Attacks on Federal Workers APWU

(This article first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

By Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman

Let me take a moment and wish each of you a happy and safe holiday season. No matter how you celebrate the holidays, I hope you all have an enjoyable time with your families and friends.

Recently our sisters and brothers who work for other federal agencies had their collective bargaining rights attacked. In a series of Executive Orders, President Trump forced agencies to re-write collective bargaining agreements under new guidelines.

In the new collective bargaining agreements, workers would not be allowed to perform on-the-clock representation. Union stewards and officers would be limited to small amounts of official time. Union stewards and officers would be required to be off-the-clock for all grievances, negotiations and meetings.

The orders called for the elimination of the right to file a grievance on discipline, like removals. Federal unions can no longer bargain over work rules, staffing, or schedules. Unions with dedicated union space inside agency buildings were issued eviction notices to force them to move out of the agency buildings. Finally, in one of his most insulting actions against federal workers, President Trump issued a call to freeze federal worker pay – all while he continues to brag about how much more money Americans are making today because of his policies.

Multiple unions sued and some of the orders were put on hold by the court. Even though the unions may have been victorious today, the White House has appealed the court decision and it is clear that war will be waged against the federal unions – and the postal unions.

The Executive Orders did not apply to the Postal Service because we have our bargaining rights under the Postal Reform Act. However, there are other ways the Presidential Administration is attacking our union. Calls for privatizing the Post Office are the most basic attack on us. Breaking up and selling off the Post Office to the highest corporate bidder would eliminate your contract because the collective bargaining agreement we have is with the Postal Service – not a new corporation. There would be no guarantee you get to keep your job at the new “Corporate Postal Service” and if you did, you wouldn’t have your current wage, retirement, annual leave, or many of the other benefits you enjoy today.

Attacks on federal workers and calls for post office privatization don’t just hurt the workers. When the APWU and the other federal unions negotiate contracts, we negotiate things that help the American people. When we negotiate good schedules or win the fight for proper staffing, we are ensuring our customers are cared for. When we negotiate good wages and benefits, it helps our customers because the workers feel better about what they do and feel justly compensated. The fight against privatization and the fight to protect federal unions is really the fight for the American people.

Lastly, please remember that you have the right to a safe work environment. You have the right to come to work and return to your families unharmed. Be mindful that any safety program the Postal Service has is voluntary. For example, the Safety Ambassador program is not a jointly agreed to program. Under Article 14 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, your union is the sole representative for the enforcement of safety rules and regulations and the Postal Service is required to cooperate with the APWU on safety. Your national safety officers have initiated a national dispute on this program. Our dispute is that the program was implemented unilaterally without negotiations with the union, that it is not implemented consistently, and hinders what local safety and health committees are tasked with. You are asked not to participate in this program and should be filing grievances as necessary. Should you have questions on the program, please contact your national safety and health officers.

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Stand Up for Safe Jobs on Workers Memorial Day APWU

Web News Article #:
39-2018
04/23/2018 – Each year on Workers Memorial Day (April 28), working people throughout the world remember those who were hurt or killed on the job and recommit to the struggle for a safe workplace.
Virtually every safety and health protection on the books today exists because union workers fought together to win them, the most notable being the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
On April 28, 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Act became effective and the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed. Since the law was passed, significantly fewer workers have been killed on the job each year; however, there is still a long way to go. Right now, the federal government is reversing safety regulations and slashing resources for safety enforcement.
The Post Office is a dangerous place to work. In Fiscal Year 2017 alone, 12 postal employees died on the job and 42,594 injury claims were approved.
This Workers Memorial Day, we call for an end to the unnecessary injuries and deaths of our brothers and sisters. We push for action by – and increased protections for – all workers. Report safety hazards in the workplace and let’s hold management accountable to fix them.
Things You Can Do during this Workers Memorial Day Weekend (Friday, April 27-Monday, April 30):
Wear a sticker! (Contact your local leadership for more information)
Be alert for safety issues – not only on Workers Memorial Day but every day – and submit a PS Form 1767 Report of Hazard or Unsafe Working Condition Form when you see something. Speak up and stay on it until the hazard is abated.
“Red tag” broken and damaged equipment, and ensure that Form 1767s and Red Tags are available in your work areas.
Hold a moment of silence with your co-workers when you all clock-in to honor all those injured or who have lost their lives at work.
Join a local union safety committee.
The APWU National encourages you to speak with your local union officers about becoming involved in the union’s safety campaign. The life or limb you save may be your own!
Together, let’s Stand Up for Safe Jobs!

