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Rank and File Report by Chair of the Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee

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The following is a summary of the findings of the Rank & File Advisory Committee; Majority view

Overview

The Committee met various times, and had full authority and opportunity to vet the proposal. This included requesting multiple presentations from President Dimondstein, Director Vance Zimmerman and Phil Tabbita. The Committee also had full authority and access to the various Craft Officers as this is part of the Committee’s constitutional role of checks and balances.

The Committee also convened to formulate Questions and Answers in regards to the Tentative Agreement(s) in an effort to clarify, mitigate, and ensure the parties were of mutual understanding as to the exact meaning of the presented documents.

After the above described processes took place, the Committee deliberated, brought forth their concerns and opinions, and voted on December 18, 2018. The results were a 9 – 4 vote against sending out the proposal for ratification. This rejection is considered a mandate to the National Negotiations Committee to re-open negotiations.

We were informed that the re-opened negotiations took place in the two days following the Committee’s vote, and prior to the December 21, 2018, announcement that impasse has been reached.

Per the National Constitution, the National Negotiations Committee is to be comprised of the President, Executive Vice President, Industrial Relations Director, and the four Craft Division Directors (Clerk, Maintenance, M.V.S. and Support Services). In our investigative process, it was discovered that the Craft Division Officers, as well as the Executive Vice President, were not allowed and did not participate in the entire process and, in particular, the language presented to the Rank and File Committee. This will be discussed further in this report.

The following is a brief summary as to the reasons and rationale for the rejected proposal(s).

At the onset, we were informed by President Dimondstein that the Postal Service had sought “relief” in certain areas. These areas were in the amount of hours postmasters were permitted to work in the smaller offices (up to fifteen hours per week), the restriction of 81-3 PSEs to work the window and, relief from their Line H obligations in the Maintenance Craft.

From the beginning, the Committee had grave concerns that the “relief” the Service sought was, in fact, relief from themselves. All three of those items sought exceptions from adhering to previously negotiated items. Items that have cost the Service by way of monetary liability, job preservation, job creation, and/or potential conversions. The Committee felt that all three of these items represented the APWU’s assurances of contract compliance which, to this date, has not fully occurred.

Quite simply, the requested ”relief” was a form of reneging; and these proposals represented the APWU‘s reneging on itself, and giving blessing to the Service for non-compliance on issues that they received their dividends up front, and now wanted the APWU approval to get out of previous settlements and negotiated contract language.

The Committee found that the allowable exceptions on those topics were completely controllable by the Postal Service. The Postal Service could manipulate the factors which would trigger “exceptions” which would, in fact, render previously negotiated language and liabilities useless. In other words, our leverage in contract enforcement and future negotiations would be neutered. To call it concessionary would be mild! The Postal Service would be able to control factors to create exceptions on issues that have thus far led to massive monetary liabilities, job preservation and creation, and future leverage. This is not a quid pro quo scenario.

The Service has received their quid in previous contracts. We are still waiting for our quo. For instance, in regards to the Maintenance issue, the Service implemented their TL-5 cleaning methodology for custodial work. This resulted in substantial position loss and less allotted time to perform custodial work. The Service reaped the benefit of this, already saving big on personnel and hours/wages spent. The APWU’s concerns were for clean facilities and stiff monetary liability for failing to maintain clean facilities, and protection for our maintenance employees for being cheated out of paid hours necessary to get the job done according to management’s own formulas.

The relief the Service states they need in this regard is due to their own non-compliance to the aforementioned contractual requirements. In the Committee’s work, we discovered the Maintenance Craft had summariiy dismissed the Service‘s proposal on this issue. Yet, after the Crafts exclusion from the process, it was accepted by the President and Director of Industrial Relations, negotiating alone.

This theme was repeated in the Clerk Craft proposals. The Service sought relief and alteration from the language limiting postmasters from performing bargaining unit work in the smaller offices. These limitations ensure our craft employees do not have their bargaining unit work encroached upon by management. This preserved hours for PTFs. It preserves full-time bid positions. It is an impediment to excessing.

Once again, the Committee felt the Service was requesting “relief” from their own bad behavior, and from scenarios that were orchestrated by management itself. Management controls staffing. Short-staffing would actually contribute to some of the factors that would allow exceptions to the permitted hours of postmaster work.

