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Clerk Craft Information
Sep 13, 2017

'Ongoing, Willful, Contractual Violations'

(This article first appeared in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

By Clerk Craft Directors

The APWU won another important victory in a national arbitration case regarding violations of POStPlan agreements.

The violations were twofold: The Postal Service’s improper use of Postmaster Reliefs (PMRs) working in Level 4 and Level 6-hour Remotely Managed Post Offices (RMPOs) and the use of Postal Support Employees (PSEs) instead of career employees in Level 18 offices. The Postal Service admitted to these violations of the POStPlan agreements. Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg held that the USPS owed the bargaining unit for all the hours improperly worked by PMRs and PSEs.

The victory on the PMRs and PSEs is the latest in a series of arbitration wins where the Postal Service engaged in willful and blatant violations of the contract and the main focus of the arbitration was remedy. Management regularly makes cruel and calculated decisions to violate the contract on the premise that they will benefit more by violating the contract than the cost of breaking it.

Eliminating Jobs and Potential Excessing

One of the Postal Service’s current ongoing, willful, contractual violations is the practice of eliminating duty assignments, despite clear evidence the duty assignments are needed. The USPS is mostly eliminating duty assignments that are temporarily vacant (reversions), but in some cases are eliminating duty assignments that are filled (abolishments). In eliminating duty assignments, the Postal Service avoids the conversion of PSEs to career because if there are not enough duty assignments, the PSEs have no duty assignment they can convert to.

In addition, management is threatening the excessing of employees, claiming they are overstaffed by over 12,000 Clerk Craft duty assignments. However, the long lines and delayed mail are a testament to the fact that more workers are needed, not less. Even if excessing did not actually occur, wielding the threat of excessing allows the Postal Service to withhold vacant duty assignments for potentially excessed employees. The withholding of duty assignments means that Part-Time Flexibles (PTFs) and PSEs are not converted to full- time career duty assignments, as again, there are not duty assignments available to fill.

APWU Fighting Back

Once a contract is agreed upon, the grievance procedure is in place to handle honest disagreements, which should be rare. Management is instead willfully violating the contract when it is to their selfish advantage to do so. While we must be even more vigilant in filing grievances, we also must engage in other creative actions so management loses more by violating the contract than when they honor it.

The APWU has been implementing a plan to fight back against the elimination of duty assignments that are clearly needed and any resulting cuts in service. We are meeting with management at every level, providing stewards with training on how to demonstrate new duty assignments, and assisting with the grievances.

It is very important to shine a light on management’s bad behavior. Locals in Baltimore, Seattle and Charlotte held events to inform the public about the Postal Service’s plans for more cuts in service. National officers at APWU headquarters will continue to actively lend support in public relations and organizing for local and state organizations which decide to hold press conferences, rallies and other events to inform the public that our Postal Service is under attack.

As postal workers, we deserve and expect management to treat us with respect, to honor their contracts with us and to provide good service to the American people. We are not going to wait for some in management to change their dishonest behavior. Instead we will work together, with all four postal unions and our community allies, to provide the necessary motivation for everyone in postal management to honor the contracts made in good faith with postal workers and to provide consistently excellent service to the public.

May 08, 2017

The Future of Retail: Moratorium and Discussion

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

By Clerk Craft Directors 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) “Re: Retail” imposes a one-year moratorium on any new contracts under the Approved Shipper Program, Contract Postal Units (CPUs) and Village Post Offices (VPOs). In addition, “For a twelve month period of time commencing on the effective date of the 2015 National Agreement, the parties will enter into discussions over the ‘future of retail’ in the Postal Service.” Absent any extensions, the moratorium and discussions are scheduled to end approximately July 8, 2017.

The Clerk Craft officers have met several times to discuss “the future of retail” with USPS Retail managers. The first few meetings were used to gather information and better understand the USPS Approved Shipper Program, CPUs and VPOs. Historically, the Postal Service argued that the private companies are there to provide services where post offices are not available. However, the biggest takeaway in the last year of gathering data is we can confirm that the vast majority of these private companies are close to real post offices.

In total, 83 percent of all Approved Shippers, 71 percent of all CPUs and 74 percent of all VPOs are within three miles of a post office (see chart). The percentage of private postal retail outlets that are located close to a post office confirms union members’ experience that the Postal Service is encouraging the replacement of work performed by postal workers in post offices to private companies. 

As the “smoking gun” documents in the Staples fight showed, although the Postal Service claimed they wanted to expand access for customers, some top officials in the USPS simply wanted to shift work and jobs from the Postal Service to private companies.

