QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
1. What is the APWU?
The APWU — American Postal Workers Union — is a national organization of employees of the United States Postal Service dedicated to advancing the interests of its members and their families. Representing more than 200,000 postal employees in every state and territory in the United States, the APWU is the largest union of postal workers in the world. It is the exclusive collective bargaining agent for USPS employees in the Clerk, Motor Vehicle Service, and Maintenance crafts. In addition, the APWU represents employees in Support Services, workers in Material Distribution Centers, Information Service Centers, Mail Equipment Shops, and Operating Services Facilities.
2.What does the union do?
The primary job of the union is to negotiate, interpret, and enforce a National Agreement with the Postal Service. This is a contract that establishes wages, working conditions and other benefits for all workers under its jurisdiction. The union also protects workers’ rights by representing them in day-to-day problems on the job such as discipline, violations of seniority, harassment, discrimination, or other management abuse. Additionally, the APWU addresses other workplace concerns such as safety and health and the impact of technological change.
3. What are the benefits of belonging?
Membership in the APWU gives you a voice in determining your future. Members have the right to participate in local meetings, to vote for local and national officers, to vote on the contract, to run for office, and to petition for change in the union.
Other membership benefits include: The American Postal Worker, a bimonthly magazine reporting on issues and programs affecting postal workers, and a safety and health program that educates workers about possible hazards in the workplace and provides technical assistance. Plus, members are eligible for: The APWU Health Plan, which provides comprehensive coverage at a very reasonable cost; benefits such as a mortgage program; APWU MasterCard; Group Legal Services; Term Life Insurance; Short- and Long-term Disability Plans; Supplemental Hospital Cash; Accidental Death and Dismemberment benefits; Basic Care Hospital Plan (not available in New York); a Dental Plan, and more! In addition, scholarships — college and vocational — are awarded to qualified and outstanding APWU members and children of APWU members.
4. Who can join?
APWU membership is open to any USPS employee, regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, political affiliation, age or religion. Those in supervisory or management positions can join only in order to receive APWU’s Health Plan.
5. Who makes the union work?
You do! The members: Every level of the APWU operates democratically on the principle of majority rule. Members have a free voice and vote to express their views in the union. All local, regional, and national officers are elected by the members, as are the officers and business agents in each craft/division. Members also ratify the National Agreement and elect delegates to the National Convention.
The convention, which convenes every two years, is the highest governing body in the union. Between conventions, the National Executive Board directs union policy and programs.
6. How is APWU structured?
Most members belong to a local union with jurisdiction in their city, town or area. Locals elect their own officers and conduct their own day-to-day business. They may establish local dues and may negotiate a local contract — on specific local issues — to supplement the National Agreement.
Nationally, the APWU maintains a headquarters in Washington, DC, to administer the union and to implement programs and policies mandated by the convention and the National Executive Board. The national resident officers include the president, the executive vice president, the secretary-treasurer, the director of industrial relations, the national division officers, and department directors and officers, all of whom work under the general supervision of the president. Various departments are responsible for handling specific administrative functions and providing special services to the membership — Legislative, Organization, Research & Education, Human Relations, and APWU Health Plan.
We have a separate division for each craft — Clerk, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle Service, and Support Services — concerned with the special problems of the workers in the craft.
In addition to national officers, each division has representatives called national business agents. They operate out of 21 APWU field offices. Regional coordinators maintain an office in each of five regions: Central, Eastern,Northeast, Southern, and Western.
7. How are officers elected?
National union officers are elected by mail ballot of the membership every three years. The officers and national business agents for each craft division are elected by the members in that division. Additionally, regional coordinators are elected by the members in each region. Any member may become a candidate for national office by filing a petition in accordance with the requirements spelled out in the APWU Constitution and Bylaws.
8. How much are dues?
Dues vary from local to local. They include national dues established by the National Convention and local dues determined by the local union. After you’ve joined APWU by completing Form 1187, dues are automatically deducted from your paycheck. Your steward or local officer can tell you the cost of dues; they will, of course, appear on your pay stub.
9. How are my dues spent?
National dues pay for all the operating expenses of the union, including contract negotiations, grievance handling above the local level, and the cost for arbitration at the regional and national levels. Members’ dues also cover the cost of publications, legal fees, legislative activities, education and training, and community service programs.
