Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Workers Memorial Day 2011: APWU Honors Those Killed or Injured on the Job

APWU Web News Article 046-2011, April 20, 2011

Each year, the APWU and the labor movement honors hard-working Americans killed or injured on the job and renews the fight for better health and safety protections in the workplace.

On April 28, the union joins the AFL-CIO in observing Workers Memorial Day on the 40th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). This year’s theme is Safe Jobs Save Lives: Our Work’s Not Done.

Despite the gains that have been made in the past four decades in ensuring safe workplaces, thousands of workers are still killed on the job, and millions more suffer from work-related injuries and illnesses.

“Unregulated and uncontrolled job hazards put workers in serious danger and cost lives,” AWPU Cliff Guffey said. “We must continue the fight to ensure every worker has the right to a safe job.”

This past year, the Postal Service was scrutinized for numerous willful and serious safety violations, including exposing employees to electrical hazards, under-recording illnesses and injuries in the workplace, and risking workers’ health from risks posed by Delivery Bar Code Sorter Machine operation. OSHA fined the USPS millions of dollars for these violations, and inspections are ongoing.

Although the union and our allies have fought hard for tougher enforcement on serious violations, proposed new safeguards for workplace hazards, and won protections that have made jobs safer, many anti-labor representatives are attacking these measures and trying to slash the budget for job safety enforcement and standards.

“No stone must be left unturned in our efforts to protect workers,” Guffey said. “On April 28, let us pause to remember those who have suffered and rededicate ourselves to safety on the job.”

For Workers Memorial Day materials and suggestions for how to organize an observance, please visit the AFL-CIO Web site.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What would happen if…?

Keeping a Tight Line

With Local Business Agent Peggy Whitney

What would happen if my next pay check was reduced by 10 percent? image

What would happen if my next pay check was reduced by 10 percent and my share of health insurance premiums increased by 50 percent on my next paycheck and every paycheck? What would happen to my actual take home pay?

What would happen to my retirement pension account if my contributions to my Thrift Savings Plan were no longer matched by my employer? What would happen to my retirement?

What would happen if, in addition to the reductions in my pay, pension and health care benefits, my earned sick leave and annual leave was also reduced by 50 percent, and What would happen if I was a young female with a difficult pregnancy or a middle aged man recovering from knee surgery and needed light duty work for 3-4' weeks and my boss told me "there isn't any such thing as light duty-Go Home !"?

What would happen to my bills and my mortgage payment?

What would happen if my 25 years of service was no longer considered Seniority, and

What would happen if there was no such thing as Seniority so, I couldn't bid for jobs, work locations or even work schedules?

What would happen if there is no such thing as Seniority so, Management could mandate me to work, massive overtime, every single holiday, or placed me on a work schedule I couldn't work, and

What would happen if I absolutely couldn't work when Management mandated me to, or I made a mistake and forgot to scan a parcel, and I was fired?

What would happen if I was fired from my job after 25 years of Service and I went to my Union to file a grievance and

I didn't have a Union?

What Would Happen to Me?

What Would Happen to You?

Source: PPA Reprint - The Northern Light (Minneapolis Area Local APWU)

Another Perspective

By: Donald L. Foley

Full member, retired

I’ve read the comments of former president Bill Burrus on the tentative Agreement. And it seems no great surprise he has criticized it. You may have heard the rumors I did that Brother Burrus thought he ought to have been kept on for contract negotiations after the end of his term of office and that he told the Executive Board that, should the contract go unresolved to arbitration, the Union should hire him with an appointment as our arbitrator for the panel. Instead, the new Executive Board did as it should – took upon itself the full weight of securing a new National Agreement. And it would seem, it has been successful. That Brother Burrus disagrees with one aspect of the economic package merely reflects the tunnel vision that dominated his involvement in contract negotiations during his tenure.

As I have suggested previously, the Union has hamstrung itself for one negotiation after another by pandering, to the near exclusion of all other matters, to the obvious desire of the members for pay raises. Not that there is anything wrong with pay raises. Everyone wants to earn more for what we do. I’ve defended the professional athletes’ enormous pay packages, because they have derived from the effort to force ownership to share the enormous profits derived from the exercise of those workers’ skills. But, when the APWU has focused so narrowly on pay raises, it has done so at the expense of a great many other pressing issues. For thirty years it should have been obvious that there were problems in the workplace that, though demanding of correction, went ignored when the contract was negotiated (or arbitrated) every few years.

