Friday, July 31, 2009

Rolando Cautions Congress Against Harmful Changes by Postal Service

WASHINGTON - Letter Carriers’ union President Fredric V. Rolando urged Congress today to ensure that structural changes being made in U.S. Postal Service operations due to the nation’s current economic crisis do not cause more harm than good over the long term to its mission of delivering mail to the American people.

Rolando, who assumed the presidency of the 300,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO) on July 4 following the retirement of past President William H. Young, cited a current study by the Postal Service of reducing mail delivery to five days a week, and also its ongoing postal branch and station optimization program.

“Down-sizing to meet depression-level demand without considering the long-term impacts on the ability of the Postal Service to meet new demands when the economy recovers, would be short-sighted,” Rolando told a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia.

“Short-term savings that undermine the Postal Service’s capacity to offer new services and to take advantage of future growth opportunities such as Vote by Mail, e-commerce deliveries, and other potential uses of our incomparable delivery network would be self-defeating,” Rolando added.

Rolando emphasized the NALC’s long history of working with postal management to improve efficiency and adjust to change, including a new dispute resolution process, health and safety initiatives, and the automatic sequencing of letter mail. He noted that the union and management are currently engaged in a joint process to adjust delivery routes in response to the steep decline in mail volume resulting from the current economic crisis.

Rolando said the Postal Service and Congress must look ahead to new ways of boosting postal revenue, using its unmatched delivery network to expand a whole range of valuable services, including everything from Vote by Mail elections to a recent Congressional proposal to use letter carriers to conduct the next Census.

“That is why we must be careful with branch and station consolidations and reject drastic proposals like the elimination of Saturday delivery,” Rolando added. “The cost of lost opportunities from service cuts and other operational changes must be recognized.”

He said Congress can help in the short term by reforming the way the Postal Service prefunds its future retiree health benefits and noted that the current prefunding provisions are both “unaffordable and unreasonable,” costing the Service billions of dollars annually.

Overhauling the prefunding policy and reforming the OPM’s (Office of Personnel Management) policies with respect to the Postal Service must be a part of this reform if the Postal Service is to continue to provide affordable, universal postal service,” the postal union leader concluded.

Union Calls for Campaign To Defeat Anti-Postal Worker Senate Bill Teleconference Set for Aug. 3

APWU Web News Article #088-09, July 30, 2009

APWU President William Burrus has called on APWU locals and state organizations to organize opposition to a Senate bill that contains a provision that would be devastating to postal workers. The Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Funding Reform Act of 2009 (S. 1507) was intended to provide temporary financial relief to the cash-strapped Postal Service, but an amendment to the bill has rendered it unacceptable to postal workers.

Because a vote on the bill is expected early next week, before the Senate adjourns for its August recess, local and state activists must move quickly, Burrus said. The national union will hold a teleconference for local and state leaders on Monday, Aug. 3, at 2 p.m. EDT, to discuss the issue.

“I call on every APWU local to generate messages to their senators based on a 1 to 5 ratio of their members,” Burrus said. “If the bill passes as written, it will destroy collective bargaining for postal workers.”

The amendment would require arbitrators ruling on postal contracts to take into account the “financial health of the Postal Service.”

“Given the severity of Postal Service’s financial crisis, if this bill passes, we can anticipate that in the next round of negotiations, many of the things our members take for granted — such as cost-of-living increases, raises, and protection against layoffs — will be at risk.” Under current law, arbitrators must consider the “comparability” of postal wages to employees in the private sector who perform similar work.

“In fact, arbitrators routinely consider the Postal Service’s financial status as part of the context of negotiations,” Burrus said. “However, to attach this specific requirement to the law leaves workers at a severe disadvantage.

“By singling out this one factor, the amended bill would give the Postal Service’s short-term financial conditions supremacy over all other relevant considerations. It will make the bargaining process subject to all-out manipulation.

“The APWU supported legislation that would have provided the Postal Service with relief from its financial crisis,” Burrus noted, citing the union’s support for H.R. 22. “But relief cannot be on the backs of postal workers who would be forced to accept wages and working conditions commensurate with the USPS deficit.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) — the APWU has supported both in the past — favored the amendment, and voted with committee Republicans for its adoption on at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on July 29.

