APWU: Say ‘No’ to the Latest USPS Survey

May 23, 2018

Are you engaged?” Those are the words the Postal Service is using to get you to take their newest survey. The 2016 Postal Pulse survey showed the USPS what we already knew: Your work environment is not good; your supervisors treat you poorly and morale is low.

So, what has the Postal Service done in the last year? Have things improved since the survey was first put out and found that the USPS ranked low in every category? The USPS created “Ambassadors” to go and train managers, so they could then train supervisors to “engage” the employees – and that “engagement” would make the workplace better.

The reality is, the steps the Postal Service took to make the workplace “more engaging” are meaningless. You still have difficult supervisors and you are having more demanded of you, putting your health and safety at risk. Staff is being reduced, people are being excessed and morale is being decimated.

Management now is trying to get you to become “more engaged” – meaning they want you to return their surveys. They have pitted you against each other by giving awards and cute designations to units that return all their surveys. Don’t do it!

The Postal Pulse and Employee Engagement initiatives are not your friend. Participation in these programs will not fix the issues. Postal management has not listened to your direct pleas to your supervisors, either in your grievances or in meetings at the local, area and national level. Only collectively, demanding compliance of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and speaking in one voice, will we force management to change their ways. Stand united – and do not be fooled by these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” initiatives created to divide us.

Postal management promised not to use the survey against us – but they already are by pitting work units against each other, giving those who have at least 75% participation a sticker as a reward or throwing a little party for the units who “participate.” In the past, management surveys have been used against us in contract negotiations and interest arbitration. With 2018 being a negotiation year, it is possible the survey results will be used against us at the bargaining table.

They ask people to join focus groups and participate in management-initiated events to make the work place more “engaging.” These are not sanctioned nor approved by the union. They were not negotiated and use of them violates the union’s right as the sole representative of the bargaining unit employees under Article 1. Don’t do it!

We have a negotiated grievance process and a negotiated labor-management cooperation process in place to address these issues. Management needs to start following our contract, dealing with the grievances already filed and making sure the hostile frontline supervisors are dealt with. Your union knows the “pulse”of those we represent. If a local supervisor or manager cannot see the problems without a survey, then they are part of the problem.

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Remembering President Emeritus William Burrus (APWU)

In Memoriam

December 13, 1936 – May 19, 2018

Web News Article #:

50-2018

05/21/2018Former APWU National President Emeritus William Burrus passed away on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at the age of eighty-one.

William Burrus served as elected National President of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO from 2001-2010. He was the first African-American to be elected president of any national union in direct balloting by the membership.

Prior to his assuming the presidency, William Burrus served as APWU Executive Vice-President for 21 years, from 1980 to 2001, working alongside APWU President Moe Biller.

As a top national APWU officer, Brother Burrus helped negotiate substantial gains for the members with improved wages, and benefits, rightfully earning his reputation as a skilled negotiator and powerful advocate for postal workers. He led the union negotiations of four Collective Bargaining Agreements between the APWU and the USPS, and was also directly involved with every national negotiations between 1980 and 2006. Over his decades of union leadership, he was responsible for countless Arbitration settlements and Memorandums of Understanding with postal management which greatly enhanced workplace benefits, rights and safety of APWU represented employees.

William Burrus began his employment with the Post Office in Cleveland, OH in 1958, first as a distribution clerk and then as a Maintenance employee. He was a participant in the Great Postal Strike of 1970. From 1974 to 1980, he served as President of the Cleveland APWU Local. He was a founder and the first President of the APWU National Presidents Conference (NPC). William Burrus was always proud of the fact that as local president, he, along with others, protected the economic well-being of generations of postal workers by leading the successful fight to reject a proposed 1978 Collective Bargaining Agreement that would have capped COLA increases.

William Burrus was born in Wheeling, WV. After graduating with honors from Lincoln High School, he attended West Virginia State College. He served in the 101st Airborne Division and the 4th Armored Tank Division of the United States Army between 1954-1957.

William Burrus was a Vice-President of the AFL-CIO. Multiple times he was named by Ebony magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans. He earned great respect from representatives on Capitol Hill as a champion of the public postal service.

“The APWU family is greatly saddened by the death of Brother Burrus,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife Ethelda and his entire family who generously shared brother Burrus with us over many decades. We, as postal workers, including our families and our communities, have greatly benefited from the impassioned and determined life’s work and leadership of William Burrus.”

 

 

 

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Former President William Burrus Dies (APWU)

Sally Davidow wrote:

Greg and I are so sorry to hear the sad news about the passing of Bill Burrus. Bill was a dynamic leader who made major, lasting contributions to the American Postal Workers Union and to postal workers everywhere.