And, while Brother Burrus would place himself in the company of Stu Filbey and other great leaders of this Union, contract reality shows stagnation in National Agreement negotiations for thirty years. The APWU National Agreement – originally negotiated by a team representing the joint efforts of all the great Unions/Craft organizations – was a work of art perhaps unmatched by anything in labor management negotiation of a first contract anywhere. It established rights and procedures to protect the bargaining unit that were reflective both of long-held labor principles and of what was then the thought that the federal government ought to act as a model employer. And it was perfected (though with some difficulties and some setbacks even then) in the next couple Agreements. Thus, the great contract under which hundreds of thousands of postal workers have worked and been protected was that created prior to 1980 – not by Brother Burrus or Brother Moe Biller, who first reached national office as the Biller-Burrus-Richards ticket in the 1980 elections. Since that time what dominated each successive contract negotiation was – how much more money are we going to get? And little attention was paid to our other issues.

Is it right that we have negotiated for future workers a less advantageous pay scale? For their long-term economic benefit, perhaps not; but on that point, all we can do is speculate. Consider that Burrus negotiated into the last National Agreement a transfer of jobs from career bargaining unit jobs to non-career, non-bargaining unit jobs; and consider that the last National Agreement did nothing to stem the persistent outflow of jobs from the Postal Service. How well did these factors of the last Agreement serve the interests of future postal workers – some of whom would never become career, some of whom would never even be postal workers? Not only does the new tentative Agreement eliminate the casual employment that Burrus helped to bolster, but it also creates a career path based on seniority for the new bargaining unit non-career assistant (NCA) workers. So, if one wanted to speculate about the cost to future workers, one would also have to speculate on such things as – how many more workers we will have; how many of those workers will be career instead of casual; how their pay scales may eventually be improved as this dismal economy regains its strength.

And, speaking of this economy, I cannot see any rational expectation that arbitration of this National Agreement could have accomplished a positive economic outcome, nor would it have achieved the bold initiatives we see in this Agreement. Additionally, there is simply no reason to suppose the economy will improve much any time soon. There are far too many factors in play, far too much damage has been done in the transfer of wealth to the wealthy, far too little political will exists for real job creation. In other words, the Union had to work with the hand we were dealt.

I fully expect I will have some good reason to offer specific criticism of some of the terms of this New Agreement – that seems evident from the highlights and talking points being presented. However, a full assessment of this Agreement cannot be made without having the opportunity to read and digest the entirety of it. Looking forward to that opportunity when the full tentative Agreement is published, let me urge every member to exercise due diligence and study what has been negotiated and then, VOTE.

The Extreme Conservative’s Warped Philosophy Forecasts a Destructive Path for Country

Time to focus on the realities

By Kevin Gallagher, General President, Scranton, PA

YOU are responsible for YOURSELF! Stop asking for help and being a drain on all of us! If you are not happy with your pay, benefits, etc., then get a second job. If you already have one, then have your wife get a second job and improve your lot. Having trouble raising and educating your children? Child rearing and education are YOUR problem as we can't be expected to help when such severe financial problems exist. Are your parents having difficulty with energy costs and living expenses? Then YOU help them. That is what was done decades ago before Social Security and Medicare. Families took in their parents when they got old and could not afford to live alone. Yes, the oil companies got $58 billion this year from the government and will get at least that much next year. Natural gas drilling in our state is not taxed and won't be. So get over it! While much of our natural gas goes to China, realize that exploration and drilling are expensive and thus financial support is needed. If we do not subsidize this, the cost of gas and energy could be much higher.

Medicine and medical care getting too expensive? Get a second job! Research and development is expensive and unless the drug industry can return profits to investors, the investors will put their money elsewhere and drugs could be even more expensive. Health insurance cost too much? Insurance companies have a right in our capitalist economy to make as much profit as possible. You voted against socialist medical care and this is capitalism at its purest -make as much profit as possible. Unions were good in their time many decades ago, but in this time of huge economic turmoil, our society just can't afford public and federal unions with their wages and benefits that are so much better than the private sector. Taxpayers can't afford this system anymore so collective bargaining will be done away with. First, the State public Unions and then the Federal Unions will be reduced or eliminated. And again, YOU are responsible for YOU, so we will stop this socialist Union system and YOU will be free to negotiate with your employer for YOURSELF. This is the capitalism that you voted for.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be addressed later this year. Medicare and Medicaid are a drain on the economy so they will be greatly reduced or eliminated. The average age expectancy in our country is nearly 77 years and people can begin receiving Social Security (at a reduced rate) at age 62. That is 15 years that people can withdraw benefits that we have to pay for. So we will reduce the benefits currently being received by the elderly, raise the age at which you can qualify for benefits, reduce future benefits, and increase what people pay into this system. We won't eliminate it yet, but the very word SOCIAL in Social Security stands for socialism and we intend to gradually privatize it or do away with it in the name of capitalism -what you voted for.

Understand we are doing what we said we would do in our campaign pledges and if you don't like it, too bad! Get over it and realize that YOU are responsible for YOU; and that pure capitalism has no room for social or moral ideals; so move on!