“We are deeply disappointed that lawmakers voted for this reactionary amendment,” Burrus said. “We will do everything we can to defeat it. We must start by generating 50,000 contacts from postal employees to their U.S. senators.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wisconsin AFL-CIO Supports APWU

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Dave Newby recently wrote letters to our State Legislators urging them to reject S. 1507 as long as it includes the anti-union amendment offered by Senator Tom Coburn where binding arbitration related to labor agreements takes into account the financial health of the USPS. [See letters below for more information]

Click here - to check out the Letters by President Newby

APWU of Wisconsin President Steve Lord has requested that we all write similar letters to our Legislators to urge them to support S. 1507 WITHOUT this poison pill amendment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back in Black - Health Care Reform

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No matter what you think of the proposed Health Care Legislation, many Americans do not have Health Care Coverage. WHY NOT? It's about time something is done to correct this injustice.

Tablet Splitting: A Risky Practice

Some pharmacists have reported that patients have changed the way they take medications because of the downturn in the economy, according to a recent survey by the American Pharmacists Association. This includes skipping doses and splitting tablets in an effort to save money. Regarding the practice of splitting tablets, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Medical Association, and other medical organizations advise against it unless it's specified in the drug's labeling.

Tablet splitting often involves buying higher strength tablets and then breaking the tablets in half or quarter doses as a way to lower drug costs. For instance, a 30 mg tablet may cost the same amount as the 15 mg tablet. So a patient may try to save money by buying the 30 mg tablets and splitting them all in half. This might seem like a smart money-saving strategy, but the practice can be risky.

Why Splitting Tablets is Risky

You might get confused about the correct dose. There have been cases when people have purchased higher strength tablets intending to split them, but then they forgot to split them. Instead, they took the whole tablet. This led to accidentally taking too much medicine.

Equal distribution of medicine in split tablets is questionable. Studies have shown that the actual dose in each half of a split tablet often is different. So while the two halves may look the same, they don't necessarily contain equal amounts of medicine. Even if the tablet is scored with a line that runs down the middle, one half may actually have more medicine than the other.

Some tablets are hard to split. Some tablets are too small to split, may have an unusual shape that makes them hard to split, or may crumble more easily when split. Also, some people may not be able to split tablets correctly. These factors make it difficult to accurately split a tablet.

Not all pills are safe to split. Patients may mistakenly think that any pill can be split. But some pills, such as capsules and time-released drugs, should always be taken whole. For example, some tablets are coated with a substance that helps to release the medicine slowly. Splitting these tablets destroys the coating, which means you might absorb the medicine too fast or not at all.

What if You Still Want to Split a Tablet?

FDA has approved drugs where tablet splitting is part of the manufacturer’s drug application. "If the tablet is approved for splitting, the information will be provided in the drug’s professional prescribing information," says Mansoor Khan, Ph.D., director of the Division of Product Quality Research in FDA's Office of Pharmaceutical Science.

"FDA does not encourage the practice of tablet splitting unless it's specified in the drug’s professional prescribing information. If a patient is considering splitting a tablet, FDA recommends that the patient get advice directly from his or her doctor or pharmacist to determine whether it is appropriate or not for a particular drug."

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Thousands of Union Member Jobs Under Fire by Schwarzenegger, and More Bargaining News

by May Silverstein, Jul 20, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is targeting thousands of state jobs held by union members—and more updates here from the “Bargaining Digest Weekly.” The AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department delivers daily, bargaining-related news and research resources to more than 1,100 subscribers. Union leaders can register for this service through our website, Bargaining@Work.
Source: AFL-CIO Now Blog

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Changes and Challenges

Burrus Update 08-2009, July 14, 2009

(07/14/09) If postal management continues to respond to the current economic crisis by cutting service and slashing the workforce, it risks causing the USPS irreparable harm, APWU President William Burrus writes in an Update for union members. The union president says the APWU will vigorously enforce the Collective Bargaining Agreement as the Postal Service implements new cost-cutting measures. Support from the public and elected officials also are crucial to the survival of the USPS, he said. [full story]

Source: National APWU Site


July 15, 2009

Working families in Wisconsin have struggled for decades under the increasing burden of a broken healthcare system. That is why I am announcing the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO’s support for “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.”

This bill, released Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives, meets President Obama’s goals by controlling runaway health care costs, offering the American people real choices and expanding access to quality health care. It has a high quality public health insurance plan that provides real choices and real competition for private insurance from day one. It calls on corporations to pay their fair share. Like the President’s proposal, it calls on those who can afford it to contribute to funding health coverage expansion – in the House bill through a modest tax surcharge on the wealthiest 1% of Americans. It does not ask ordinary Americans to pay more for what they already have. In fact, this legislation offers the real promise of improving quality, increasing access and reducing costs, all at the same time.

