Burrus on the APWU contract: Justifying Your Decision

To APWU Members

I have read the justification/excuses for electing to support an agreement that transforms postal employment in a very negative way for existing and new employees far into the future and the reasons fail to pass the smell test. The reduction of wages in the staggering amount of more than $200,000 per employee and the conversion of full time assignments to part time with a new title of “non traditional” will dramatically change postal employment, and lead to a shift of $3.8 billion over the life of the agreement from the pay checks of APWU represented employees to USPS to use at its discretion. And instead of using this windfall to “save” the Postal Service it can and will be used for other nefarious purposes like increasing rate discounts for major mailers.

A simple fact, unless the retiree health care issue is resolved there is nothing the union can do to save the Postal Service short of working for free.

Because of the threat of more significant losses in arbitration, many employees believe and hope that the impact of the changes will be limited to the next generation of postal employees with modest impact in the immediate future. This is a false reading of the changes incorporated in the negotiated language.

Employees who believe that the major changes will be deferred until the future will be disappointed when they experience major workplace modifications within months of finalization of the ratification process. Computer scheduling will quickly realign the work centers to match employees to mail and the mix of full time with part time scheduling will be initiated expeditiously. Full time employees will have little choice except to re-bid their existing work assignments with many forced to accept schedules with less than 40 hours per week, resulting in significant pay reductions as the loss of scheduled work hours will add to the wage reductions.

Work Centers will have integrated scheduling with a mixture of NCAs, new hires under the reduced pay scale and existing full time employees, resulting in a single work center having employees earning three (3) different wages for performance of the exact same work.

Pay Reductions

You will also be disappointed to find that for current employees, the two year wage freeze will result in actual pay reductions. While you have been told that this contract will generate wage increases of 3.5% over the life of the agreement, in fact you will experience wage reductions.

Using the expiring contract as a guide of historic salary adjustments to protect buying power, salaries are increased in the range of 1% a year plus COLA. This deferral of salary adjustment represents a loss of 2% in salary and a projected 4% in COLA as inflation reflects the exceptional increases in gasoline prices. So after balancing the 3.5% increases back loaded in the tentative agreement against the losses of 6% (2% for historic wage increases and the expected 4% representing the loss of 4 COLAs) from the wage freezes in 2011 and 2012, existing employees will suffer wage losses in the range of 2.5% over the 4 year agreement. Instead of the advertised increase of 3.5%, in reality, each existing employee will actually suffer wage losses of 2.5% or more.

One will be able to monitor the actual dollar amount of the COLA losses in 2011 as the Mail Handlers and the Letter Carriers receive the COLA salary adjustments that are generated prior to the expiration of their existing contracts.

So for those employees who will make their decision on the basis of the monetary effect of the agreement, while new employees will suffer wage losses up to 30% (wage rate reductions and the absence of pay adjustments in 2011 and 2012), existing employees will likewise experience significant financial reductions (approximately 3.5% after balancing the 3.5% increases against the 7% in losses) over the life of the new agreement when the 2.5% wage loss is added to the increased contributions for health benefits.

Future Uncertainties

These negative changes for existing employees and ‘new hires’ must be balanced against the uncertainties of arbitration and the question asked if the union can dictate the conditions when arbitration is less challenging. The previous national agreement was finalized in November 2006 and it was not possible at that time to accurately predict the circumstances that would be present at its expiration in 2010. The economist did not predict the severe recession beginning in 2008 and its negative impact on mail volume and USPS revenue. Who would have predicted the attack on collective bargaining in 2011? And what if the 2012 national elections results in the House, Senate and White House being controlled by anti-labor forces when the union returns to bargaining in 2015? These and numerous other negatives are possible and very likely, making any future arbitration equally as challenging.

When the union last bargained in 2006, the effect of Postal legislation requiring the pre-funding of future health care liabilities had not been implemented and its crippling effect on USPS finances had not yet been experienced. These and the other interim events had not been identified in 2006, and cannot be projected with any accuracy going forward. Those who make decisions based upon current external factors will discover that national events are not static and the future does not guarantee that at a given point circumstances and events will be more favorable. The decision on whether or not to arbitrate must always be limited to the present. Do the contractual provisions meet expectations? If not, fight.

Stuff happens: Anthrax in the mail; 9-11; the home mortgage debacle; wars; Congressional interference, and on and on. There are never excuses for the acceptance of unacceptable conditions for workers and deferring the fight to 2015 or later. There is no guarantee that the obstacles in 2015 will not be equal to or exceed those we presently face.