10. How does the union negotiate the National Agreement?
The APWU has a National Negotiating Team composed of the president, the executive vice president, the director of Industrial Relations, and the directors of the crafts we represent. This team meets with Postal Service management several months before the contract expires. The team proposes contract language, the Postal Service responds, and through the give and take of negotiation they try to reach agreement.
11. Do I get to vote on the contract?
Yes. A negotiated National Agreement becomes valid only with approval by the membership through a mail ballot. After the National Negotiating Team reaches agreement with the Postal Service, a Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee reviews the proposed contract. If they approve it, the contract is sent to the entire APWU membership for ratification. If the committee is not satisfied, it can return the contract to the National Negotiating Team to reopen negotiations.
12. What about strikes?
The APWU believes that the right to strike is an inalienable right of all American workers. However, federal law prohibits strikes by postal and federal employees and requires that if contract negotiations do not result in agreement, unresolved disputes are to be submitted to arbitration — to an impartial third party — for resolution.
While our position is “no contract, no work,” the 1982 APWU National Convention authorized our national leadership to continue negotiations past the contract deadline if they feel this is necessary to reach agreement, but only as long as postal workers continue to be covered under the previous contract. Thus, the APWU views the strike as a weapon of last resort to be used only when all other means of reaching agreement have been exhausted.
13. Suppose I have a grievance?
If you have a grievance — if you believe that management has violated your rights or subjected you to harassment or discrimination — you should immediately talk to your steward about the problem. The steward, who is your union representative on the workfloor, will determine whether a violation has occurred and will try to reach a settlement with your immediate supervisor. If this effort fails, the union can appeal management’s action to a higher level. If all these efforts fail to result in a satisfactory solution, the union may insist that an impartial arbitrator settle the dispute.
14. What about job security?
As spelled out in our National Agreement, all career postal workers have a lifetime guarantee of job security after six years of continuous service.
15. How is APWU fighting privatization?
Privatization is the Postal Service’s attempt to contract-out postal work — your work — to private companies that hire low-wage, non-union workers. The APWU has been successfully fighting efforts to privatize postal services for decades. The APWU monitors all management attempts to contract out work that belongs to our bargaining unit and makes sure that the National Agreement is upheld.
In May 1993, APWU won an important privatization dispute at the national level when an arbitrator ruled that Remote Bar Code Sorting (RBCS) work should have been offered to bargaining-unit workers. The Postal Service had contracted the work out to several companies that hired non-union workers at sub-postal wages. As a result of subsequent negotiations between the APWU and the USPS, Remote Encoding Centers are now staffed by APWU-represented postal employees.
16. Is the APWU affiliated with other organizations?
Yes. The APWU is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), a federation of 54 national and international labor unions with a combined membership of 10 million workers.
The APWU also is affiliated with United Network International (UNI), an organization of labor unions representing workers in the field of communications in nations throughout the world.
17. Is the APWU involved in legislation and politics?
Because legislation has an important impact on our members, the union is actively involved in legislative matters. The APWU maintains an effective program to monitor legislation being considered by Congress that will have an impact on postal workers and their families. APWU COPA — the Committee On Political Action — raises voluntary contributions to assist the campaigns of legislators who support working families, and to defeat those who consistently oppose us.
18. How can I find out what’s going on in the union?
You can stay informed by attending union meetings and participating in the activities of your local. Remember, you have an equal voice and vote with all other members. Your steward and local officers can answer questions you may have about specific union programs and policies. Additionally, you can stay informed about union activities by reading local and national union publications such as The American Postal Worker magazine and periodic APWU News Bulletins, and by staying tuned to the union’s website, www.apwu.org.
19. I’m not a member yet. How do I join?
Ask your steward or a local officer for a Form 1187 and fill it out. Part of it must be completed by you, and part by the local. Your union dues will automatically be deducted from your pay check. You can get more information from your steward or another union officer. If you work in a very small office where you have difficulty getting information, contact Organization Department Director Anna Smith, 1300 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20005. The phone number is 202-842-4227.
20. I’m already a member. What can I do to help the union?
It’s important to keep in mind that you are the union; members are the lifeblood of the APWU. The best way to improve the union is to get involved. In addition to attending union meetings, consider joining a committee, working to organize non-members, becoming a steward, and volunteering to help in union activities. Your union brothers and sisters will appreciate your participation.