As longtime advocates for major health care reform on the state level, we are thrilled by the prospect of achieving health care for all in our entire country. When Healthy Wisconsin (developed in part by the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO) first passed the State Senate in June 2007, it gained national attention as a model for health care reform and for its measures to ensure that quality health care coverage was affordable to all according to family income. Now we have the historic opportunity to make affordable health care a reality for millions of uninsured Americans and at the same time increase quality and reduce costs for those who currently have health insurance.

On behalf of over 250,000 union members and their families across the state, I applaud the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor Committees for their hard work and solid work product. We especially recognize the contributions of Wisconsin Representatives Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind who served on these Committees, and call on them to support this bill so that reform efforts can move forward smoothly and quickly.

Voters want their elected representatives to guarantee quality affordable health care for all. They want a quality public plan that will provide a real alternative to confusing private plans that profit from denying care and shortchanging coverage. They want everyone to pay their fair share. We urge the House of Representatives to move forward with reform and vigorously resist any attempt to dilute this bill during the legislative process. We call on Congress to act swiftly on health care reform and deliver much needed relief to working families.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

House Committee Approves HR 22

APWU Web News Article #078-09, July 10, 2009

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unanimously approved H.R. 22 on July 10, clearing the way for consideration of the measure by the full House. The bill would provide desperately needed short-term relief to the Postal Service, which is facing a severe financial crisis.

H.R. 22 would modify a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that requires the Postal Service to prefund the healthcare benefits of retirees from its operating budget. The funding obligation — combined with the nation’s economic downturn — has brought the USPS to the brink of insolvency.

The bill would allow the Postal Service to pay a portion of the benefits from the Postal Service Health Benefit Fund for three years, through Fiscal Year 2011, and is expected to save the USPS more than $2 billion per year. The relief provided by H.R. 22 comes “without a single dollar of taxpayer money,” noted APWU Legislative and Political Director Myke Reid.

The House bill has 338 co-sponsors, so adoption by the full House appears certain. However, a companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

APWU President William Burrus praised the vote. “We are pleased by the vote and eager for H.R. 22 to become law,” he said. “But we are mindful of the long-term financial challenges facing the Postal Service.”

Consideration of H.R. 22 by the House is expected before Congress’ August recess.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Click on cartoon to enlarge

Pharmaceutical Industry Spending the Most on Health Care Lobbying

The Washington Post reported on Monday that in the first quarter of this year, health care firms spent more than $126 million to pay for over 350 former lawmakers, congressional staffers and executive branch officials to lobby Congress. To implement its record-breaking influence campaign, the health care industry is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying, according to disclosure records. Industry giant PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, was the biggest spender in the first quarter, coming in at a total of nearly $7 million. Many of the firms lobbying seek to block the legislation that would provide for 46 million uninsured Americans. The employment of insider lobbyists also demonstrates the use of the "revolving door" between public and private sectors. "The numbers reinforce the need for grass roots activists, such as those at the Alliance, to make their voices heard. We need to counter the voices of the corporate lobbyists," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans - Friday Alert

Federal worker safety is focus of U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA nationwide inspection program

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced that it is continuing its nationwide program to emphasize workplace safety and health for federal workers and for those contractors whose work is supervised on a daily basis by federal agency personnel.

The Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program (FEDTARG09) directive provides the procedures OSHA field staff must follow when conducting safety inspections at some of the most hazardous federal workplaces. The federal agencies targeted have experienced a large number of lost time injuries based on data from their fiscal 2008 Office of Workers' Compensation Programs reports.

"OSHA's mission of protecting worker safety doesn't begin and end with private industry," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "It also extends to those who work in federal agencies. This directive is part of OSHA's continued efforts in assuring that the men and women who work to improve the lives of American citizens are provided safe working environments.

"This targeted inspection program was developed in 2008 in response to a Government Accountability Office audit report. Field inspectors conducted 109 inspections of high hazard federal worksites during 2008 and found multiple violations of OSHA safety and health standards. FEDTARG09 continues OSHA's commitment to inspect the occupational safety and health programs of federal organizations. For more information on the directive, visit

OSHA's Office of Federal Agency Programs (FAP) serves as the point of contact for the federal sector regarding occupational safety and health issues. The FAP's purpose is to ensure that each federal agency is provided with guidance for implementing an effective occupational safety and health program. In addition, the FAP provides the president with progress reports on the safety and health programs of federal agencies.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit

OSHA News Release: 06/24/09

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


On July 6th 2009, the five alarm fire continues to blaze at the Smithfield owned, Patrick Cudahy plant in Cudahy, Wisconsin. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1473 (UFCW), represents approximately 1,400 Patrick Cudahy workers at this location.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the workers and their families at the Patrick Cudahy Plant and for the safety of the firefighters. We will work closely with Smithfield management in order to minimize the impact of this fire on our members and their families,” said Local President John Eiden in a statement earlier today.

