White House Plan to Privatize the Postal Service

Statement by President Dimondstein

Web News Article #:

59-2018

06/21/2018The White House proposal on restructuring the federal government released today, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” delivered nothing but misinformation and, if implemented, would end regular mail and package services at an affordable cost to 157 million addresses every day. Furthermore, the White House plan is an attack on many federal agencies and the public services they provide.

The White House’s plan states, “Like many European nations the United States could privatize its postal operator…” What’s left unsaid is European nations charge substantially more for mail services delivered in a much smaller area. They also regularly raise the cost of delivery. For example, the cost of sending a letter in the United Kingdom has increased 80 percent over the past decade. By comparison, the U.S. has the lowest postage rates in the industrialized world.

Eliminating the universal service obligation, as the plan suggests, would hurt business and individuals alike, and would be a dagger aimed at the heart of rural America and undermine e-commerce.

The draconian plan uses “burdening the taxpayers” as justification to promote the privatization of the U.S. Postal Service when the truth is USPS is self-supporting and receives no tax dollars for postal operations.

And, while letter mail volumes are lower, package delivery is up substantially. No institution is better suited for the e-commerce revolution than USPS.  The public postal service serves each and every person and belongs to the people of this country. According to recent surveys by Gallup and the Pew Research Center, it enjoys the highest level of satisfaction and trust of any government service or agency, rating the highest among young people.

Privatizing the Postal Service is not in the public interest or the interest of postal workers and would be nothing more than a raid by corporate pirates on a national treasure.

This outrageous White House plan should be a wake-up call to every postal worker and APWU member. The threats of postal privatization, the threats to decent union jobs, the threats to good services, are real.

The American Postal Workers Union stands with the people of the country and our many allies in the ongoing fight to ensure a vibrant public Postal Service for generations to come.

More information and calls for action will be forthcoming.

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APWU Meets With Federal Task Force Considering Changes to USPS

Web News Article #:

55-2018

06/08/2018

On Tuesday, June 6, APWU President Mark Dimondstein, joined by Legislative and Political Director Judy Beard, Manager of Negotiation Support and Special Projects Phil Tabbita, along with other APWU representatives, met with the White House Task Force on the Postal Service. The task force was presented with a series of union recommendations and supporting materials on how the USPS could improve services, become more financially stable, and continue to remain a treasured public institution offering universal service to all citizens, regardless of where they live or work.

President Trump created the task force In April, as APWU reported at that time. It is being led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Jeff Pons and and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney. The President’s executive order charged the task force with evaluating and reporting on the operations and finances of the United States Postal Service, such as pricing, policies and the costs of the workforce. Its report, which is to contain legislative and executive proposals, is due by August 10.

The executive order is modeled after one President George W. Bush issued in 2002 and came after President Trump released a series of tweets critical of the U.S. Postal Service’s relationship with Amazon. Even more controversial than the Bush-era executive order, Trump said the task force should examine the obligation to provide universal service “in light of changes in technology, e-commerce, marketing practices and customer needs.”

“In our discussions with the task force we spoke some plain truths about what the U.S. Postal Service needs and what it doesn’t,” said Beard. “We also shared materials that we had developed in coordination with other postal unions.”

Among those plain truths:

  • The U.S. Postal Service’s unparalleled national network fulfills the Founders’ directive to bind the nation together, providing affordable, universal service unlike any private entity.
  • The U.S. Postal Service’s workforce represents the nation’s largest civilian employment of veterans, and our work enables a $1.4 trillion dollar mailing industry employing 7.5 million American workers.
  • The U.S. Postal Service operates without a dime of taxpayer money, but Washington’s political malpractice has put it in a financial bind – crushed by a scheme to pre-fund years of retiree healthcare benefits, a burden that no other agency or company must bear.
  • The U.S. Postal Service has already undergone dramatic restructuring since the Great Recession. The U.S. Postal Service has eliminated 200,000 career positions, closed or consolidated hundreds of mail processing facilities, dramatically slowed the mail with lowered service standards, and reduced the hours of operations at 13,000 primarily rural post offices (some as few as two hours a day). APWU emphasized to the task force that USPS managers have cut to the bone and the U.S. Postal Service and its workforce should not be cut further. APWU’s representatives called for a full restoration of service standards that were diminished in 2012.
  • The U.S. Postal Service cannot cut its way to profitability. However, by addressing the congressionally-manufactured prefunding crisis, setting appropriate postage rates, and properly accounting and investing postal funds, USPS can generate the necessary capital to fulfill its obligations, replace its aging vehicle fleet, and provide quality service to the American people.

