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APWU President Mark Dimondstein's Opening Remarks for 2024 Contract Negotiations


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Opening Day Comments – National Negotiations -- June 25, 2024

By APWU President and Lead Negotiator Mark Dimondstein

The American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO welcomes this opportunity to represent approximately 200,000 postal workers in these important negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between our union and the United States Postal Service.

For generations postal workers were denied our right to negotiate over wages, benefits, and conditions of employment. Instead, workers were compelled to engage in what we called “collective begging” to Congress -- and our livelihoods were subject to the whims of politicians and political parties.

That changed 54 years ago, when postal workers won true collective bargaining rights resulting from the Great Postal Strike of 1970. Since that historic strike, postal workers’ lives have vastly improved. Now representatives of our union sit across the bargaining table from management as equals – not because we have important titles – but because we have a union sustained and supported by our members. In that sense all our members are present today at the bargaining table today.

Every round of negotiations takes place in the context of the times. Three years ago, we negotiated in the shadow of the pandemic. During that time, postal workers courageously stepped up to the challenge as front-line essential workers and, under severe stress, carried out our invaluable mission to the people with great dedication – at a time when the people needed us the most. Our dedication to the postal mission carries on day in and day out, whether in times of pandemics and natural disasters or more “normal” times, and postal workers have earned, and deserve, a good and improved union contract.

Today, we are negotiating against a backdrop of both high inflation, with its profound negative impact on workers and our families, along with rising worker militancy throughout the country. Delivery, warehouse, auto, railroad, retail, hotel, manufacturing, grocery, healthcare and education workers have been rising up demanding more of their fair share from employers, all while galloping income inequality enriches the billionaire class. They are fighting, and often striking, to win substantial gains to overcome years of concessionary contracts and falling behind financially. Many of these battles have been focused on ending divisive two-tier wage and benefit systems and getting ahead of the rising cost of food, fuel and housing.

In the 2010 collective bargaining agreement, the APWU and the USPS voluntarily reached a deeply concessionary contract for postal workers. Now any objective observer would see these significant concessions as a failure, for both the workers and the wellbeing of the Postal Service. The two-tier wage system which has many workers doing the same work but at significantly lower pay scales causes division, low morale and discriminates against newer and younger workers. Lower wage structures, including the non-career workforce, make it harder for the Postal Service to hire and retain needed positions, and undermines the stability of the workforce, once a mainstay of the Postal Service. There is a direct connection between these problems and the disturbing and deepening delays in mail service.

We welcome the progress we have made in the last three rounds of bargaining in overcoming some of the deep concessions from the 2010 contract, including bridging some of the gaps in the tiered wage structure, a better path to career for non-career workers and creating an all-career workforce in the Maintenance Craft and essentially in Motor Vehicle Service craft. But there is more work to do.

Obviously, this opening session is not the time to get into specific proposals we will make regarding the issues most important to the postal workers we represent.  The “Main Table” will begin meeting today to begin that process. 

However, generally speaking, the APWU has clear and transparent goals:

As postal workers pour our lifeblood into the institution and its mission, workers deserve good annual pay increases, stronger safety rights, an end to the unfair and divisive two-tier career pay scales, limits on subcontracting, a career workforce, and better work hour guarantees and rights for Part Time Flexibles. We advocate that all bargaining unit work in retail be returned to the Clerk Craft and that all the work bargained for in “Jobs Memos” of 2010 finally be returned to the workers as promised. In the light of the impact of profound and rapid technological changes on our jobs, it is high time for a shorter workweek with no loss of pay. And of course, the union strives to protect the hard-won gains and job security provisions secured over generations and for dignity and respect on the job. We will be putting forth proposals to address these and many other issues and concerns.

While negotiations will undoubtedly be difficult and at times contentious, let me share a few examples where there should be much common ground:

A toxic work environment permeates too many facilities - a long-standing problem in the culture of postal management that cries out for solutions.  In good faith we negotiated the “Work Environment Task Force” Memo to address this issue, but it has proven to be a failure. It takes two to tango -- and the management side never looked at the task force as an opportunity to make needed change. Much of the answer depends on the highest levels of management holding managers fully accountable for abuse, whether it is sexual harassment, threats, or bullying,

Management should desire to address the endless stream of grievances resulting from constant violations of the union contract. Repeat violators must be held accountable for their flagrant violations and the substantial and unnecessary costs they inflict on the Postal Service, as well as the hardship and anxiety visited upon our members.

In addition, management should promote full compliance when issues are settled, whether at Step 1 of the grievance process or arbitration. Continuing battles over settled matters undermine the very intent of our contract to resolve issues at the lowest possible level and that settlements are finding and binding. Those who refuse to comply should no longer be in positions of authority.

