Burrus: Agreement is Not Fair

From former APWU President Bill Burrus:

As you are aware, I have expressed my opinion that the tentative agreement is not fair to employees who will be hired in the future because it dramatically reduces their income and they are denied an opportunity to make a decision if the contractual changes are of equal value to the more than $200,000 in wage and retirement losses that they will each experience. Notwithstanding my reservations, I expect the agreement to be ratified and I choose not to express an opinion of the reasons. Each member casting a ballot is entitled to apply his/her individual decision and I do not pass judgment on their reasons. As a retiree, I will not personally be affected by the new agreement and those that will follow but it is my firm opinion that this contract will begin a new era of postal employment in the crafts represented by APWU.

The agreement will permanently reduce the wages of APWU represented employees to a level in existence prior to the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act when collective bargaining was afforded postal employees. The standard for the work performed by clerks, lower level maintenance and motor vehicle employees will be reduced to the new levels established in this agreement. As current employees leave postal employment, the compensation level for work performed will be set at the lowest level applicable. Postal management will refuse to pay $28.00 per hour for work that the union has agreed can be performed by the 2nd tier work force at $16.00 for new hires and at $12.00 per hour by casuals who have been integrated into the regular work force.

In addition, the 40 hour guaranteed work week will not automatically apply to all full time employees and over time, fewer and fewer employees will enjoy the standard work week that has been integral to postal employment.

Keep Our Standards

Over my entire career as a union representative, I have not experienced a union converting employment from middle class to working poor with the objective of expanding the bargaining unit. The cry of “we want our work” is consistent with APWU goals, only if the work can be returned at APWU standards as opposed to reducing our standards to the level of the outsourced work.

Organizing the unorganized is a continuing objective of the labor movement but it is contrary to the basic principle of union collective bargaining for a union to exchange full time, good paying opportunities for wages and careers resembling retail and fast food employers.

40 Years of Progress

There are examples in the food and banking industries where jobs have been transformed from modest income and benefits when unionized, to transitional employment for new entrants in the labor market. But postal employment, through aggressive union representation broke through the barriers of “service” employment and set new standards. This agreement will erase 40 years of progress.

Race to The Bottom

Optimistic projections that this bad agreement will be used as a springboard for future corrections is optimistic at best and a foolish promise. Militant statements of future corrections will meet the reality of the marketplace. The entire trend in workplace justice is downward pressure on non professional employment as being played out in Wisconsin, Ohio and several other states where collective bargaining rights are under attack. To believe that a conservative Congress or the Board of Governors will permit contractual improvements equal to the losses embedded in this contract is a pipe dream and will never happen. These major concessions will serve as a springboard in a race to the bottom.

APWU members can expect a series of future national conventions attended by a mixture of members governed by three distinct wage scales where delegates demand the unification of all rights and benefits at the higher level. Resolutions will be overwhelmingly adopted directing the negotiators to achieve that which will not be possible at the bargaining table leading to a series of interest arbitration decisions. No relief will be forthcoming. Postal management having achieved their 40 year priority to reduce wages will not relent to an agreement that restores lost ground. Arbitration will become the norm.

In the five (5) prior contracts decided by arbitrators, each decided that APWU represented employees compensation exceeded the legal standard of comparability and awarded the Postal Service moderate restraint. The union has now agreed to voluntary restraint and future arbitrators will not serve as vehicles to return to previous conditions that had been consistently found to be excessive.

This For That

This agreement is in fact “out of the box” and will usher in a new day for postal employees. The strategy applied was to exchange the wages of future employees for immediate contractual improvements, “this for that.” In addition to the unfairness of denying the affected employees a voice in the debate over the changes, this strategy has limited continuing applicability for future gains. What is to be traded in future negotiations, COLA – No Lay Off – Health Benefits? And how does the union make improvements if every step forward is balanced against a step backward?

Change

We have been provided a preview of tomorrow and it has no semblance to yesterday. The security of full time employment, middle class wages and the satisfaction of knowing that you are compensated for the work performed will cycle with history to be recalled in interesting discussions. Change is inevitable, but this change is self-induced and it will be negative.

