President Dimondstein’s Opening Comments – National Negotiations 2021 (June 22, 2021)
On June 22, 2021, APWU entered into negotiations with USPS management on a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires September 20, 2021.
Below are President Dimondstein’s opening remarks, which set out APWU members’ priorities for our new contract.
The American Postal Workers Union welcomes this opportunity to represent approximately 200,000 postal workers in these important negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between our union and the United States Postal Service.
For generations Postal workers were denied our right to negotiate over wages, benefits and conditions of employment. Instead, workers were compelled to engage in “collective begging” and our livelihoods were subject to the whims of politicians and political parties.
That changed 51 years ago, when postal workers won true collective bargaining rights as a result of the Great Postal Strike of 1970. Since that heroic strike postal workers’ lives have vastly improved. And representatives of our union sit across the bargaining table from management as equals – not because we have important titles – but because we have a union sustained and supported by our members.
These negotiations take place in the shadow of the last seventeen months of the COVID Pandemic. And there should be full recognition on management’s part that postal workers have courageously stepped up to the challenge as front-line essential workers. Under severe stress we carried out our invaluable mission to the people with great pride and dedication – at a time when the people needed us the most. Once again, and underscored by the pandemic, postal workers have earned a good union and improved contract.
We have clear goals for these negotiations. As postal workers pour our lifeblood into the institution and its mission, we should be justly compensated for our hard work and enjoy an ever-improving standard of living. We should be provided a safe workplace, free from hostile work environments and sexual harassment, and after concluding our careers, enjoy a secure and dignified retirement.
Our members deserve good annual pay increases, stronger safety rights, an end to the unfair and divisive two-tier career pay scales, limits on subcontracting, more full-time career work, better work hour guarantees and rights for PTFs, a quicker and clear path to career status for PSEs, and shorter workweeks with no loss of pay. We strive to protect hard won gains and job security provisions secured over generations and for dignity and respect on the job. We will be putting forth proposals to address these and many other concerns.
We also approach these negotiations as an opportunity to promote our vision for a vibrant public postal service and expanded postal services for the people of the country. Our members and our union are passionate about the crucial mission of the public Postal Service, as outlined in the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act: “To provide postal services to bind the Nation together,” to “provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas,” and to “render postal services to all communities.”
Today, this mission is in jeopardy, threatened by a congressionally-manufactured financial crisis, by those on Wall Street who would like to get their hands on the Postal Service’s $70 billion plus in annual revenue, and by ideologues who oppose the very concept of the public good.
And while we have welcomed opportunities of cooperation with Postmaster General DeJoy as we strive for positive legislative postal reform, to expand postal services and address short staffing, it must be said that there are far too many management practices, many inherited, which have led to severely degraded services, delayed mail, driving away of customers and revenue, subcontracting, and partial privatization. There can be no denying that the recent service performance, and the proposed service goals developed by management and the Board of Governors, are woefully inadequate for the needs of the country.
We will put forth proposals for improving and expanding services from restoring delivery standards, expanding the network and hours of service, proper staffing and providing an array of financial and other services.
We are keenly aware that the Postal Service is facing serious challenges. Changes to the mail mix – letters are down while packages are up – create both hardships and hope. The bi-partisan 2006 Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA) continues to plague the Postal Service. With its absurd pre-funding mandate, its artificial postage rate cap, and the inability, thus far, to recoup overpayments to retirement funds, combined with the loss of the 2013 exigency rate increase at the hands of the PRC, the PAEA has seriously undermined our institution supported and beloved by the people of the country.
And so, the solutions to these problems should fall to Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and USPS management, not come at the expense of the workers. APWU represented postal workers voluntarily agreed to over $4 billion of deep wage and benefit concessions in the 2010-2015 contract resulting in continuing significant cost reductions for the Postal Service.
As we look to the future there are competing visions for the Postal Service. One professes that, in the day of the internet, the Postal Service is a relic of the past. I imagine there were similar doomsday naysayers when advances in technology created the telegraph and telephone and changed the communication habits of millions. Those who want to destroy us, often funded by the likes of UPS, use these changes to advocate for the breaking up and privatizing of the Postal Service, as did the previous White House administration.
Postal workers’ vision is for a robust and vibrant postal service for generations to come. Those in postal management who believe in the public Postal Service, and I know many of you do, should not be afraid of creative thinking and bold action as we discuss various ways to enhance and expand postal services rather than play into the hands of those who would like to destroy us on the altar of private profit.
Entering these negotiations, I am reminded of a former PMG who shamefully advocated that young workers don’t deserve traditional defined-benefit retirement plans, job security and stable employment and called on Congress to use the Postal Service as “an incubator” for destroying decent jobs. These harmful views found their way into the December 2018 Postal Task Force recommendations.
We vehemently oppose this “race to the bottom” for we believe that the Postal Service should indeed be an incubator, but as it has been for decades, an incubator of good, living-wage union jobs for workers from all walks of life, with equal pay for equal work for women and minorities and solid job opportunities for veterans.
One more observation on the broader importance of these negotiations. While postal and millions of other frontline workers struggled with the stress and danger of the pandemic, when millions suddenly lost jobs and healthcare, when poverty increased at the greatest rate in the last 50 years, the wealthiest 15 U.S. individuals increased their wealth by 40%.
Collective bargaining and the Postal Service’s Congressional mandate to be a model employer can contribute to resolving this shocking and growing income inequality in our country where workers continue to are fall behind while the 1% gallops ahead.
The key to the Postal Service’s bright future is the hard work and dedication of hundreds of thousands of postal workers – from those who sell postage and accept packages, to those who sort medicine and catalogues, to those who transport the mail and repair the vehicles, to those who maintain the equipment and facilities, to those who deliver the mail. These negotiations are an opportunity for management to reward our dedication and hard work.
The APWU will approach these negotiations with a passion for the workers we represent and the public we serve. We will forthrightly share our proposals and be honest in our dealings. We will work hard to achieve a negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
We enter these negotiations as part of a movement of friends and allies to protect and enhance a vital and wonderful national treasure that has the overwhelming trust of the people and remains a cornerstone in every community.
As we meet here on opening day, thousands of APWU members around the country are taking up the call “Our Union, Our Contract, Our Future” as we struggle to advance the well-being of current and future postal workers, our families and communities.
The APWU is ready to get to work!