(This article first appeared in the May-June 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By President Mark Dimondstein
The preamble to the U.S. Constitution includes the well-known and eloquent words, “in order to form a more perfect union.” The “union” here refers to the young country, born of the American Revolution – and wisely acknowledges that there should always be an effort to strive for improvement.
This sentiment applies to our “union” as well, for no organization or society can be perfect.
I recently sent a centennial celebration greeting to the San Antonio Area Local as their local of the National Federation of Postal Clerks (a forerunner of the APWU) was founded 100 years ago. Many other locals around the country have celebrated, or will soon be celebrating, their first century as well.
With the many frustrations of working in an understaffed postal environment, frequently facing tyrannical managers and a grievance process that is too slow, it is easy to lose sight of the wonderful accomplishments of the APWU, and what postal workers gained over many decades of sacrifice and struggle.
Think about some of these highlights:
- Collective Bargaining: The right of postal workers through their union to negotiate with management over wages, hours and working conditions. Wow, talk about a true voice at work that has resulted in a wide array of union-won rights and benefits.
- A Grievance Procedure: The right of unionized postal workers to protest management actions that violate the union contract, meet with union representatives “on the clock” to address concerns and to file grievances when necessary.
- Just Cause Protection: Workers can only be disciplined or terminated for “just cause” – only for a legitimate reason – rather than at the whim of the boss. Now that is job security!
- No Lay-Off Protection: No lay-off protections for career employees with six years of seniority. In addition, those career employees on the rolls as of July 8, 2016, who did not yet have six years of employment, have no lay-off protection as well for the life of the contract.
- Seniority and Bidding: Career postal workers have the right to bid for jobs, hours and off-days based on years of service, rather than be subject to the favoritism of postal management.
- Negotiated Wage Increases: All career postal workers receive regular negotiated wage increases, Step Increases and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs). APWU-represented non-career postal workers also receive regular negotiated wage increases.
- Conversion to Career: A negotiated path for non-career to career positions resulting in over 45,000 conversions since 2014.
- A Democratic Union: The right of APWU members to elect officers at the local, state and national level, vote on proposed union contracts, run for union office and have full voice and vote at union meetings and functions.
These rights and benefits, and so much more, were won through the power and activism of the workers – most notably in the outstanding and historic Great Postal Strike of 1970.
All workers deserve real power in the workplace and a say over our working conditions. I am sure each of you has family members, neighbors and friends who do not work in a union shop, and lack the kind of rights and benefits unionized postal workers secured.
Wall Street, corporate America and far too many politicians would like to see unions, including the APWU, destroyed and with them our many gains over the last century. So, never take our union, or its future existence, for granted.
You are the Union
Our “imperfect” union belongs to you. It is up to all orious Stop Staples fight and our successful grassroots Good Service! Good Jobs! Good Contract! campaign that helped win such positive results in our last round of contract negotiations with the USPS.
Come to local union meetings; join a local union committee (such as safety, legislative, education or any other that interests you); share your views, suggestions and talents (writing, music, art, social media, etc.); step up and serve as shop stewards; wear your union gear; visit/call your political representatives; sign-up non-members at your worksite; stand in solidarity with all workers; and talk to your families about what the union means for the betterment of our lives and communities.
I hope all of you are as prof us to work together and make it the best it can be. It is great that so many of you are already union active, but we need much more participation, for “In Our Unity, Lies Our Strength!”
We witnessed what union activism can achieve in our victoud as I am to be part of the American Postal Workers Union family as the struggle for justice continues into another century!