City officials have evacuated the area surrounding the plant and there is still no word on total damage. As the workers wait for the plant reopening, UFCW Local 1473 has established a hardship fund and is accepting donations to help the Patrick Cudahy workers and their families.

“Local 1473 has a long and proud history of coming to the aid of fellow brothers and sisters in the Labor Community. Today we ask that fellow union brothers and sisters and community members to help our members and their families in the aftermath of this tragic event; in their time of need,” said President Eiden.

If anyone wishes to make a monetary donation to the UFCW – Patrick Cudahy Worker Relief Fund to help the workers and families at the Patrick Cudahy plant make checks payable to Patrick Cudahy Workers Relief Fund care of UFCW Local 1473. The Union is also accepting non-perishable food items.

Please send checks and non-perishable food items to:

Patrick Cudahy Workers Relief Fund
UFCW Local 1473
2001 N. Mayfair Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

Rolando Elevated to Letter Carriers’ Presidency

WASHINGTON - Fredric V. Rolando assumed the presidency of the 300,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO) today, following the retirement of William H. Young after more than 6 1/2 years as head of the postal union.

Rolando, 56, a member of Sarasota, Florida NALC Branch 2148, moved up from his position as the union’s executive vice president under terms of the union’s constitution.

The new president began his postal career 31 years ago as a letter carrier in South Miami, Florida. Holder of a degree in criminology and psychology from Florida International University, he became active in the union because of what he said was the antagonistic way management treated letter carriers.

Recently, Rolando has focused on working with officials of the U.S. Postal Service to restructure delivery routes of mail carriers in a manner that protected their contractual rights as employees while allowing the Postal Service to have flexibility to meet the financial challenges posed by changing communications technology and the economic crisis.

He was first elected to national office as Director of City Delivery by acclamation at the 2002 NALC Convention in Philadelphia, having been appointed to that post in February 2002 by former President Vincent R. Sombrotto to fill a vacancy.

As a member of South Florida Branch 1071, his first union post was as a shop steward in South Miami where he worked. When Rolando relocated to Sarasota in 1984, he soon became chief steward there, and in 1988 was elected president of Sarasota Branch 2148. Rolando later served as director of education for the Florida State Association of Letter Carriers and as a full-time Regional Administrative Assistant for NALC’s Atlanta Region before coming to Washington as a national officer. Rolando and his wife, Jolene, currently reside in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They have two daughters and two sons.

Source: NALC

Friday, July 3, 2009

Consolidating Stations

APWU Web News Article #076-09, July 1, 2009

At a meeting at USPS Headquarters on June 23, the Postal Service briefed APWU Clerk Craft officers [PDF Powerpoint presentation] about plans to consolidate operations in large stations and branches. Managers also provided the union with an updated list [Excel spreadsheet] of 3,243 stations and branches in Level-24-and-above installations that are being reviewed.

At the briefing, postal officials said that among the stations under review, 740 already had been identified as candidates for consolidation and/or closing. (The Postal Service has not yet provided the list to the APWU; when it does, the list will be posted at [Full Story]

A Message from Sen. Kohl on Health Care

I hope you enjoy receiving these updates about my work on behalf of Wisconsin. It is an honor to represent you in the U.S. Senate. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at or at 1-800-247-5645.


s/Herb Kohl

President Barack Obama recently paid a visit to our state to talk about the urgent need for comprehensive health care reform. He continued to make his case, and as your senator, I can tell you that President Obama is absolutely right. The time for health reform is now.

We have fallen far behind other nations that provide coverage to all their citizens and still deliver better quality care at lower cost. We desperately need to catch up before health care costs threaten to destroy us. America spends more on health care than any other country, yet in 2004 we ranked 26th in life expectancy and 32nd in infant mortality.

The high cost of health care is also affecting our economy and our ability to compete in the global marketplace. Studies have shown that slowing the growth of health spending and expanding coverage to the uninsured would create as many as 500,000 jobs a year and provide a net gain of $100 billion a year to our economy.