In this agreement, the union either believes that the reduction of wages in these unprecedented amounts and the elimination of full time jobs are in the interest of the members or it has an obligation to fight. We cannot predict the future so if the option is to fight, a union fights.

In union solidarity,
Bill Burrus

  • Timmy

    Since the mail handlers gave up V-time, there is no future for the APWU. All the new jobs are going to them.

    Four tens and four twelves are needed to fill out work days. This is more important to MVS. UPS and Federal Express don’t out-source like the Postal Service.

    If you want to see bad service just look at FedEx Ground & Home Delivery.

  • frank

    Bill you should have never retired with all of the energy
    you still have. WHY DID YOU LEAVE US IN THIS POSITION? Say what you want as is your right but
    come on Bill you FLAT CHICKENED OUT ON THE
    MEMBERS. You don’t talk about the alternative
    which is binding arbitration. I guess you beleive that
    we would do better in arbitration but you are not
    saying that.

  • sharon

    I’ve heard you say fight, the question is how. Many of our members will not read the contract and will simply vote as directed by the National leadership. Voting no for this contact is not enough. The fight does not end with a no vote that would be the beginning of the fight. Again FIGHT HOW?

  • Sell Out

    All I can say is that the present national officers of the APWU and most of the locals are cowards and selfish!! Some locals are even passing a resolution that they fully support the T/A!! What gives?? How much monetary incentives are they getting from the national???? These officers talk about solidarity, but when you read their column in their local newsletter, most of them said “they agree on the T/A because it is good for them personally”!! Another selfish statement, don’t you think??

  • Sell Out

    Maybe Bill did not think that the officers he left behind were going to give in to postal management’s demands so easily that is why he chose to retire. Well, unfortunately, he was wrong with Guffey in leading our Union. Guffey just wanted to end the negotiations earlier so he could continue to enjoy his $150,000 salary plus benefits from the APWU!!

  • SoulMan

    In my office, I’m taking careful note of who’s supporting this steaming hot mess of a contract. I suggest you ALL do the same. In 3 months, when they find out they were lied to and face the reality of what they foolishly agreed us into, I’ll be right there to remind them how they ignored the evidence. Every day for the rest of their careers. Loudly. Their shrinking paychecks and work schedule will be the least of their misery! Ha ha!

  • Rich

    You knew Potter and you know Donahoe. You speak as if you could get a better deal and that Donahoe would go along with it. If this is the case why did you bail? If it was for personal or health reasons that is understandable. But to be so critical of our leaders when you yourself did not want to lead anymore is not right. I did not vote for George Bush and never cared for him, but I can say that I have never personally heard him say one bad thing about Obama. If you still wanted to lead you should have stayed. Let people make their own minds up about this TA. I personally do not like some of the things in this TA. Guess what I did not like alot of things in the last contract which you were apart of. In my office we got murdered by the language pertaining to casuals. The 0500 to 1200 rule, what they could or could not do. Management beat us to death on this. We filed and filed grievances which most were never heard. We spoke to NBA’s and the Regional Coordinator on how to file these grievances and as I stated most were never even scheduled for arbitration. Who knows where the hell they are. At least the new PSE’s will be bargaining employees, with the possibility of becoming career employees. I don’t like the fact that they will be paid a lower wage but I think in this economy they will not care. People in this country making a good living including those in retirement are out of touch with the real world. My wife has three degrees and is an incredible worker. The problem is there is no work not unless you are related to or know someone that can get you the hookup. My wife would be one of many that would be delighted to become a PSE. Things are not the same and anyone that thinks they are well they are in those categories I mentioned previously. Most of the sites that I have seen where locals are against this TA are locals where the President and in some cases the whole board are on the local payroll. Politics Baby Politics. It’s all about the money and that is all I’m going to say about that issue. The biggest problem with this Union is that no one looks out for the small offices. I believe that this will be the downfall of our union not all of this other BS that we want to argue about. Management and Rural Carriers are taking over these offices and we sit back and argue if this TA is good or bad for us. We better make sure its good for small offices or the rest of us are going to get screwed eventually. I transfered from a small office to a large office in 1993. Wow what a difference. In a small office first of all you don’t even know there is a union. Management and rural carriers do your work but you don’t know that they are doing your work because that is just the way it is if you are hired in a small office you don’t know any better. Pay attention to these members or we are going to lose them. Sorry got side tracked. Mr. Burris there is nothing wrong with sharing your opinion, you have that right as I do. But I think most people are going to say well it’s easy to come out with all of this that you have stated when you are not part of the fight. I think that the good outweighs the bad, as did your last contract negotiated. You were a great President, but like most positions of authority, there were good decisions and there were bad decisions. Let these guys learn as you did. They will surely mess up as we all have. But they will learn and if they don’t they will be gone.

