Remembering President Emeritus William Burrus (APWU)

In Memoriam

December 13, 1936 – May 19, 2018

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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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Postal worker sexually assaulted on the job

May 21, 2018

MILWAUKEE — A United States Postal Service worker was attacked while delivering mail in a Milwaukee neighborhood. It happened earlier this month, May 5 near 77th and Hampton.

During a Saturday afternoon of grilling out in the backyard, Dave Wetzel witnessed what appeared to be a harmless interaction between a man and the female postal worker who was delivering mail in the neighborhood.

“Looked as though he was handing her some mail that went to the wrong address or something and then she ran around and got into her van and took off. We didn’t think nothing of it,” Wetzel said.

Prosecutors say 48-year-old Anthony Little approached the victim and offered her $500 “to have sex.” When she refused, Little pushed her up against the door of her vehicle and pressed his body onto hers. As she broke free and ran away, Little chased her twice around the vehicle until she was able to get inside and locked the door.

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Pence threatens Kim with regime change, death if he doesn’t cooperate

10:19 a.m. ET  Taking a page from National Security Adviser John Bolton’s playbook, Vice President Mike Pence threatened North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with regime change and a violent death if he does not cooperate with U.S. demands in his upcoming talks with President Trump.

If Kim does not make a deal, Pence said, U.S.-North Korea conflict will “end like the Libya model ended.” In Pence’s telling, this is not a “threat” so much as a “fact,” but it is unlikely Kim will hear it that way. His regime views Libya as a negative object lesson for cooperation with Washington, as after voluntarily relinquishing his nuclear weapons program, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was deposed with U.S. help and brutally killed. Bonnie Kristian


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Neil Gorsuch Just Demolished Labor Rights

His decision, a frontal attack on the New Deal, effectively legalizes wage theft.

Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts talking to each other in front of the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts in 2017.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Supreme Court issued a 5–4 decision Monday in Epic Systems v. Lewis allowing employers to deprive their workers of their right to sue collectively. Its ruling, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, blasts a massive hole through post–New Deal labor law, hobbling employees’ ability to recover in court when their employers underpay them. It is difficult to overstate how devastating Epic Systems is to labor rights in America—and how far Gorsuch strays from federal law in order to implement his preferred economic policy.

Epic Systems revolves around a group of employees who sued their employers for “wage theft,” alleging that they had illegally underpaid them. Each of their individual claims is fairly small and probably not worth the cost of litigation. But taken together, their claims add up to a substantial sum, and so the employees filed a class action on behalf of themselves and others who were similarly wronged. Their employers fought their lawsuits, arguing that the Federal Arbitration Act blocked their claims because the workers had all been forced to sign contracts that waived their right to sue and instead shunted them into one-on-one arbitration. (The arbitration process strongly favors employers.)  This argument, however, conflicted with a decision by the National Labor Relations Board, the independent agency tasked with implementing federal labor law. In 2012, the NLRB held that the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, or the NLRA, nullifies arbitration clauses in cases like this. Its reasoning was simple. The Federal Arbitration Act declares arbitration agreements “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable,” except “upon such grounds as exist at law.” And 10 years after Congress passed the FAA, it passed the NRLA, a signature piece of New Deal legislation that guarantees workers “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” (Emphasis mine.)

Quite sensibly, the NLRB found that lawsuits designed to collectively enforce workplace rights qualified as “concerted activities for the purpose of … mutual aid or protection.” It thus found that the FAA must yield to the NLRA when employees file class actions to protect their interests under federal law.

Now, however, the Supreme Court has overturned that interpretation of the law. Gorsuch, the self-proclaimed textualist, rests his conclusion largely on the “structure” of the NRLA. He insists that class actions do not qualify as “concerted activities” for workers’ “mutual aid” because the NRLA does not expressly mention them. Never mind that the plain text of the statute is designed to safeguard collective rights that Congress didn’t list in 1935 but that might arise down the road. Never mind that collective action—though the courts, if necessary—is precisely the kind of activity that the NLRA was explicitly meant to fortify. To Gorsuch, “concerted activities” include only activities “closely related to organization and collective bargaining, such as picketing.” This assertion is based not in the text of the law but in the justice’s own wishful thinking.

In one of the most furious dissents of her career, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tore into the majority for insisting that it was not “substitut[ing] its preferred economic policies for those chosen by the people’s representatives.” She accused Gorsuch of returning the Supreme Court to the Lochner era, when the justices routinely struck down workers’ rights under a dubious theory of economic liberty. The “edict that employees with wage and hours claims may seek relief only one-by-one,” she wrote, “does not come from Congress.” Instead, it is “the result of take-it-or-leave-it labor contracts harking back to the type called ‘yellow dog,’ and of the readiness of this Court to enforce those unbargained-for agreements. The FAA demands no such suppression of the right of workers to take concerted action for their ‘mutual aid or protection.’ ”  Gorsuch’s opinion in Epic System will have an immediate impact on workers. It effectively legalizes low-level wage theft; Juno Turner, a partner at the workers’ rights firm Outten & Golden, told me that it “gives a free pass for companies to break the law,” because “employers can now cheat workers with little risk that employees will enforce their rights.” The decision was predictable—the Supreme Court’s conservatives have already eviscerated the right of consumers to file class actions—but it is still nothing less than catastrophic for workers across the country.

There is one glimmer of hope in the aftermath of Epic Systems: The decision will prove to be deeply unpopular, particularly among Democrats. Earlier this year, the progressive group Demand Justice polled likely Democratic voters in 11 states, including swing states like Michigan and North Carolina. It found that 68 percent of respondents believe the Supreme Court is more favorable to the rights of businesses than the rights of workers.

By any objective standard, that conclusion is surely correct. And Democrats’ overwhelming belief that SCOTUS is biased toward business interests raises the possibility that Democratic politicians may prioritize fixing the court’s errors in cases like Epic Systems. If the party retakes Congress, it could easily amend the FAA to undo SCOTUS’s damage and clarify that businesses cannot thwart class actions through mandatory arbitration agreements. Until that happens, though, the Supreme Court’s conservatives will continue to read the FAA’s penumbras and emanations to quash employees’ access to justice.

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