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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT THE APWU
What is the APWU?
APWU--American Postal Workers Union--is a national organization of employees of
the US Postal Service dedicated to advancing the interests of its members and
their families. Representing 362,000 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 recognized as the collective bargaining agent for USPS
employees in the clerk, motor vehicle service and maintenance crafts. In
addition, the APWU represents workers employed in support services:
Materiel Distribution Centers, Information Service Centers, Mail Equipment
Shops, and Operating Services Facilities.
What does the union do?
The primary job of the union is to negotiate a National Agreement with
the US Postal Service. This is a contract which establishes wages, working
conditions and other benefits for all workers under its jurisdiction. The union
also protects workers' rights by representing them with regard to 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
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 monthly newspaper about issues and programs
affecting postal workers and a safety and health program which educates workers
about workplace hazards and provides technical assistance. Plus, members are
eligibile for: The
APWU Health Plan, which provides comprehensive coverage at a very reasonable
cost; benefits through the Voluntary Benefits Plan, including: APWU MasterCard;
Group Legal Services; Term Life Insurance; Short- and Long-term Disability
Plans; Supplemental Hospital Cash; Accidental Death & Dismemberment; Basic
Care Hospital Plan (not available in NY State); and the Dental Plan and more! In
addition, scholarships--college and vocational--are awarded to outstanding APWU
members and children of APWU members.
Who can join?
APWU membership is open to any employee of the USPS regardless of race,
color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, handicap, political
affiliation, age or religion. Those in supervisory or management positions can
join only to receive APWU's Health Plan.
Who runs the union?
You, the members, do. 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
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.
How is APWU structured?
APWU operates on several
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 to
supplement the National Agreement on certain local concerns.
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 national division officers, and department directors and officers, all of
whom work under the general supervision of the president.
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 in the field called national business agents.
We also have departments responsible for handling specific administrative
functions and providing special services to the membership--Legislative,
Industrial Relations, Organization, Research and Education, Human Relations, and
Regional coordinators maintain an office in each of five regions:
Central, Eastern, Northeast, Southern, and Western.
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.
How much are dues?
Dues are very reasonable and vary from local to local. They include
national dues established by the National Convention and local dues determined
by your local union.
After you've joined APWU by completing Form 1187, dues are automatically
deducted from your pay check. Your steward or local officer can tell you the
cost of dues; or, if you are a member, you can check your pay stub.
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.
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 a current contract expires. The team proposes
contract language, the Postal Service responds, and through the give and take of
negotiation they try to reach agreement.
Do I get to vote on the contract?
Yes. A negotiated National Agreement becomes valid only on 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
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, 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.
Suppose I have a grievance?
If you have a grievance--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 work floor, 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
request that an impartial arbitrator be called in to settle the grievance.
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 service.
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, nonunion workers. The
APWU has been successfully fighting efforts to privatize postal services for
years. The APWU monitors all management attempts to contract out work that
belongs to our bargaining unit and makes sure that the National Agreement is
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 nonunion 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.
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 72
national unions with a combined membership of 13 million workers.
The APWU also is affiliated with Communications International (formerly
PTTI), an organization of labor unions representing workers in the field of
communications in nations throughout the world.
Is the APWU involved in legislation and politics?
Because legislation has an important impact on our members, the union is
definitely involved in legislative matters. The APWU maintains a very effective
legislative program which monitors 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 friendly legislators and to defeat those who consistently oppose
us. COPA also has a Voices in Politics
(VIP) publication which advises postal workers and their families on legal
grassroots political action.
How can I find out what's going on in the union?
You can stay informed by going to union meetings and participating in the
activities of your local. Remember that as a member 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,
reading local and national union publications such as The
American Postal Worker monthly newspaper and the APWU News
Service bulletin will keep you informed about your union.
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
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 other union officer. If you work in a very small office where
you have difficulty getting information, contact Frank A. Romero, Director of
Organization, at APWU headquarters, 1300 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005,
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 nonmembers, becoming a steward, and
volunteering to help in union activities. Your union brothers and sisters will
appreciate your participation.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
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