable to proceed, according to the Postal Service’s presentation to the APWU.

The Postal Service and vendor representatives were quizzed by Maintenance representatives about safety issues and work performance. The concerns raised by the union ranged from how deaf/hard of hearing employees will be aware a machine is approaching (or around the corner) to how they can complete the cleaning required after maneuvering. We thank the Phoenix Area Local representatives for their invaluable assistance.

The actual experiment in Phoenix started on January 30 and is planned to end about 45 days later, on March 10. The USPS was not prepared to provide us with what their criteria might be for objectively rating this concept. They did, as usual, want to use the employees to assist in evaluating the performance. We are sure very few are interested in evaluating how to eliminate their work.

Critically, when asked about impact on the bargaining unit, the Postal Service stated it was yet to be determined. Obviously, your Maintenance Officers believe the Postal Service would not engage in any kind of experiment unless the end result is a reduction of employees. For them to give such a non-responsive answer for what their goals and real intentions are, is unfortunately, all too typical nowadays.

Contracting Out Hearing

Briefs were submitted at the end of January on case Q00C-4Q-C 04003182. The issue in this matter is whether the Postal Service violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) when it subcontracted the upgrade of local area wiring networks in 62 mail processing plants. Since the grievance was filed, this subcontracting action was subsequently expanded from the 62 Phase I sites to include 122 Phase II sites and finally another 170 locations in Phase III.

The evidence presented established that the installation for upgrading the Mail Processing Infrastructure (MPI) wiring at these sites would be performed by a contractor. The Postal Service once again asserted in their Step 4 denial that this was not bargaining unit work.

At the hearing, your employer put into the record, through testimony, that postal Maintenance employees (including “network technicians or technicians at the sites”) could not have installed this MPI network upgrade. The Postal Service statements made it clear they believed the overwhelming majority of the Maintenance staff did not possess the knowledge, skill or demonstrated experience to install the network upgrade. They also were of the opinion that we did not have the skills to be able to test copper terminations to Cat 6 MPI gigabit standards. Then the Postal Service used their same old, tired complaint that time was of the essence (even though this project ended up taking several years) and that we had other work to do.

Your Maintenance Officers believe it is a self-fulfilling prophecy to try to justify stealing our work by claiming we do not have enough people when it is management who is causing the unnecessary staffing reductions and involuntary reassignments in the first place.

Not to mention it is categorically not true that our bargaining unit members could not perform this work. We proved it. We presented testimony from two current Electronic Technician (ET)-10s, Wayne Greenside (Boston Metro Area Local) and Judy Stocker (Chattanooga, TN Area Local) and one, now retired, ET-11, George Potts (Northern VA Area Local).

We acknowledge the dedication and professionalism of these fine members. They represented you well. The Postal Service scrambled by offering their belief these skilled members were not representative of the ET population at large. The USPS presenters should be ashamed of themselves. Besmirching all members of the Maintenance Craft did nothing for their case or position.

With the case put to rest, it is in the hands of Arbitrator Das.

Moving Forward
Jan 09, 2017

Moving Forward

We all begin a new year with hopes for improvements on the past year. Even if the past year was a really great one, for instance, one in which the Cubs won the World Series. It is human nature to always want the next one to be better. This year, I think it is safe to say we are all waiting and watching what our new President-elect will do next.

Your Maintenance Officers at headquarters, Director Steven Raymer, Assistant Director A Idowu Balogun, and Assistant Director B Terry B. Martinez, will continue with the fight to better your working lives. Along with the Maintenance Division Council, which includes all the Maintenance Craft National Business Agents (NBAs), we are up to the task. We do welcome aboard our two new NBAs, Dave Sarnacki in the Northeast Region, covering ME, VT, NH, CT, MA, RI and parts of NY and NJ, and Craig Fisher in the Central Region, covering OH, IN, IL and KY.

We always engage in outreach from headquarters to our local and rank-and-file members looking for assistance with issues as they come up. Whether it is helping as a national staffing advocate or coming in to aid in testimony at an arbitration hearing, we recognize where within our own Maintenance membership it is best to acquire information and “subject matter experts.”

On the other hand, there continues to be plenty of changeover in the local ranks of those stepping up to help in Maintenance Craft representation. We are going to do our best to ensure you get all the “tools of the trade” we can provide you with. Generally, this has to do with information, education and direction. The desire and effort is always there to bring you the best and most current information we can.

Increase Training Options Through Webinars

We intend to increase our use of webinars, and to broaden the scope of items covered. This can be both a convenient forum, as there is no travel to attend, and a problematic one because of interruptions and time constraints. For example, at a state seminar we can present an in-depth class for three to four hours and be immediately responsive to questions. Webinars rarely exceed two hours, meaning the session is not as complete and the time for feedback and Q&As is less.

The feedback we received over the years was positive. There are requests for more of this method of disseminating information. Webinars certainly do take some time and preparation, but we will be able to increase our number of sessions and topics.

We will use both email and the APWU website to let you know when the next Maintenance Craft webinar is scheduled. Please check back frequently on and/or send your email address to to get on our email list.


Without a doubt, contracting out our work is the biggest ongoing challenge facing all of us. This strikes at the heart of our job security and our very livelihood. We continue to take strides in improving our ability to fight this scourge. Many of you in the field are quite adept at processing this issue.

