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.”