When he became president, Bill invited me to serve as the APWU’s communications director. It was a job I loved from beginning to end and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

I spoke with him last week and I am so happy we got the chance to say goodbye – although we didn’t admit that’s what we were doing.

Bill was a tough but fair boss. He expected excellence, was unflinchingly honest, and treated everyone – including his subordinates – with respect.

Just before Bill retired, I wrote a tribute to him that appeared in the September-October 2010 edition of The American Postal Worker. Although it didn’t do him justice, (how could it?) it looks like it is no longer online. A draft of the article appears below.

Retrospective on Bill Burrus

For more than five decades, APWU President William Burrus has dedicated himself to improving the lives of postal workers. When he retires in mid-November, he will end a remarkable career.

Bill Burrus began working in the post office in 1958, when he was hired as a distribution clerk in Cleveland after a three-year stint in the U.S. Army. He took part in the Great Postal Strike of 1970, and from 1974 to 1980 served as president of the Cleveland Area Local.

In 1980, he joined forces with the irrepressible Moe Biller to run for the union’s highest offices. With Biller serving as national president and Burrus serving as vice president, the two reshaped the union – putting the “fight” back in the organization, professionalizing representation, and placing the union on a firm financial footing. Their partnership lasted more than two decades.

As vice president, Burrus was instrumental in negotiating many of the union’s most important achievements, including the “maximization clause,” which resulted in the conversion of hundreds of thousands of part-time flexible employees to full-time; the return to the USPS of Priority Mail, which had been subcontracted; the application of the Family & Medical Leave Act; lifetime “saved grade” for thousands of LSM operators; the return of Priority Mail, and much, much more.

Through it all, he never lost sight of the membership: He understood that the right to wear headphones and tennis shoes on the workfloor also would improve postal work life – and he won those rights as well.

A Steady Leader From the Start
In the fall of 2001, as Biller prepared to retire and Burrus was elected president, the postal workplace was awash with fear: Anthrax in the mail killed two APWU members and sickened others.

As the crisis unfolded, Burrus worked around the clock to protect employees and to restore the public’s confidence in the mail system. He met with management and federal safety officials on a daily basis and held frequent conference calls with union members across the country.

His goal was to allay the fears of APWU members and the nation; but at the same time, he warned management, “We will take whatever action is necessary to protect the health and safety of those we represent.”

The anthrax crisis would have tested the mettle of any leader, but, true to form, Burrus didn’t flinch.

Looking Forward, Always
Throughout his presidency, Burrus has been a formidable intellectual force, a skillful leader, and an articulate spokesman.

Early in his tenure, he concluded that major mailers had hijacked the postage rate-setting process, robbing the Postal Service of desperately needed revenue through excessive “worksharing” discounts. Burrus understood that the discounts undermined the financial integrity of the Postal Service and circumvented the legal requirement of “universal service at uniform rates.”

And he never missed a chance to say so. In frequent testimony before Congress, as well as in scores of media interviews and editorials, Burrus routinely exposed excessive USPS postage discounts for what they are: “A Ponzi-like scheme” hatched by the mailing industry that “Bernie Madoff would be proud of.”

Postal ‘Reform’ Takes Center Stage
Burrus also recognized the dangers inherent in postal “reform” and in the Postal Service’s frequent restructuring proposals.

He was harshly critical of the USPS “Transformation Plan” in April 2002, which called for the closure of small post offices; plant consolidations, and increased worksharing opportunities for large mailers. “Postal officials have been brainwashed into believing that the concerns of the major mailers and the direct mail firms are superior to the financial stability of the Postal Service itself,” Burrus said at the time. “We cannot permit these cannibals to dismantle the best postal system in the world.”

In 2003, he denounced the formation of a commission handpicked by then-president George W. Bush established to propose structural changes to the USPS. He predicted that the panel would produce “a reform scheme that pleases major mailers and conservative ideologues.”

When the commission released a report to Congress six months later, it proposed to cut workers’ wages and benefits; end no-layoff protection; derail union bargaining rights; close postal facilities; end Saturday delivery, and privatize many aspects of the postal system.

Anticipating that the future of the USPS would be decided by Congress, Burrus launched an aggressive campaign to increase the union’s grassroots lobbying efforts and fundraising for the Committee on Political Action (COPA). As a result, the APWU was an important force in congressional deliberations, and the commission’s most objectionable proposals were dead-on-arrival on Capitol Hill.

Attempts to “reform” the Postal Service continued, however, and the APWU was a persistent but lonely voice of opposition. Burrus has been an outspoken critic of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006, because it placed unfair financial burdens on the USPS. In doing so, the PAEA jeopardizes the future of the Postal Service.