Whenever you come across a contractor performing Maintenance Craft work, it is quite likely a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). It may be work you and your occupational group should be performing or it may be work that others should be doing. The point is, please get it investigated.

One of the more significant changes in Article 32 occurred in the 2006 negotiations with the addition of language which is now Article 32.1.C, “When a decision has been made at the Field level to subcontract bargaining unit work, the Union at the Local level will be given notification.”

The precise meaning of this language was covered in the national arbitration case Q06C-4Q-C 08228294. Arbitrator Das held,

Accordingly, the Union’s position in this case that Article 32.1.C requires notification to the local union of decisions to subcontract bargaining unit work at local installations made at the local, as well as district or area, level is sustained. As the Union acknowledges, Article 32.1.C does not require notification before a decision to subcontract is made, and where work is subcontracted pursuant to a master agreement the local union need only be notified when the master agreement is entered into, and not when each service is to be performed thereunder.

This means a couple of things. One is, as long as the decision is made below the national level, notification to the local(s) where the work is to be performed, is required. When questioned, the Postal Service frequently responds with, “It’s a national contract.” As we are all familiar, you need to be very skeptical of assertions such as this. Your request for information should include a copy of the contracting out notification to APWU headquarters.

The second thing to glean from the award is notification is made “when” a decision is made, so prior notification is not required. That word, “when,” means just that – at the point in time the decision is actually made. It’s when the decision is made and not when the work has started.

Lastly, about the service contracts, or “master agreements,” as Das referred to them. These are contracts for performance that are repeated over the term of the contract. In Maintenance, an example could be snow removal or window washing. The local is to be notified when any such contract is renewed. At that time the local can proceed with an investigation and, if they so determine, file a grievance challenging the contracting out of our work.

Article 32.1.C is a commitment the Postal Service cannot be allowed to ignore. Any contracting out that is done in your local’s jurisdiction without any notice to the local is clearly in violation of the CBA.

When sending contracting grievances up to Step 3, please be sure to include the names, job titles, EINs and amount of compensation for each employee you believe should be covered by any possible remedy. The compensation could be the number of hours or a monetary amount and also include the rate of pay, i.e. – straight time, overtime, or penalty time.

We all need to protect our right to perform our work. The Postal Service would like nothing better than to contract us out of existence.

Be sure to say “Hi” to your steward.

Historic Win for the Maintenance Craft: An All-Career Workforce
Aug 30, 2016

Historic Win for the Maintenance Craft:

An All-Career Workforce

Web News Article #186-2016

08/21/2016 - The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) included a historic win for the Maintenance Craft.

“We have negotiated our way to an all-career workforce,” Maintenance Craft Director Steven G. Raymer, said at the National Convention. “There used to be casual employees, Transitional Employees, and there aren’t anymore. More recently, there used to be Postal Support Employees (PSEs) and there are no longer any PSEs that can be employed in the Maintenance Craft. We are very proud to be an all career workforce!”

Why is it so important that employees be career?

“When they were non-career, they only worked for a limited amount of time. Virtually at a whim, the Postal Service could remove them claiming lack of work,” Raymer explained. “We did get some ‘just cause’ protection, but more importantly to them, those jobs didn’t come with benefits, and did not pay a living wage. In the Maintenance Craft, wages were at the poverty level at $12 an hour. And they were working side-by-side with people who had career, family-supporting jobs.

Non-career employees also had no opportunities for matriculation or moving up the ranks, Raymer added. But now, they have all the protections of the CBA.

“The most life-altering thing that can happen to an individual is a conversion from non-career to career,” he said. “We’re very happy to have accomplished that for the Maintenance Craft.”

Because the jobs held by PSEs were in positions that are available on a preferential basis to veterans, having an all-career workforce will also improve opportunities for veterans.  “This is big deal to us in the craft,” Raymer said.

Fighting Subcontracting

Even with the historic win, the Maintenance Craft faces “many of the same old-age battles.”

The latest assault is on Building Equipment Mechanics, who are responsible for taking care of the physical plant and vital systems such as heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and maintaining fire extinguishers.

“It’s a huge undertaking but somebody has to take care of the building,” Raymer said. “Things need to be taken care of routinely and constantly.” When they are not, bad things happen. If pressure in a boiler goes unchecked due to a defective valve, it can explode.

“We don’t want explosions. We don’t want fires, we want our people working safely,” Raymer said. “It protects the assets of the Postal Service. If affects the customers whether they can even enter the building.”

Management is flirting with danger by pushing to automate these functions, Raymer said. Arbitration hearings are scheduled on this latest assault on Nov. 8 and 9, he said.

More Subcontracting?

Despite the craft’s previous success in protecting Electronic Technicians – the highest level employees in the division – the Postal Service is planning to subcontract computer networks and software installation.

The last time the Maintenance Craft fought this type of subcontracting, it cost the Postal Service $8.1 million. Raymer expects it to cost even more this time around. Arbitration hearings on that matter are scheduled for the last week of November.

“We will continue our long struggle with many new ideas in our fight against the Postal Service subcontracting of our work,” Raymer said. “We do it the best, we are accountable for the work that we do.”

Page Last Updated: Mar 27, 2017 (08:52:28)
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