Additionally, the standing language states postmasters are permitted to work up to fifteen hours per week. The Postal Service has perverted this by mandating postmasters work three hours per day, without fail. By doing so, they often exhaust their work hours capital early in the week, thereby exceeding the allowance later in the week. Now they seek further allowance for mis-management, and interpreting language in a light that repeatedly leads to a monetary remedy.

The Committee once again felt like the APWU was negotiating against itself, giving back protections previously negotiated, and allowing management to not only ignore standing language, but be in control of factors that allow exceptions to our protections. The Clerk Craft was not privy to this proposal until the Rank & File presented it to them in our investigative process. The Clerk Craft did not view this proposal as favorable.

The next bone of contention concerned the “reiief” the Postal Service requested by the current language barring Mail Processing PSEs from performing window duties. The Service has already acknowledged and benefitted from this entire category of employee. The APWU negotiated this category, however, with some restrictions. Caps and percentages are some such protective restrictions.

In a nutshell, this proposal is a back door attempt to raise PSE percentages for window work, without actually stating the percentages have been raised. The circumstances that would allow such actions are once again within the control of postal management, who is asking for relief from their decisions to revert, abolish or forestall job creation in Function 4 offices. It is merely relief from ineptitude, and deliberate violations orchestrated by their own hands. This proposal would have a clear negative impact on job retention, creation, PTF hours, PSE conversions, etc.

Once again, the Committee felt it was in essence the APWU negotiating against advances and protections already gained and paid for by this Union. The Clerk Craft Officers had not seen this language that was included in the Tentative Agreements, until presented by the Rank and File, and they did not view it as favorable.

One of the largest areas of concern of the Committee was the over arching involvement of Article 12 in all this. As we all know, Article 12 is the Article that governs excessing. One need only recall the events of 2017 to see the connection and devastating effects Article 12 can play, and that management is prone to use it without proper justification. In 2017, management put the APWU universe under Article 12, In doing so, they reverted and abolished positions. They cut the workforce by fear mongering, inducing retirements.

They effectively halted conversions by eliminating necessary positions and withholding others as residual vacancies. In the end, this exercise manifested in a minuscule amount of actual excessing. Under the guise of phantom excessing, a tremendous amount of damage occurred. Each of the above described proposals would incentivize the Service to turn to a weapon that has already been used . . . Article 12.

Under these proposals, Article 12 placement would be triggers to circumvent our protections. It would give the Service carte blanche to violate the spirit and intent of both Maintenance and Clerk Craft protections and opportunities. For instance, the Service would be incentivized to place an Installation under Article 12. They could eliminate their liabilities in regards to payment and performance of custodial work. Our facilities would not be cleaned properly, nor our custodians paid for work that should have been performed.

In the Clerk Craft, as in the past, they would now revert positions, withhold vacancies, and now claim exceptions for allowing Mail Processing PSEs to backfill the reverted, withheld positions, without penalty of job creation or monetary liability. The Committee is merely recalling the realities of management’s proven tactics of a year ago. Why on Earth would we make it even more beneficial to hurt us, and do so with impunity?

The Rank and File saw these agreements as one-sided with benefits only to management and not reflective of the realities of the current workroom floor and management’s actions in the field.

The one year pay raise in a two year contract is also problematic. First, this in no way compensates the members for what the Committee saw as major give backs/”reliefs”. The one year raise is modest and routine. It is consistent with what has been achieved in arbitration.

In addition, the contractual language/”reliefs” would be permanent changes, whereas the contract would be extended for two years, with only a one year raise guaranteed. The wage re-negotiations would begin 8/1/2019, for the 9/20/2019 – 9/20/2020 period, with the process of arbitration to commence shortly thereafter, if no agreement was reached on the second year pay raise. The Committee saw this as another immediate ”relief” for management, resulting in an inevitable fight for the second year’s pay raise.

Since the theme of the Lead Negotiators was to avoid arbitration, then why would we agree to arbitrate wages for our second year, and then have to begin a new round of negotiations and potential arbitration for our new contract in September of 2020?

The other signed Tentative Agreements would fall into the category of second tier. Their sum totals, and gains, in no way equal or mitigate the above described negatives of the primary Tentative Agreements. For example, there was a slight bump in uniform allowances, improvement in language for mutual exchanges in the Clerk Craft, an optional minimum guarantee of one day off per service week for PTFs and PSEs, a new top Step for Level 3 and 4 Maintenance Craft employees, a work environment improvement agreement, for which management built in an escape clause.

