One striking feature of the current labor resurgence is a trend for greater openness during national contract negotiations. This year the Auto Workers (UAW) at the Big 3 and Teamsters at UPS have provided members with detailed information about their bargaining proposals. But the Letter Carriers (NALC) has yet to embrace this modern approach. The union is still clinging to the outdated practice of closed-door negotiations. This year the NALC is engaged in negotiations with the Postal Service (USPS) for a new national contract. The parties are currently in a 60-day mediation period with possible arbitration looming.
US Postal Service
More than 90,000 rural letter carriers for the United States Postal Service (USPS) are battling changes to their compensation which have led to massive pay cuts and longer workweeks. The replacement of the pre-existing method of calculating rural carriers’ hours and wages has resulted in wage cuts as high as $20,000 a year in some cases. Rural carriers’ attempts to challenge and prove any discrepancies between their actual work and what is calculated by the new system have been derailed by the USPS’s refusal to disclose the year-long electronic collection of data used by the system which they alone control.
Letter carriers got a glimpse of what a fighting strategy to win a strong contract could look like when 150 workers and supporters rallied in downtown Minneapolis April 2 under the banner “Staffing, Safety, and Service—Letter Carriers Need a Raise!” Members highlighted the root causes of the staffing crisis: mandatory overtime, pay that hasn’t kept up with inflation or with industry competitors like UPS, a toxic working environment at many stations created by bullying tactics from management, and overall poor working conditions that have led to huge attrition rates of new hires.
Across the country and here in Portland, Oregon, carriers are working 12-, 14-, and 16-hour days, into the dark as late as 9 p.m., 10 p.m., even midnight! At several stations we have begun to bring the mail back at 12 hours (or 10 hours) and stop work at 60 hours in a week. We are refusing orders to continue delivering. Filing form 1767 (hazardous conditions, “exhausted”) and form 1571 (undelivered mail). And we are getting away with it. We heard it through the grapevine. Several carriers in Seattle refused to carry past 12 hours and brought the mail back. Their discipline (for “insubordination”) was overturned because management had violated not only Article 8.5G (Hours of Work) but also Article 14 (Safety and Health). The leadership of Letter Carriers Branch 79 (Seattle) created a pamphlet, distributed to all carriers, titled “Stop Working More Than 12 Hours a Day!” with a section on “How to bring back the mail.”
Our nation’s year-round celebration of former military service by 19 million Americans reaches its apex every Nov. 11 (aka Veterans Day). On that occasion, there is no louder “thank you for your service” heard throughout the land than the expression of gratitude which emanate from businesses, large and small. Men and women who enlisted in the military—or were draftees before conscription was suspended after the Vietnam War—suddenly become eligible for all kinds of special consumer discounts. As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, a military historian, observes, “corporate virtue signaling” on Nov. 11 takes the form of “an abundance of good deals: free coffee, free doughnuts, free pizza, free car washes, and as much as 30 percent off on assorted retail purchases.”
Naples, Florida - A simple grievance can take many months to get results. But at the post office where I work, we got fast results defending our breaks with a different approach: direct action. I’m a city carrier assistant (CCA)—part of the lower-paid second tier of letter carriers—in Naples, Florida. The retention rate for CCAs nationwide hovers around 20 percent. Letter carriers start each day by sorting the mail and loading it into our trucks. In my post office, Mondays through Saturdays we take our first 10-minute break together inside the office, with the air conditioning, before heading out to start deliveries. We used to take our breaks together on Sundays, too. We would chip in for donuts and coffee, a sign of our camaraderie. But in April, the Postal Service implemented a new way of doing the Sunday package runs.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy may have broken federal conflict of interest laws by holding investments in a company with federal government contracts for COVID rapid test kits, according to a government watchdog’s analysis of the embattled Trump appointee’s financial disclosures. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) found in a report released last week that DeJoy owns roughly between $50,000 and $250,000 of stock in Abbott Laboratories, which produces the popular BinaxNow COVID testing kits. Earlier this year, federal officials awarded Abbott a $306 million contract for test kits as part of the government’s plan to send households free tests through the United States Postal Service (USPS). Abbott also recently won a contract modification for over $1 billion for test kits.