APWU has joined with other postal unions in developing briefing materials and policy recommendations to present to the task force. While each postal union is meeting with the task force independently, collectively the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association represent more than half a million postal employees who are dedicated to providing affordable service to all Americans, no matter where they live.

As President Dimondstein stated in a recent guest commentary in The Boston Globe,  “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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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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WARNING! Voluntary Early Retirement has Potential Side Effects APWU

WARNING! Voluntary Early Retirement has Potential Side Effects
Web News Article #:
6-2018
01/11/2018 – The Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) recently announced for eligible Clerk Craft employees by the Postal Service has generated many questions from the members of the APWU. The Postal Service published a list of 93 questions and answers shared with our members in an earlier Web article.

Many are asking, “Should I accept early-out retirement?” It is not the place of the national APWU to give advice on whether to retire or not. That is a personal decision. However, it is decision with implications that members should know and consider.

USPS management did not discuss the VER with the APWU in advance of the announcement. APWU national officers initiated a January 10 meeting with postal management to address issues and concerns about the VER including why the VER was not offered to all crafts, the need to halt all plans for excessing in light of the VER and the process in place for retirement counseling. Management has committed to respond to the APWU’s questions which we will share with the membership as received.  In this meeting, the union also pressed its views that:

the Postal Service is not overstaffed, and service to the public is suffering due to understaffing; and,
if the Postal Service moves forward with misguided plans to reduce the workforce, the Postal Service should offer a monetary incentive for those eligible for regular retirement as well employees eligible for an early-out.
Incentives have been offered numerous times in the past for both bargaining unit and supervisory employees.

If you are eligible for the VER, the USPS will be mailing you a packet on January 12th. The packet will have vital information about your opportunity for an early-out. The packet will include your annuity estimate (this is not a guarantee of what your annuity payments will be; OPM makes the final determination of your annuity, and it could be different than the estimated amount provided in your packet) and information about available benefits including eligibility, limits, and costs.  Anyone considering the early-out offer needs to study the packet.

You are eligible for USPS-sponsored retirement counseling – both group and individual.  Information on who to contact and how to arrange counseling will be in the packet. The packet along with your counseling session(s) will explain eligibility for any annuity supplement, your health insurance premiums, how your FEGLI life insurance can change, and other issues.  According to a previous grievance settlement with the APWU, local management must arrange a reasonably private space for employees who wish to receive individual counseling on the clock. Your spouse can participate in the counseling session(s). Take advantage of every opportunity to learn the specifics about your retirement benefits.

Some points to consider when making your decision:

As of now there is no financial incentive to retire early, unlike the 2009 and 2012 VERAs, where incentives were negotiated with the APWU.
In its August 22, 2017 request to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for VERA approval, the Postal Service said that 10,522 APWU represented employees will shortly be “impacted” by “differing personnel actions” and “repositioning initiatives.”
The Postal Service estimates that only 1,712 of the 10,522 APWU represented employees will accept the VER.
Those who apply for the early-out will see financial/income impacts, including:
If you are an employee covered by CSRS, you will have your annuity reduced by 2% for each year you are under age 55.
If you are covered by FERS, you will only earn 1% of your salary as an annuity for each year worked (e.g. if you worked 20 years, your annuity will be 20% of your high-3 average salary).
If you are under the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), you will not receive the Social Security Supplement until you reach the MRA. Find your MRA using this OPM Chart. FERS is a three-legged stool: a modest annuity, social security, and retirement savings in TSP.  If under normal conditions, you retire after reaching the MRA but are not yet eligible for Social Security, you receive an “annuity supplement” to provide that social security leg until you reach the age of sixty-two (62) An “early-out” is different; so, for example, if you are age 50 and your MRA is 57 you will not receive the supplement until you turn age 57.
You will not receive Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) on your annuity until you reach MRA.
With an early retirement you can’t make additional contributions to TSP or receive employer contributions as you would with continued employment.
TSP withdrawal restrictions are not eased for those accepting a VERA.
Your life insurance coverage (FEGLI) may change.  The amounts of coverage may decrease and the costs (if you continue coverage) will likely rise.
Your health insurance premiums will increase if you currently are covered by the Consumer Driven APWU health plan.
Make your decision on complete and accurate information about your retirement benefits.  Postal management has verbally committed to the union that they have no intention of capping the number of employees who can take this VER offer, so there should be no need to rush your decision.

The APWU will continue to share important information on the VER. If you are having trouble getting USPS-provided counselling, you can call the APWU Retirement Department at (877) 279-8669.

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