None of the above was able to overcome the potential damage, and concessionary primary proposals, and a tepid one year raise.

Conspicuously absent is any reference to the M.V.S. Craft. This Craft had a number of positive Craft specific Tentative Agreements which were negotiated by the Craft Officers.

In summary, the routine economic package and secondary Tentative Agreements could not outweigh the obvious damage caused to the membership if agreed to. The Committee also feels compelled to make the following observations.

We believe the spirit and intent and checks and balances contained in the National Constitution have been violated. First, although the title mandates the Craft Division Officers be on the National Negotiations Committee, we have found this occurred in name only. The record clearly reflects their exclusion in the negotiating process. Second, the Rank and File Committee was not privy to, nor was provided any Tentative Agreements as they were signed.

These components are in place so that the members’ elected officers’ expertise and voices from the Crafts are part of the negotiations. Presentation of the executed Tentative Agreements to the Rank and File allows for a more democratic process, more time for study and potential advisement, which is the defined role of the Committee. These checks and balances are in place so that no one person can control the negotiations, make decisions for which they lack the formal expertise or can single-handedly harm the body by making potential harmful agreements in secret. That is exactly what happened in this round of negotiations. This was not an extension, but rather a new contract negotiated outside of the controls and mandates of the National APWU Constitution.

Respectfully Submitted by

Scott M. Hoffman
Committee Chair and
Majority Opinion Member

February 22, 2019

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President’s Report by 480-481 Area Local President

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February 2019

As many of you are aware, the APWU and the USPS were unable to come to a negotiated agreement, and once again we are headed to arbitration.

How we arrived at this point this year is another story entirely.

My perspective on the Rank and File and 1300 L Street:

I need to thank first of all Rank and File Committee Chair Scott Hoffman, Boston Metro Area Local, our Vice Chair A.J. Jones Eastern Montgomery County PA Area Local and our Secretary Doris Orr-Richardson President for the State of Florida for all their leadership throughout the experience. Brother Scott kept us focused, AJ provided much insight and Doris did the tireless job of recording the vital information the committee needed as we conducted our business. All three are exceptional local and state leaders in their own right, but they made the APWU proud the way they lead this committee.

As members of this committee, the 13 of us that had the duty to determine whether or not any tentative contract would be worthy to be given to the general membership for a vote. I have to say I was very proud to serve in such a capacity on the committee.

The committee spent nearly forty hours over several days both in DC and from home via conference call reviewing numerous tentative agreements that made up a possible new contract. The tentative agreement was presented to the committee by President Dimondstein as an extension of the current contract. However, with so many changes it seemed more like a new contract than an extension of the old contract. So it was after scrutinous deliberation that a majority of the committee rejected what President Dimondstein presented to us.

I regret that we were not able to vote to send the membership a tentative agreement for consideration. I have stated several times that I have never been on the winning side of any vote and felt so defeated. No one wants to go to arbitration if it can be avoided.

While we as a committee have agreed to stay silent on the sticking points to avoid tipping our hand to the USPS as we head to arbitration, I would like to report to you some of my experiences as a member of this committee.

First, I have to say the future of this union looks very bright, the young leaders on the committee showed we have a solid foundation for the future. There was a great mix of young and older members each of us listening to the others as we deliberated and debated the various aspects of the tentative agreement.

Truthfully, I expected the more experienced members of this committee to lead and they did but what I witnessed time and time again was the younger members stepping hard into this challenging process and more often than not directing the conversation and focusing the deliberations.

I also expected that some of the members would be beholden to the officer that picked them for the committee. However, what I saw was a majority of the committee deliberating independent of who selected them; Instead focusing on the deal in front of us and spending hours reviewing it as we sought to determine how it may impact the decades to come plus the several hundred thousand current and future APWU members. The simple truth is we were consumed by this assignment and the importance of it.

Honestly, I witnessed a severe disconnect between our President and quite a few other elected national officers.

The fact not one National Craft Officer or the Executive Vice President was sitting at the head table during direct negotiations with the USPS was an avoidable error by President Mark Dimondstein. Ultimately, it’s what I believe led directly to some of the issues we just could not overcome when the committee had to decide whether the tentative agreement was good enough to send to all of you for an up or down vote.

I walked away from this experience seriously troubled by our national president’s management style. We had several interactions with President Dimondstein regarding our concerns over the agreement, and he was combative, profane and disrespectful. I kept wondering if he feels comfortable being so rude to one of the most critical committees this union has how does he interact with the remainder of this union’s other elected officers?