  • Union Clerk

    Any resolution of the current prefunding of retiree healthcare benefits will help but not completely resolve the systemic issues the postal service faces. Mail volume is declining. What bothers me is that if you have so much influence over congress then why were you not sitting there during the Oversight Committee’s interrogation on April 5th, instead of Guffey. Maybe you could have increased the debt ceiling for the Post Office. Please do not insult me by calling any of my decisions excuses. Shame on you.

  • Disappointed

    Burrus you let us all down with your behavior. I am beginning to lose respect for you. You had your chance to negotiate this contract and protect your legacy but instead you tucked your tail between your legs and ran for retirement. The ones who were left fought for the rest of us and then you have to go and degrade them like they’re contract is somehow inferior to yours. Just so you know I haven’t had a raise for two years Sir. Guess our current union reps aren’t the only ones who can write a bad contract huh! Enjoy your retirement Bill you had your chance and we are grateful for your input and you are welcome for our dues! Now let those that are still in the game play the game…there’s a bench there that needs warming.

  • Todd Fawcett

    In the tough time thats the post office faces and tough negotiations that we faced, how can anyone predict what would happen in arbitration? How can anyone blame the officers that did the negotiating with the USPS as we do not know what did or did not occur? I thought Burrus taught us to support one another and not use are energy to fight against each other? This is how management wins and the union will further be hurt. Contract finacially helps the union with more employees coming on board. Lets give the negotiating team credit for trying to lead us!

  • Steve Schoettmer

    Bill, I admire and respect you. I always loved watching you run he convention against the loyal opposition. And though I admire your opinion on this matter, and in some cases even fear the accuracy of your comments, it doesn’t get me to regret my vote for the contract.

    In these uncertain times I think, we are forced to go with a safe path for our membership. Unions exist not only for their present members, but for their future members. If we did not come up with an avenue to help managment obtain more flexibility, our organization would soon whither on the vine. That is simply a reality. With the lack of customers in our lobbies, and the uncertainty of the support we will get from congress, we needed to find that narrow ledge that allows us to navigate the edge of the deep abyss.

    Management’s only avenue for FTR was a five day a week job working 8 hours a day. That totally ignores the reality of thousands of small post offices that only use a clerk for 5 to 6 hours on Saturday, and a few hours in the early morning each day through the week.

    I have fought for 31 years in the AO offices trying to prevent management from doing our work, we finally have language that truly limits the Postmaster’s involvement and actually gives latent encouragement to just pull the Postmasters out completely, and replace them with a clerk.

  • jimmy

    why doesn’t Burrus just go and enjoy his lucrative pension? It is a new ballgame with new rules. After working hard to produce a semblence of an agreement the apwu leadership does not need Monday morning quarterbacking.

  • Lifetime Employee

    Mr. Burris, why are you pushing for higher and higher salaries while the Post Office is dying? I live in St Louis home of TWA, Ford Motor, Chrysler and McDonnell-Douglas among other companies. These are huge companies employing thousands of UNION employees. They wanted more for the union employee, would not consider “givebacks”, even went on strike for better wages. Where are they now? All shut down or torn down. The Ford and Chrysler plants are torn down and the lots vacant. TWA and McDonnell-Douglas disappeared. I am a life long union employee of over 35 years but enough is enough. Unions and their greedy leadership is ruining the US job market. Why else do you think companies outsource to foreign countries? Cheap labor!!
    I a voting FOR this new contract because I think we make enough. As a window clerk where else can you make over $50,000 at a retail counter? Walmart, Sears, Target, no major retailer I know of pay their sales clerks $50,000 or more a year.
    The Post Office is DYING!! Email, online billpay and the internet are faster, cheaper and more efficient. We will never recover the lost mail volume.
    Just look at pay phones, film cameras, cassette tapes and TV’s with cathode ray tubes. Bought any of those lately? Have you supported those industries or their union employees?

  • BigAntG

    TO everyone. Reread this posting. Then think back onto Mr Burrus speeches if you were present at any of his speaking engagements. Also go on to Mr Burrus web-site and you will find that this is not the way Mr Burrus speaks or writes. I;m sure this is noit the Bill Burrus that I come to know.