‘Approved Shippers’ Dissing the USPS

One of the many downsides to private companies performing postal work is the inherent tendency for the private companies to put their interests over that of the Postal Service and the American public. Approved Shippers like Office Depot, UPS, PostNet, Staples (before they were defeated), etc., in addition to selling USPS products and services, sell competitor services. For example, UPS stores sell UPS products, Office Depot sells FedEx products, and PostNet sells UPS, FedEx and DHL products.

Each of these companies makes a greater profit selling UPS, FedEx and DHL products than they do USPS products. Consequently, our testing of the Approved Shippers showed their employees promoting their profitable products over that of the USPS. Moreover, in pushing the competitor products, the store employees often dissed the Postal Service.

Approved Shippers can also charge customers more than the actual cost of USPS stamps and services. Members have even told us they heard the companies do not always admit the extra costs to the customer, and sometimes blame the Postal Service for the higher cost.

Since the Staples embarrassment, where Approved Shipper employees bashed the USPS, some top officials in the Postal Service question the idea of the Approved Shipper program. Why continue the program if it threatens the USPS’ positive brand and the trust of retail customers? Why send customers to USPS competitors, where they discredit the Postal Service to increase their profit at the expense of the USPS?

Revitalizing Post Offices

As part of our discussions with the USPS, we challenged the Postal Service to stop encouraging customers to go to private companies where service will be reduced, costs for the customer may be higher and the company may badmouth the Postal Service. We asked the USPS to increase access to customers through expanding post offices’ hours, locations and staffing.

If the USPS truly wants to provide access to postal services at later hours, why not have post offices stay open later and open on weekends as they did in the past? Post offices should be open after hours for working-class people who work long hours around the clock.

The Clerk Craft officers emphasized that the key to success is staffing the windows. It used to be windows were staffed properly, which respects both the worker at the window and the customer waiting for service. It is demoralizing to postal workers and unfair for customers, for postal management to understaff window counters, post signs encouraging the customer to go to a competitor and hear the constant negative stories about the Postal Service. If the Postal Service truly values its customers, why doesn’t it staff the window counters with enough employees to assist customers in a timely manner? In any industry, without good service, customers will go to a competitor.

The Postal Service built the respect of the American public by providing affordable and excellent service in all aspects of operations. It is a tragedy how some in the Postal Service, and some outside of it, want to destroy that trust and respect by purposely eroding service.

Once the moratorium ends, we will be at a crossroads. If the Postal Service decides to continue to erode service at the post office and encourage people to go private companies, then we have to be ready to duplicate the successful Staples strategy of boycotts and pickets. Members should research the private postal retail companies in their area. As in the Staples fight, it is a fight for good service and good jobs for our communities. 

May 08, 2017

APWU Receives Favorable Arbitration Ruling

Clerk Craft Gains 362 Administrative and Technical Jobs

04/24/2017 - Arbitrator Goldberg ruled that the Postal Service failed to make a good faith effort to return 362 administrative and technical jobs to the Clerk Craft. The arbitration award was issued on April 21, 2017 and settles a long-standing dispute over the Clerk Craft Jobs Memorandum of Understanding in the 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The memo called for the Postal Service to return 800 positions to the Clerk Craft. By July 2013, 438 positions were returned (319 Level 7 Address Management Systems Specialist positions and 119 Level 8 Mail Flow Controller positions), but afterward they failed to make any effort to return the rest.

The award directs the Postal Service to return the remaining jobs “as soon as reasonably possible,” with an emphasis on the need for prompt compliance. USPS management has not yet determined which positions will be returned and where the jobs will be located. The union will meet soon with the Postal Service to discuss the remedy further.

Goldberg also directed the Postal Service to make the adversely affected employees whole for any loss of pay or benefits because of the delay in providing these positions. Since after July 2013 there was no effort to return appropriate administrative and technical jobs, the make whole remedy will go back to August 2013.

Included in the remedy are Clerk Craft bargaining unit employees who would have filled the positions in August 2013 (not yet identified), as well as all the workers who would fill the vacancies left by the successful bidders. In the award, Goldberg described this “ripple effect:”  

“There may be more than one employee indirectly affected in this fashion since each vacancy filled later than it should have been may lead to another – all the way down to a PSE whose conversion to career status is delayed by the original violation.”

"This award provides a significant step forward in providing a remedy that captures the harm to all the employees who would have moved up to preferred or higher level jobs when the Postal Service fails to post duty assignments for bid," said Clerk Division Director Clint Burelson. 

“I want to applaud the Clerk Craft team, with Assistant Director (B) Clerk Division Lynn Pallas Barber as case officer, for their excellent advocacy,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “When an employer stubbornly refuses to comply with agreements, we have to persevere. This shows what worker solidarity can accomplish and is another great example of why APWU members are proud to be union.”

Page Last Updated: Sep 13, 2017 (07:42:41)
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