Over 1,500 demonstrate at main post office.
On April 12, 1989, more than 1,500 Philadelphia postal workers demonstrated in front of the 30th Street GPO, protesting flagrant violations of the contract and contempt for postal workers by Philadelphia’s new postmaster, Charles James. This was the first time in the history of the Philadelphia Post Office that the Letter Carriers Union, the Mail Handlers Union and the American Postal Workers Union united in such an effort. More than 1,000 people walked the line at any one time.
The rally was a response to two provocative decisions by the Postmaster.
Over one hundred forty day-work employees were “temporarily” reassigned to night work on three days’ notice, and subsequently informed that they would be permanently reassigned to night work. Management chose to move the most senior employees who must be paid out-of-schedule overtime pay while on night work, instead of reassigning junior day work employees who are not in bid jobs and who would not be eligible for out-of-schedule pay.
The union believed that management’s action was intended to create a crisis atmosphere, rather than to move mail efficiently, and to force some of our most senior employee to retiree rather than work the night shift.
At the same time, Postmaster James initiated a new attendance policy which attempted to prevent and discourage postal workers from using sick leave and annual leave for emergency purposes. Employees were threatened with disciplinary action, including being fired from the Postal Service, despite the fact that there may be no evidence of abuse of sick leave or emergency annual leave.
Employees were informed that a disciplinary discussion would be given after three occasions of unscheduled absence within a 12 month period; that a Letter of Warning would be issued for the next unscheduled absence within a 120-day period after the discussion; and that a seven-day suspension would be issued for the next unscheduled absence within a 120-day period after he issuance of the Letter of Warning. Employees were also informed that if their attendance record does not improve they would be issued a 14-day suspension and then a notice of removal.
The attendance policy posed an immediate danger to the safety and health of employees with a serious illness or injury who choose to report to work sick under threat of discipline.
Postmaster General Anthony Frank – On April 17, 1989, PMG Frank attended the APWU Presidents Conference urging greater cooperation between the union and management. After speaking to 300 APWU officers from across the country about respect and cooperation, Frank heard from them about managers who disregard the contract and disrespect the workers. Many local presidents questioned Frank’s sincerity and told him bluntly that his message of cooperation had not reached local managers.
Greg Bell passed out information outlining the flagrant contract violations by Philadelphia Postmaster Charles James and of the massive April 12 rally at the GPO. Bell challenged Frank to prove he believes in cooperation over confrontation by correcting the problems in Philadelphia. PMG Frank was the one who appointed James as local postmaster.