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USPS Safety Ambassador Program

03/16/2018 – The APWU was informed on October 26, 2017 of the Postal Service’s intent to roll out a new program called the Safety Ambassador Program. The Postal Service intends to replace the safety captain program, and any other local safety programs, with this “standardized” and nationally controlled program. The American Postal Workers Union does not support, agree with, or endorse this program.
Using their latest catch phrase—employee engagement—the Postal Service claims that this program “will focus on employee engagement, training, communication, hazard identification/abatement, and accident reduction.” Having a safe workplace is every worker’s right and you must fight for that right! However, the Safety Ambassador Program appears to be nothing more than an end-around our currently negotiated joint union-management safety procedures.
We have multiple issues with the program including, but not limited to, the following:
Rather than encouraging that safety hazards be reported on PS Form 1767, the Service encourages “verbal” reporting of hazards where there would be no record or tracking of the hazard. Written records are the basis for showing the hazard was reported.
Ambassador selection would be at sole discretion of installation head (manager, postmaster) without any union input. Many locals have elected officers and appointed officials who are responsible for safety. We also have reports from the field that management has instructed those making selections to specifically avoid using union representatives and “agitators.” It has been reported that the Postal Service is encouraging its managers to select employees who are not active in their unions as ambassadors.
Ambassadors are supposed to be “volunteers.” However, multiple reports from the field are showing that employees are being forced to become Ambassadors.
Local Safety and Health Committees are not part of the program.
Ambassadors would participate in creating Job Safety Analysis (JSA) which is currently the function of Article 14 Safety and Health Committees.
Ambassadors will be observing their coworkers, telling them they are being unsafe, and providing feedback and coaching to them, as well as reporting back to the supervisors on their coworkers’ actions.
Ambassadors will be trained on the use of the USPS Safety Toolkit which again is in the purview of the Safety and health Committees.
The APWU has initiated an Article 19 appeal to arbitration on the implementation of this program (Q15C-4Q-C 18055498). We believe the Service has violated Article 5 Prohibition of Unilateral Action (past practice of safety programs and failure to negotiate), Article 14 Safety and Health, Article 19 Handbooks and Manuals, ELM Chapter 8. Questions on the dispute should be directed to the Article 14 officers at headquarters, Lynn Pallas-Barber and Terry Martinez. Copies of all relevant documents were sent to the NBAs in the field.
We request that any local or state organization that has Safety and Health Committees immediately file a grievance that the Safety Ambassador program is a violation of Article 14 and the negotiated Safety and Health Committee processes as well as Article 1 Union Recognition – that the APWU is the exclusive bargaining representative for those we represent. Safety programs are subject of bargaining and the union must be included in the decisions about any safety program. Grievances should also be initiated where employees have been involuntarily required to act as ambassadors. No one is required to be an ambassador and they can decline the offer to be one. Any grievances on this issue held, pending the Article 19 appeal, must be held at Step 3 only, to provide better tracking.
The APWU believes strongly that your workplace must be a safe place to work. We believe bargaining unit member participation is important to a safe work place and that we all need to act together to make sure it is. As an individual and in groups you should be able to feel that you can act through using 1767s, workroom floor actions, and filing grievances. You should not have to go through a management-appointed intermediary in order to have a safe workplace!
As the Postal Service remains the most dangerous place to work of all federal agencies in the country, we must fight for our rights to have fair, reasonable, and successful safety programs. The Safety Ambassador Program does not fit that description as it was fully developed and implemented by management while completely ignoring your union.

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