While I can understand Mark takes this personally, no one can spend days and months working on something and not feel some serious ownership of it, but at the end of the day, we all owe each other the respect we demand from postal management and Mark’s behavior was simply unacceptable. The committee had a job to do, and we did it, he minimally owed us the respect we gave him.

We have always heard that 1300 L Street is a politically charged environment but what I took away from this experience was that’s it’s also a hostile workspace and that hostility is driven by our national president.

We witnessed some of this at the national convention in Pittsburgh when President Dimondstein overtly and publicly disrespected APWU National Executive Vice President Debbie Szeredy by refusing to allow her to run the convention when he stepped away for a break. That public display of disrespect left the Michigan delegation as well as others ready to shut the convention down.

Mark’s temper was in evidence again at the Presidents conference in Maine when he disrespectfully lashed out at a local president when questioned about his decision on a specific MOU.

As your local president, now in my third term, I try to leave local politics out of the decisions I make. While I have supported other candidates in our elections over the years, I make every effort to work with every elected board member and chief steward in this local whether I supported their candidacy or not; to do otherwise would be a violation of the oath I took to put this union first in every decision I make.

I get up every day knowing the difficult task in front of me, and I know that I do not have all the answers. I would never unilaterally embark on any serious negotiation without the input of the officers, steward, and members impacted by these negotiations. I believe President Dimondstein did just that, I think he purposefully excluded the craft officers and the executive vice president from the head table, and for reasons only he can explain he went forward with just the counsel of the Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman.

We are one of the more democratic industrial unions in this nation and what I continue to see from our chief executive is behavior that is exhibited by those who unilaterally believe they know what’s best and it is becoming clear that Mark does not tolerate any form of dissent.

Dissent in our democracy is vital to its health; we are many voices from many backgrounds all coming together for a single common purpose, to bust our butts to ensure we have the best job security, decent wages, benefits, and work environment.

Besides this article, I have sent President Dimondstein a personal letter outlining my concerns with his treatment of the rank and file committee. I get no pleasure out of any this especially since I have known Mark for most if not all of my union life. I have considered him a friend, and I believed him to have the qualities to be a great leader.

It is clear he can build coalitions outside this union, what’s also clear is internally we have some pretty severe divisions, and it all starts and stops with our chief executive.

We have an uncertain future, the polarization of our national politics has put working people at the back of the line. Also, brothers and sisters, we cannot tolerate such an epic level of dysfunction at 1300 L Street.

We have a national election coming up, it pains me to say this but if president Dimondstein cannot unify this union from 1300 L Street on down, if he cannot live the solidarity he preaches then we may well have to find another leader to steer us through the difficult times ahead.

Leadership is hard, and decisions must be made. Then the explanations for those decisions follow. What we cannot allow is a few at the top excluding the rest of those elected craft officers, thinking they have all the answers.

We cannot voluntarily take one step backward; labor has sacrificed enough. If we have to go to war with the USPS then we expect our chief officer to lead us into battle, not attack us for disagreeing, not criticize or vilify us for having the courage to speak truth to power – even if it’s his.

All we have is each other, and at the end of the day I stand shoulder to shoulder with the APWU, I do so proudly, I do so willingly, and I will speak truth to power no matter who it is. We will disagree, elections will come, and presidents will go. This exercise isn’t about me as your president; it’s about what’s best for this union and its rank and file.

I challenge President Mark Dimondstein to go back and reread his oath of office, bring the National Executive Board to the table, clear the air, and recognize the decades of talent he has in that room. Perhaps then he will understand the real power that comes from rising above the pettiness of politics and that when unified we are a formidable force! It’s time for President Dimondstein to quit worrying about the next election and instead take us into arbitration and get us the best damn contract he can. The membership deserves better.

Nothing about writing this article was easy, but it’s what I witnessed, and sisters and brothers I stand by every word.

In Solidarity,

Roscoe Woods, President
480-481 Area Local

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Rejection of Tentative Agreement! by Greg Bell

January 23, 2019

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In a Dec. 21, 2018, statement to union members on the status of collective bargaining, APWU President Mark Dimondstein reported that he had reached a tentative agreement with management that he believed “to be fair and positive for the members” two weeks earlier, on Dec. 6, 2018.