NOW -Once you see through the rhetoric, cut through the slanted commercials and realize the vague campaign slogans were merely a smoke screen, this is the brutal real message of the State and National Republican Party. If you do not understand this message of the Republicans then I fear you are misguided and blinded by ideology or lack common sense. It is not my intent to anger anyone, but this is what I truly believe. The facts are what they are, and they must be viewed in the clear light of logic and common sense.

A simple joke shows the clear intent and philosophy of the Republican Party A corporate CEO, a Tea Party member and a Union worker are sitting at a table. There is a plate in front of them with a dozen cookies on it. The corporate CEO takes 11 cookies and then tells the Tea Party member "Watch out for that Union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie!"

Unfortunately, I fear our members who have less than 27 years of service face the prospect that their collective bargaining rights will be reduced or completely taken away and this will significantly shrink wages, benefits and retirement plans. This is because the Republican Party, at all levels, continues to act on their philosophy of catering to wealthy elitists and subsidizing corporations at YOUR direct expense while attacking Unions. YOU face a future that may be much less comfortable than your past.

I have said for years that we must act by registering to vote and voting for our jobs and futures, only to speak to members at election time and hear they "didn't have time to vote" or voted Republican because of some ideological reason that defies the logic of voting for your job and future. This apathy and lack of logic is now coming back to haunt everyone.

Moreover, I have said for years that we must support our union through COP A donations to lobby Congress for us and to support and elect those politicians who support us. While the Scranton APWU always surpasses the COPA goals, I am ' disheartened at the refusal by many members to donate to the only organization that fights for them. It's time to donate to COPA, or those few dollars you save now will be nothing compared to what you will lose as the Republican Party comes after you!

Source: PPA Reprint 101 Facts

Who is the Real Enemy?

The Lion’s Den Written by Leo Persails


America has a lot of enemies now, maybe even more than any other time in history. It’s never hard to determine our enemies from the outside; almost every American could list them. The enemies from within and all around us are the hard ones to identify. Most of us are too busy making a living or just getting by in the present economy to find the time to really pinpoint them. We rely on the news media and those of importance to let us know those things.

Recently we have been bombarded from the media with stories about Public Service Employees. We are being shown figures of their salaries compared to private sector jobs. Were being told they are making a lot more than the private sector. It’s not just their salaries, it’s their retirements and their healthcare costs that are breaking state and national budgets, so the news media reports. Is that the truth? Did you consider that you or someone like you doesn’t own or operate the news corporations? News corporations are owned and operated by multimillionaires, and actually most of them, when sold, sell for billions. Do they report the news, or do they slant it for corporate America? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I have been around long enough to know that news reporters’ treatment of the news has changed over the years. It’s been a long time since we have heard, Good night Chet, Goodnight David, and the type of news they presented.

While the news media has spent a lot of time lately trying to convince you and me that Public Service Employees are to blame for the budget shortfalls and our high taxes, I m not convinced. Are Public Service Employees our real enemy, and why are we being told that? A better question is who is telling us that? We see it in the news, but who is saying it? Who started this new argument about the American enemy that causes taxes and budget shortfalls?

The news media may be reporting it and they may even be slanting it, but NON service public employees are the ones that invented it and are pursuing it. Yes, NON service public employees, the ones with the BIGGEST retirements, the BEST healthcare, and the LARGEST salaries, are the ones pointing the finger. They legislated their own personal retirements, healthcare, and salaries for themselves. They are also the ones trying to convince you that the real Public Service Employees are the enemy.

REAL Public Service Employees are the ones that serve us on a daily basis. They protect our streets and our homes from crimes. They protect our neighborhoods from fires. They teach our children and grandchildren. They repair and keep our roads, storm sewers, and street lights on. They keep our planes and airways safe. They protect our food and our medicines. They sort, transport and deliver mail, and secure our communications better than the Internet ever could. ARE THEY THE REAL ENEMY?

Let’s consider the NON service public employees, those ones pointing fingers and claiming Public Service Employees are the enemy. They are the ones that AFTER TWO YEARS in Congress qualify under THEIR laws, for LIFETIME retirement and healthcare. They are the governors and state legislators who have the best retirements and healthcare in the state, far better than any school teacher, police officer, or firefighter. They are the ones that spend their full time making laws after 200+ years of laws have already been made. Most of those laws are new ways to reach into our pockets, like cameras at traffic lights, or seat belts when all new cars have air bags. They are the ones that start the wars over weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Wars that we can’t get out of that now cost us 12 billion dollars a month. WHO IS THE REAL ENEMY HERE?

NON service public employees don’t repair any roads, protect any streets, put out any fires, or teach any children. They are the greatest drain on our taxes for their healthcare, retirements, expenses, offices, travel, and salaries. Yes I know, it isn’t all of the NON service public employees that are attacking our Public Service Employees, but it’s not hard to figure which ones are, just watch the news, and determine who you think is the real enemy.

In Solidarity....