As I write this article, I am also preparing to attend the 65th Biennial Convention scheduled for August 14-18 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This convention will hold special meaning as it ends just ten days before the National Association of Letter Carriers sits down with the Postal Service to negotiate a new contact. The present collective barŽgaining agreement expires midnight NoŽvember 20, 2006, this was a five year agreement that was negotiated by President Emeritus Vincent Sombrotto. This contract came as somewhat of a surprise to many carriers including myself due to the fact that this contract was negotiated and signed by the parties. This was the first time since 1987 that the parties had fashŽioned their own agreement without any persuasion from an outside source.
Collective bargaining came about as a result of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which also changed the name of the service from the Post Office Department to the United States Postal Service. In 1971, 73 and 75 the Postal Service and the NALC had negotiated contracts that were ratified by the members and eventually signed by the parties. These three contracts were fashioned by a Joint Bargaining Committee consisting of the NALC, APWU, NPMHU (mail handlers) and NRLCA (rural carriers). These agreements contained wage increases, cost of living adjustments, casual employee limits and protection from layoffs. The 71 and 73 contracts were 2 year agreements the 75 pact was for 3 years.
In 1978 the JBC was comprised of letter carriers, clerks and mail handlers, while the contract contained wage increases and a revamped grievance procedure, the service insisted on a capped COLA and elimination of the no layoff clause. LetŽter Carriers rejected the tentative pact and a federal mediator failed to resolve the issue. Arbitrator James Healy sided with the unions and uncapped the COLA and retained the no layoff clause for all employees with six years of service. This was the first time that an outside party was relied upon to settle the disputes; this was a 3 year contract. In 1981 only the NALC and the APWU made up the Joint Bargaining Committee. The USPS petiŽtioned the National Labor Relations Board to force the JBC to include the Mail handlers and the Rural Carriers, but the board ruled against the service. This contract was negotiated and contained wage increases and eliminated mandaŽtory route inspections on an annual basis. This pact was signed for 3 years.
In 1984 the Service insisted on reducing the cost of living adjustments and also wanted a two-tier wage system, two isŽsues that NALC and the APWU rejected immediately. The service had no intenŽtion of negotiating any further without these provisions. This was the first time that the parties sent the entire contract to interest arbitration. Arbitrator Clark Kerr rejected the service's argument and maintained the COLA's. The arbitrator did lower the starting salary for new emŽployees and Martin Luther King Jr. Day was added as a 10th national holiday, the contract was for 3 years. 1987 the parties negotiated a 40 month contract with wage increases and COLA'S.
In 1990 the service presented ridiculous proposals for a wage freeze, health benefit give backs, and an increased part-time work force. Arbitrator Richard Mittenthal set forth a 4 year deal with wage inŽcreases and COLA's. In a separate action Arbitrator Rolf Valtin issued an award that reduced USPS health benefit contriŽbutions from 90% to 85%. That contract was for 4 years. In August of 1994 the NALC is mandated by the 94 convention delegates to negotiate alone without any other union.
The NALC proposals contain provisions for letter carriers to be paid a higher level. Again the parties are forced to arŽbitration and while Arbitrator Arthur Stark did not award the higher level, the ground work had been laid. This pact was for a 4 year contract. In 1998 the NALC presented its strongest argument for higher level for letter carriers. ArbiŽtrator George Fleischli awards a 3 year contract with wage increases, cost of living adjustments and all letter carriers level 5 would be upgraded to level 6 grades I and 2.
In November of2001 the NALC, negotiŽating alone with the USPS reached a tenŽtative agreement, the contract was for 5 years, it called for wage increase in each year as well 8 COLA's. For the first time in 11 years, letter carriers were given the opportunity vote on a negotiated settleŽment. I was chosen by then President Sombrotto to oversee the ratification process. The contract was approved by a better than 7-1 ratio. The members of the NALC had voted overwhelmingly to accept the 5 year deal. Just 10 days after the closing of this convention the NALC is scheduled to meet with the USPS as talks begin for a new collective bargainŽing agreement. Will the service continue to negotiate in good faith as it did 5 years ago, or will we once again be forced to take our arguments to an impartial arbiŽtrator? We will know in just a short time if we have a Contract.