Congress recently passed the Postal Service Reform Act - the result of 15 years of organizing to end the mandate to prefund 75 years worth of retirement benefits and other changes that were hurting the people's post office. The new act opens the door to building on the current postal infrastructure to provide more services to people, especially in poor and rural communities. Clearing the FOG speaks with Chuck Zlatkin, the legislative and political director of the largest local postal worker union, about what the new law will do and how it was won. Zlatkin also discusses the fight over making the new postal fleet electric and Biden's new nominees to the Board of Governors. Zlatkin warns us not to underestimate the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who is playing a long game to privatize the postal service.
A postal reform bill that passed Congress this week could offer another opportunity to install a postal banking system in the United States, according to a review by the Prospect. While the $107 billion in savings from ending the Postal Service’s prefunding of retirement benefits and moving postal retirees onto Medicare has received most of the headlines, Section 103 of the bill, subsection 3704, restates USPS authority to partner to “provide property and nonpostal services” to federal government agencies, as long as whatever results raises revenue for the Postal Service. This would appear to supersede one aspect of a ban on non-postal products from the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and could pave the way to providing services that mirror a bank account for any American who wants one.
Today, in a 79-19 vote the Senate passed the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 (H.R. 3076). Following House passage on Feb. 8, the bill will now be sent to President Biden for his signature to become law. “This is a monumental victory for letter carriers and all Americans who depend on the Postal Service for affordable and high-quality universal service,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “I want to congratulate and thank all the NALC members who lobbied their members of Congress to win passage in the Senate and the House. Thanks to your support, dedication and action, bipartisan postal reform, that was 12 years in the making, has finally passed in both chambers.” This bipartisan legislation will improve the financial stability of the Postal Service.
USPS has a public service mandate to provide a similar level of service to communities across the country regardless of local economic conditions. In addition to daily mail delivery to far-flung locations, the Postal Service maintains post offices even in low-income urban neighborhoods and small towns that lack other basic services. The Postal Service is able to fulfill its mission while keeping postage rates low due to economies of scale. Once the fixed costs of post offices and delivery are covered, the additional cost of new services is often minimal. If it weren’t prevented from doing so, the Postal Service could take advantage of underused capacity and build on Americans’ trust in the Postal Service to offer new services to the public while bringing needed revenue to the agency.
New York City - When the United States Postal Service launched a test program in September allowing people with business or payroll checks to get them loaded onto gift cards at four neighborhood post offices, it was seen as a primitive precursor to a postal banking system. But in order for the test to be successful and mature into a pilot, it has to actually be, well, tested. According to postal employees at Baychester Station in the Bronx, one of four locations nationwide where the test is being carried out, not a single business or payroll check transaction was made between September 13, when the test launched, and October 31. Some union leaders who support the postal banking concept have become frustrated by the selection of Baychester, and the lack of muscle for the project from the USPS.
The current US Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, and the head of the Board of Governors, Ron Bloom, launched a ten year plan that will slow mail service and raise prices. This is the final blow to defund and destroy the US Postal Service so it will be ripe for privatization. DeJoy and Bloom have financial stakes in this happening. Clearing the FOG speaks with Chuck Zlatkin, legislative and political director for the largest postal union local in the US about the plan and the devastating impact it will have on everyone who relies on the post office. Zlatkin also exposes the blatant corruption, explains how the Biden administration could save the postal service and critiques the new postal baking pilot. We have reached a point where we must act to save the postal service, or we are going to lose it.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has taken the most dramatic step in a half-century to re-establish a postal banking system in America. In four pilot cities, customers can now cash payroll or business checks of up to $500 at post office locations, and have the money put onto a single-use gift card. It’s the most far-reaching executive action that the Biden administration has taken since Inauguration Day. The move puts the USPS in direct competition with the multibillion-dollar check-cashing industry, which operates storefronts to allow unbanked or underbanked residents to cash their paychecks. According to USPS spokesperson Tatiana Roy, the pilot launched on September 13 in four locations: Washington, D.C.; Falls Church, Virginia; Baltimore; and the Bronx, New York.
Twenty state Attorneys General on Friday filed a joint complaint in an effort to block changes to the U.S. Postal Service enacted last week by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and which critics warn are an overt effort to cripple the mail service from within by slowing delivery times while also increasing the cost to consumers. The official complaint filed by the 20 AGs is directed at the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is charged with providing independent oversight of the USPS, but which the suit alleges betrayed its mandate by allowing the controversial plan put forth by DeJoy to move into implementation on October 1 without proper review.