Real Gains
Under Burrus’ leadership, during the last round of contract negotiations in 2006, the union made significant advances: the part-time flexible category was eliminated from large offices and thousands of PTFs were converted to full-time; all APWU-represented employees were upgraded; the Transitional Employee category was eliminated from mail processing and customer service; restrictions were placed on the number of casuals that could be employed, along with other negotiated improvements.

In 2008, in keeping with his determination to raise the APWU’s profile in the political sphere, Burrus led the union to become one of the first in the AFL-CIO to endorse the candidacy of Barack Obama for president.

Despite these contributions, Burrus believes that his most enduring achievement came before he was elected to national office.

In 1978, as Chairman of the Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee, Burrus led opposition to a tentative agreement negotiated by the presidents of the three major postal unions that included a $160 cap on cost-of-living increases. He knew that an artificial limit on wages would leave postal workers vulnerable to inflation and led a successful campaign among union members to reject the agreement.

Subsequent arbitration resulted in an uncapped COLA for the past 32 years, much to the benefit of postal employees.

Determined to remain committed to the membership, until his final day in office Burrus will be fully engaged in contract negotiations, as well as efforts to pass critical legislation to fix USPS finances, fight the elimination of Saturday delivery, derail the consolidation of the mail processing network, and stop the closure of stations and branches.

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Let’s deliver the mail, not myths (APWU)

By Mark Dimondstein   May 8, 2018
President Trump’s attention of late has been focused in part on the United States Postal Service and Amazon, resulting in a new executive order calling for an evaluation of USPS finances. This is a good opportunity to underscore some important facts regarding the Postal Service, a national treasure belonging to all the people of the United States.

Tax dollars do not fund Postal Service operations. Instead, it operates on earned revenue from postage and other products and services. As a self-funding independent agency, the Postal Service provides universal service at uniform and reasonable rates, delivering to 157 million addresses six (and sometimes seven) days a week, no matter who customers are or where they live.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the primary source of current Postal Service financial challenges is not the decline of letter mail. Rather, the red ink derives almost entirely from the bipartisan congressional enactment of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The act compelled the Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of future retiree health care costs, 75 years into the future, for workers not even born yet. This mandate transferring postal revenues to the federal treasury bilked the Postal Service out of $5.6 billion a year over a 10-year period. No other company or agency faces, or could survive, such an onerous financial burden. Adding to the absurdity is the fact that, prior to the new law, the Postal Service had been reliably paying the retirement health benefit premiums as they arose, as do other companies and agencies. Without this manufactured pre-funding crisis, the US Postal Service would have shown a positive net income in four of the last five years averaging close to $1 billion annually — again, without a dime of taxpayer money  The same 2006 law placed further strain on postal finances with an unreasonably restrictive price cap on postage rates. While it helped the profits of huge mailers, it diminished services for the general public. Combined with the pre-funding debacle, this price cap contributed to reduced hours, closing of post offices, slower delivery standards, and severe short staffing, leading to longer lines and later delivery ti.

With the growth of the Internet, letter volume has declined over the last decade. And yet a massive amount of mail is processed and delivered, some 500 million pieces a day — including messages of love and sympathy, medicines to seniors and veterans, financial and business transactions, periodicals, catalogs, and packages. Indeed, what the Internet “taketh” the Internet “giveth,” as package volume has skyrocketed with the explosion of e-commerce.  Read: Trump says Amazon’s ‘post office scam’ must end
The public post office, established by the Constitution, is a democratic right of the population and has helped bind the people of this country together for the last 240 years. The Postal Service, with its dedicated and accountable workforce, is consistently rated the most trusted and respected government agency. In these days of the e-commerce revolution, it is as vital as ever. Noteworthy is that in the Internet age, lack of security and invasion of our privacy has become the norm. The US mail may just be the last bastion of private and secure communication.New challenges certainly exist, but the solutions are not complicated. Congress should fix the pre-funding fiasco. Common-sense bipartisan bills, currently stalled in both the Senate and House, would do just that. The Postal Regulatory Commission can eliminate the arbitrary and artificial price cap and give the USPS more pricing flexibility so large mailers pay their fair share. This still will allow the Postal Service to maintain the lowest postal rates in the industrialized world.Postal workers and millions and millions of customers certainly hope that the task force created by the executive order has as its starting point a sincere commitment to helping the Postal Service thrive. However, if the task force proves to be a smokescreen to promote the postal privatization agenda of the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute and their billionaire benefactors’ efforts to turn the common good over to private profiteers, then postal workers will be on the front lines fighting back, united with our communities and the people of this country, to ensure a vibrant public postal service for many generations to come.

 

 

 

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