However, the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee disagreed with his assessment, found the tentative agreement unacceptable, and voted against it. It is my understanding that the tentative agreement was rejected by the Rank and File Committee by a majority vote of 9 to 4.

In his statement, President Dimondstein acknowledged the advisory committee’s dissatisfaction, writing “Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee had some serious concerns with the tentative agreement and sent it back to the APWU National leadership to reopen negotiations with management and attempt to address their concerns.”

To date, no new agreements addressing the Rank and File Committee’s concerns have been reached, and the parties are now at an impasse. This is only the second time in the history of the APWU that the Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee has rejected a tentative agreement.

Craft Negotiators Undermined

As of the writing of this article, APWU members have not been provided any information about what was in the tentative agreement and what the majority of the Rank-and File-Bargaining Advisory Committee’s members found unacceptable.

However, there are disturbing, but creditable reports that President Dimondstein, in the tentative agreement, agreed to some of management’s clerk and maintenance craft-specific demands that the respective Craft Directors had rejected. It was also disappointing to learn that when Dimondstein didn’t get his way, he treated the member’s Rank and File Committee with contempt and disrespect. That’s a real problem.

I believe that his actions undermined our craft negotiators, is contrary to APWU’s democratic process, and also compromised the union going forward. This is unacceptable.

The Craft Directors are members of the National Negotiations Committee and are responsible for negotiating on behalf of their respective craft members concerning any craft-specific contract language or changes. The Assistant Directors are also part of their respective craft’s negotiation team.

Management must know that when they sit across the bargaining table from our craft negotiators, that our elected craft officers have the full support of the APWU President. In this case, it appears they did not.

This conduct by President Dimondstein only serves to benefit management, and undermines our elected craft officers in carrying out their responsibility to negotiate on behalf of their craft members. It undercuts our craft representatives when management thinks they can simply bypass them, or go over their heads directly to President Dimondstein. It demonstrates a lack of leadership, and shows disunity in front of management. This is unacceptable. Such action compromises the union and our officers’ ability to effectively represent their respective craft members.

Experience Tells Us

The only other time a Rank and File Committee rejected a tentative agreement was in 1978, when the APWU, National Association of Letter Carriers, and National Postal Mail Handlers bargained jointly. Back then, the unions’ Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee rejected the tentative agreement, mainly because of a cap (limit) on the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLAs). The final outcome of the contract was determined in arbitration, where the arbitrator uncapped the COLA, but modified the no-layoff provisions.

Our internal process regarding negotiations is designed to keep the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee well informed about any newly-agreed upon changes prior to providing the proposed tentative agreement for a vote.

Under the APWU Constitution & By-Laws there are seven members of the National Negotiation Committee: The President, Executive Vice President, Industrial Relations Director, and the four Division Craft Directors (Clerk, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle Service, and Support Services).

Each member of the National Executive Board, which consists of the above-mentioned officers as well as the Secretary-Treasurer and five Regional Coordinators, appoints one union member to serve on the Rank and File Committee.

The National Negotiations Committee is responsible for negotiating the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The purpose of the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee is to advise the National Negotiations Committee and make recommendations on bargaining demands. However, the Rank and File Committee has veto power over any proposed tentative agreement.

The APWU Constitution provides that the national negotiators must “complete as many questions and answers as possible regarding any newly-agreed upon contract language or changes to existing contract language prior to giving a ‘tentative’ Collective Bargaining Agreement to the Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee for consideration.” In addition, the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee may also submit any questions they may have for responses prior to making a recommendation for ratification to the membership.

Experience in previous negotiations has shown that by keeping the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee well informed, the national negotiators will know of any concerns Committee members may have prior to reaching a tentative agreement. This helps to avoid situations where the Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee rejects a tentative agreement. It would also help if the APWU President didn’t undermine our elected craft officers.

Unless the parties reach a new tentative agreement or agree to an alternative process, the next step would be mediation. If a voluntary agreement is reached through additional negotiations or mediation, the new tentative agreement would be brought back before the Rank and File Bargaining Advisory Committee for a vote. However, if no voluntary agreement is reached, the next step would Interest Arbitration, where an arbitrator’s decision would be final and binding.

As more information become available, we may get a clearer picture of what happened, why it happened, and what impact it may have on our collective bargaining agreement and representation going forward.

___________________________________________________________________________

Greg Bell has served APWU members as former national Executive Vice President and Industrial Director of the APWU, and former president of the Philadelphia PA Area Local.

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