Postal Workers Union
William Burrus, President
Roy Braunstein, Editor
Volume XXXII, No. 2,
January 17, 2002
Explains Monetary Package
Workers Receive ‘Wage Premium’ Over Private Sector, He Concludes
a supplemental opinion dated Jan. 11, 2002, Arbitrator Stephen B.
Goldberg concluded that postal workers receive a “wage premium,”
earning greater wages and benefits than workers performing comparable
work in the private sector.
supplemental opinion explains the reasoning behind the neutral
arbitrator’s decision on the economic portions of the Collective
Bargaining Agreement between the APWU and the US Postal Service, which
he issued on Dec. 18, 2001. The supplemental opinion does
not change any terms of the December decision, which granted upgrades to
some positions, and across-the-board wage increases of 1.2 percent, 1.8
percent and 1.4 percent, plus cost-of-living allowances each year.
concluding that there exists a Postal Service wage premium, I join a
long list of arbitrators in prior USPS interest arbitrations who have
reached the same conclusion,” he wrote. “The evidence relating
to private sector comparability is both voluminous and contradictory,”
he said. “For each argument raised by one party, there is a
counter-argument from the other party; for each data analysis, there is
a counter-analysis,” he said.
all is said and done, however, what stands out clearly . . . is that
Postal Service jobs are highly sought after, and once obtained, are held
onto. Applicant queues are long, and the quit rate is all but
non-existent,” he said. “Employees represented by APWU have
total job security, an extraordinary benefit package, and wages that
have fully kept up with inflation,” he wrote.
Goldberg rejected the APWU’s request for clerk parity with letter
carriers, writing, “while internal comparability may be relevant to
minimize workplace tensions, the Postal Reorganization Act requires that
the panel focus on an external comparability — wages and benefits paid
in the private sector — not on internal comparability or internal
equity.” The union argued strenuously in arbitration on this
Attacks, Financial Problems
Goldberg said that the economic aftermath of the terrorist attacks of
Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks influenced the ruling, especially for
the first year, from November 2000 to November 2001.
“Substantial increases in that year, if retroactive, would impose a
major financial burden on the Postal Service right now, when it must
deal with the extraordinary financial problems,” he wrote.
the other hand, although he found convincing evidence that the Postal
Service is faced with a long-term structural deficit, he rejected the
Postal Service’s argument that it justifies reducing the wages and
benefits of postal employees below those earned by employees doing
comparable work in the private sector. The Postal Reorganization Act
requires that interest arbitration decisions be based on principles of
comparability of postal wages to private sector wages, he said.
President Bill Burrus said, “It is very important that the arbitrator
ruled that workers are not required to subsidize the Postal Service.
We have never agreed with the way the Postal Service does its
accounting, and we refuse to take responsibility for financial
mismanagement of the Postal Service.”
full text of Arbitrator Goldberg’s opinion is posted on the APWU web
site, at www.APWU.org.
Biller Labor Issues Lecture Series Inaugurated Jan. 11-12
Examines Bioterrorism in the Workplace
President William Burrus welcomed several hundred union members to
Washington, DC, for the inaugural Moe Biller Labor Issues Lecture
Series, an annual conference named in honor of the union’s former
two-day conference, Jan. 11-12, examined the lessons learned in the wake
of the anthrax terrorism under the title, “New Safety and Health
Issues – The Implications of Bioterrorism in the Workplace.”
Henshaw, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and
health, and Dr. Jeffery P. Koplan, director of the Centers for Disease
Control, gave the keynote speeches. Two panels composed of
medical, scientific and labor experts led discussions about
responsibilities for workplace safety, including testing and
decontamination protocols. C-SPAN broadcast the Jan. 11
proceedings live, and repeated the broadcast throughout the weekend.
members from all across the country were joined by union representatives
from Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom. Workshops covered such issues
as “Anthrax, Bioterrorism and the Postal Service,” “Assessing
Risks and Crisis Management” and “Bargaining for Health and
Safety.” District of Columbia congressional representative Eleanor
Holmes Norton gave a moving tribute to Biller at a luncheon on Friday.
annual lecture series is funded by the newly created Moe Biller Labor
Issues Endowment Fund in partnership with Cornell University’s School
of Industrial and Labor Relations. It will continue to focus on current
issues affecting the labor movement, especially issues pertinent to
postal workers, and provide training and education for union members.
part of the conference this year, APWU members attended a special
session on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. President Burrus
outlined several aspects of the new agreement, including the first
upgrades ever negotiated for Mail Processors, Senior Mail Processors,
BEM Mechanics, Grade 7, 9 and 10 Technicians, Tractor Trailer Operators
and Motor Vehicle Operators. Other APWU officers addressed questions and
comments from the audience, including Cliff Guffey, executive vice
president, Greg Bell, director of industrial relations, James McCarthy,
director of the clerk division, and Bobby Donelson, assistant director
of the maintenance division.
a farewell retirement dinner for Biller Saturday night, tributes came
from many quarters of the labor movement, including Burrus, John
Sweeney, AFL-CIO president, Morton Bahr, president of the Communications
Workers of America, and Philip Bowyer, deputy general secretary of UNI,
Union Network International, a global federation of unions that
represents postal workers and other service workers.
APWU members were joined by trade unionists from around the world.
to Mass Mailers Penalizes Public
Attacks Postal Giveaway
APWU lodged a formal objection to the Postal Service’s rate increase
proposal this week, saying it grants unfair discounts to large-volume
mailers at the expense of the mailing public. The Postal Service
admits that the discounts it is offering big businesses for pre-sorting
their mail exceed the costs the Postal Service avoids.
offering these giveaways to large-volume mailers, the Postal Service is
attempting to increase postal rates sooner than ordinarily would be
possible by avoiding lengthy hearings before the Postal Rate Commission.
The major mailers — who traditionally oppose rate increases — have
agreed not to oppose this one.
Postal Service is, in essence, buying off the major mailers and asking
you and me to foot the bill,” said APWU President Bill Burrus.
“If adopted, the public would pay 37 cents for a first-class letter,
while major mailers would pay as little as 27.5 cents.”
the long run, the inefficiencies resulting from the subsidies the Postal
Service is proposing will increase costs to the mailing public and
undermine the capacity of the Postal Service to survive, Burrus said.
procedures established by the Postal Rate Commission, objections by
parties such as the APWU must be heard. If objections are too
numerous or too difficult to resolve, the early rate hike proposed by
the Postal Service may be delayed.