The union is deeply disturbed by the declining service to the postal patrons. Management ought to share that concern and should be open to considering the union’s proposals to fix the service problems, including the need for proper staffing. Declining service jeopardizes our bond with the people of the country, drives away needed revenue and opens the gates for those who want to privatize the Postal Service.

These are just some examples of where the parties, with common ground, should work to resolve problems.

The APWU approaches these negotiations as an opportunity to promote our vision for a vibrant public Postal Service and expanded postal services for the people of the country. Our members and our union are passionate about the crucial mission of the public Postal Service, as outlined in the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act: “To provide postal services to bind the Nation together,” to “provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas,” and to “render postal services to all communities.”

This mission remains in jeopardy, by those on Wall Street who would like to get their hands on the Postal Service’s $78 billion plus in annual revenue, and by ideologues who oppose the very concept of the public good.

Yes, we have welcomed opportunities of cooperation with Postmaster General DeJoy as we sought and secured vital postal reform legislation, to expand postal services, return of subcontracted work and in addressing short staffing in mail processing. Yet, there are far too many management practices, some inherited, which have led to severely degraded services, delayed mail, the driving away of customers and revenue. Moving the goalposts on service standards, long-distance consolidation of mail processing and the implementation of network changes are causing havoc and failing to meet the needs of the postal public

In addition to some of the general goals I have outlined, the APWU will put forth proposals for improving and expanding financial and other services, from improving certain delivery standards, reactivating Express Mail Services, expanding the network and hours of service, proper staffing, keeping local mail local.

We are keenly aware that the Postal Service is still facing serious challenges, including the impact of technology and the internet on the communication habits of the people of the country and the profound and permanent changes to the mail mix - letters are down while packages are up. Such changes create both hardships and hope.

While we recognize some of the financial challenges, the finances of the USPS are no longer weighed down by the draconian prefunding mandate from 2006, now eliminated by the 2022 PSRA. In addition, some PRC relief on the price cap has uplifted the finances and the soon to be implemented “Medicare integration” will help the “bottom line” of both employees and the USPS.

Management should never forget APWU-represented postal workers voluntarily agreed to over $4 billion of deep wage and benefit concessions in the 2010-2015 contract, resulting in significant and ongoing cost reductions for the Postal Service that carry forward to this day,

As we look to the future there are competing visions for the Postal Service. One professes that, in the day of the internet, the Postal Service is a relic of the past. Those who want to destroy us, often funded by the likes of UPS, use these changes to advocate for the breaking up and privatizing of the Postal Service, as did the previous White House administration.

Postal workers’ and the APWU’s vision are for a robust and vibrant postal service for generations to come. Those in postal management who believe in the public Postal Service, and I know many of you do, should not be afraid of creative thinking and bold action as we discuss various ways to enhance and expand postal services, rather than play into the hands of those who would like to destroy us on the altar of private profit.  

This is the fourth round of bargaining in which I am privileged to be the union’s lead negotiator. Each time I have been reminded that former PMG Donohoe shamefully advocated that young workers don’t deserve traditional defined-benefit retirement plans, job security and stable employment and called on Congress to use the Postal Service as “an incubator” for destroying decent jobs. These harmful views found their way into the December 2018 White House “Postal Task Force” recommendations. And much of this thinking led to the formation of the non-career workforce.

We vehemently oppose this “race to the bottom.” We believe that the Postal Service should indeed be an incubator, but as it has been for decades, an incubator of good, living-wage union jobs for workers from all walks of life, with equal pay for equal work for women and minorities and solid job opportunities for veterans and an incubator of great public service to every community including new and expanded services for the people of the country.

The key to the Postal Service’s successful and bright future remains the hard work and dedication of hundreds of thousands of postal workers – from those who sell postage and accept packages, to those who sort medicine and catalogues, to those who transport the mail and repair the vehicles, to those who maintain the equipment and facilities, to those who deliver the mail. These negotiations are an opportunity for management to reward our dedication and hard work.

We recognize and appreciate that in the 2021 round of bargaining, management approached the negotiations in good faith, as did the APWU. The bargaining was hard, but we reached a fair, voluntary agreement, without concessions, that reflected those good faith efforts. We certainly hope that management will approach this round of bargaining with the same spirit. For our part, we will approach these negotiations with a passion for the workers we represent and the public we serve. We will forthrightly share our proposals and be honest in our dealings. We will work hard to achieve a negotiated collective bargaining agreement, subject to approval by our Rank & File Bargaining Advisory Committee and the ratification of our members.

We enter these negotiations as part of a movement of friends and allies to protect and enhance a vital and wonderful national treasure that remains a cornerstone in every community. As we meet here on opening day, thousands of APWU members around the country are taking up our mantra, “Good Contract Now! Union Proud, Say It Loud!”  as we work to advance the well-being of current and future postal workers, our families and our communities.

The APWU is ready to get to work!

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