Our federal budget is not the only thing straining under health care’s skyrocketing costs. The cost of health care is threatening the ability of businesses, particularly small businesses, to stay afloat. Providing health care benefits to employees has become harder for business owners as the cost eats up more of their budget.

Families are feeling the pain of health care costs, perhaps the most. Over the past nine years, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have more than doubled, growing six times faster than wages. Many are finding they are just one bad illness away from financial ruin, with nearly two-thirds of all personal bankruptcies caused by medical expenses. It’s no wonder, with these exorbitant costs, that we have over 70 million Americans either without health insurance or without enough health insurance.

We must reduce the cost of health care and improve its quality now. While those two crucial goals seem to be in opposition, the fact is they are very much in line. Lately, there has been a lot of media attention on how it costs two to three times as much to fund a Medicare recipient in some American cities than it does in others. Those studying the health system have come to the conclusion that health care quality does not increase with higher spending.

In fact, researchers have shown health care costs in places like LaCrosse and Green Bay are much lower than the national average, yet quality is better than the national average. If we could reform health care in our country to be more efficient, as Wisconsin has done in many areas, we could save billions of dollars, we could help businesses remain competitive, and we could spare families from anguish and financial damage.

Plans are beginning to form on how to improve the health care system, and I believe reform must include some mandatory conditions. We need to move toward paying for value instead of volume. We must eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse from the system. We should expand prevention and wellness education to help nip potential health problems in the bud, rather than treating people once health problems have developed.

As we create a more efficient, higher quality health care system, we must expand coverage to all our citizens. And, again, contrary to conventional wisdom, it will save us money to do so. When the uninsured cannot afford to pay the cost for the health care they desperately need, these costs are shifted to those who can pay. Doctors and hospitals do this by charging insurers more for the services provided for patients who have health insurance, and the insurers pass on these shifted costs in the form of higher premiums for consumers and businesses that purchase health insurance, resulting in a “hidden tax” at a cost of roughly $1000 per family, per year. Expanding coverage also means helping small businesses and the self-employed find quality, affordable coverage, and ensuring that vulnerable Americans who have had health problems in the past are not denied coverage in the future.

While our goal is to reduce the growing costs of health care, we’re going to make sure that those who like their current health coverage can keep it. Others who are in need of better coverage will have more choices. Ideally, I think health reform should include some type of a public option. After all, millions of seniors are happy with their government-sponsored Medicare coverage. There are many proposals on the table, and I am confident that we will end up with one that won’t undermine current health providers, will not rely on government subsidies, and will garner bipartisan support. I believe we can reach consensus on this and all of the critical issues in health reform if we don’t get caught up in ideological labels and work together for the good of the country.

More efficiency hand-in-hand with higher quality; more coverage leading to lower costs—it can all seem like a pipe dream. But we know it’s not, because Wisconsin is providing a model for these very goals. President Obama came here because he knows that if every city in America boasted a system like LaCrosse’s or Green Bay’s, or the many other Wisconsin health systems that are doing it right, our country’s health care system would be much-improved.

Franken Wins!

Tuesday afternoon, after a grueling recount process, former Sen. Norm Coleman finally conceded defeat and congratulated Al Franken on his Senate victory in Minnesota. Franken is a longtime union member and supporter of workers' rights.Sen. Franken is expected to take a seat on the powerful Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, where he will play a key role in health care reform.

Additionally, his full support for the Employee Free Choice Act brings us that much closer to securing 60 Senate votes for workers' freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.

— Marc Laitin,
AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator

Senate Panel Questions Private Insurers' Credibility, Shows Need for a Public Plan

As the public health plan option, adamantly opposed by insurers, is considered in the Senate, the Senate Commerce Committee released a report last week exposing greedy and dishonest acts by insurance companies. The report showed the industry's obvious motives to profiteer at the expense of sick people. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV) released the findings as part of a multi-pronged assault on the credibility of private insurers and as evidence of the need for a public plan. The Committee also heard testimonials last week from three health care specialists, including the former vice president of communications at big insurer Cigna. Witnesses stated that insurers sell "junk" policies that do not cover needed care.

Moreover, insurers have deliberately instilled confusion upon consumers by using Ingenix, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth, in order to systematically underpay for out-of-network care, placing an additional burden on many patients who pay higher premiums in order to use doctors and hospitals outside their insurer's network. As a result, consumers have paid billions of dollars in medical bills that were supposed to be paid by insurers. "We must create a public plan. Private insurers cannot be allowed to continue turning their backs on the sick costumers who need them most desperately," said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Source: July 3, 2009 issue of the Friday Alert