An open letter from former APWU President Bill Burrus:
To APWU Members
The union negotiators have performed their constitutional duties in finalizing a tentative agreement for your decision. This decision will shape postal employment for decades far into the future. The benefits received for efforts involved in postal employment have accumulated over 200 years, with each generation of employees making its contribution leading to those received to date. Our ability to provide housing, food, transportation, medical care, raising our children and all of the other benefits that we receive through our employment have been secured on our behalf through past efforts. Can you imagine how your life would have changed if we had decided 30 years ago to exchange your wages for other contractual entitlements?
Those union leaders including Stu Filbey, Moe Biller, John Richards, Jerry Monzillo, Doug Holbrook, myself and many others made significant contributions in the 1970’s when we struck illegally, jeopardizing our own employment, but we set the stage for collective bargaining that has led to the conditions now enjoyed with each generation looking beyond their present needs. The same is expected of this generation on behalf of those who will follow. This tentative agreement will turn back the clock and erase those years of struggle.
Notwithstanding the rationalization, if this contract is ratified, future employees will suffer reductions in pay of more than $300 per pay, more than $600 per month and over $8,000 per year. Over a 30 year career these losses will exceed more than $250,000 and will continue into retirement, when the annuity includes the salary reductions. In total, each employee hired after the date of this contract will receive over $300,000 less for performing the same work. Can you imagine why postal management would agree to non economic changes if they can succeed in lowering wages in this amount? The result will be over $1.5 billion per year transferred from the pay of APWU employees to USPS future health care cost, supervisor bonuses or any other expenditure that management chooses. After benefiting directly from the contributions of the preceding generations, you are now being called upon to determine the future of those who will follow? Ironically they may be your son or daughter. Supervisors, managers, letter carriers and mail handlers are not controlled by this decision and will continue to receive the salaries that they fought for over the years.
Contract negotiations are never easy and this negotiations presented special challenges so I commend the union negotiators for their efforts. The uncertainty of arbitration imposes the fear that it could be worse, but if one is convinced that the Postal Service and its employees are not responsible for the Congressionally imposed deficits, what justification exists to impose these costs on future employees? Either we believe the union propaganda regarding the USPS’ financial position and rate discounts or we silently agree with our detractors who say that we are overpaid. If we believe that we deserve the fruits of our past struggles why would we voluntarily agree to erase years of progress?
The APWU has deferred 5 previous contracts to arbitration and no prior decision has imposed the level of wage reduction now being considered. The most negative arbitration decision in postal history imposed the creation of 2 additional Steps with full continuation through the then existing pay scale. In the most recent arbitration decision (2000), Arbitrator Goldberg ruled that it was not the responsibility of the employees to satisfy USPS financial difficulties.
It is now time for a decision and it would be inappropriate to place blame. I am sure that president Guffey and his team applied their best judgment but it is the individual member who is left to decide. Do you cast a vote that provides your own personal satisfaction, or do you consider the affect of the $300.000 reductions that will be imposed on each future employee? Do you resign APWU designated postal employment to the Fast Food, Walmart wage category or fight to continue it as a means of achieving a middle class lifestyle? The basic concept of a union is to combine efforts to achieve common objectives. This purpose is betrayed if current APWU members determine that future postal employees should not achieve the same rewards for their efforts.
I have been honored to have the opportunity to devote over 50 years of my professional life to improving conditions for postal employees and as a full dues paying member and on behalf of future employees I would vote No. Future APWU members are deserving of the same rewards for their efforts. That is the true meaning of a union, giving justification to the terms “My Brother, My Sister.”
In Solidarity with all postal employees, past, present and future,