In solidarity,
Bill Burrus

burrusjournal.org – Editorial.

  • Rick

    Rather be the non-working poor.

  • Rob

    Not only does it create the issues mentioned namely the lack of a guaranteed 40 hour work week but also doesn’t guarantee that someone won’t be overworked against thier will. Let’s face it, practically every ptf, te, casual, or any other person not guaranteed hours almost always works more usually close to 50 with very limited days off. Myself, for example have worked six day weeks for four years now with the only extra days being holidays and any leave I have taken. A lot of workers will love working that much but some don’t and I don’t think any postal union should ratify any contract that doesn’t call for some restictions in how much work is “forced” on the bottom tier (or any tier) employees.

  • Pat the mailman

    I’m in complete agreement on all counts.

  • Disgruntled Clerk

    And thank you so much for sticking with…(or is it sticking it to us……) these negotiations. Nothing like a rat leaving a sinking ship. WHERE WERE YOU??? Great timing for retirement.

  • Moondawg

    I totally agree with Mr. Burris!! It’s a sad day for postal workers…

  • Joe

    Hey Burris You are retired your opinion doesn’t matter anymore so butt out

  • lefty7

    We asked at our union meeting if they can make us 40 hour reguler clerks into NIFTY’s and were told yes. They can abolish all 40 hr jobs and repost them any way they want. VOTE NO —-I need 40 hours a week not 30

  • williedawindowclerk

    i have been going back and forth on this contract but i am startinng to see that no is the way to go stay strong sisters and brothers this to will pass

  • williedawindowclerk

    i have been going back and forth on this contract but i am starting to see that no is the way to go stay strong sisters and brothers this to will pass

  • BAM

    We are so screwed if this passes.

  • BAM

    I think the APWU has shot their selves in the foot, as people retire who is going to want to be a member of a “union” that sold them out?

  • Pat the mailman

    Good point, BAM. It will not be hard to realize today’s union sold them out. The response in years to come might be to better themselves at the expense of the union of the past (retirees). This is a classic example of legal union-busting. Solidarity implodes and it’s every worker for him(her)self.

  • dieharddes

    Think long and hard about ths if you are looking to retire anytime soon. Being forced into thirty hour positions is going to cut greatly into your retirement. If you have very long to go your high three for retirement will be much lower than if you were working forty hour weeks at the end of your career. Your high three could actually end up being your middle years of employment when your wages were lower but you still made more because of the difference in work hours. You pass this contract and you are not only screwing your self now but in future retirement too,.

  • Rob

    Perhaps voting NO and going back to the baraginning table and then to arbitration would be best. What is the worse thing three arbitrators will rule? Some Pay raise, keep cola, slightly lower starting pay, increase in ptf,casual or other flexible employee….but probably not rule on NTFT jobs….thus FT employees keep 40 hour workweeks, and no other significant changes….would they rule on getting APWU work back (custoidal contracting, MVS)?
    Just thinking out loud!

  • just a pound footer

    You guy’s have a LONG laundry list in your hands. I am with the NALC and what you get or not is what we will get come Nov 2011 when our contract expires.

    GOOD LUCK

  • ShellH

    Wow, way to “not express an opinion”, Burris.

  • Steve

    This is what is wrong with union purists like Burris; they live in a vacuum. Who, out there, really thinks that a Republican held congress is going to repeal any part of the Postal Accountibility Act? The Democrats who held the congress, the senate and the presidency from ’08 to ’10 would not touch it with a ten foot pole. Just look at what is happening with other federal employees. There pay will be frozen for up to five years, plus, they might be forced to take furlough days. Private sector unions of Mercury Marine, Harley Davidson and Kohler all voted to have a two scale pay wage. I’m not really happy with the proposed contract, but it could be worse, even a lot more worse through artbitration. We should take what we can get and hope the economy gets better before 2015. I need the Postal Service to stay in business for at least 20 more years before I retire and become a union purist like Burris.

  • james

    rather you like Burris or not, the man is right.in the long run even those who think that they will make out good with this contract will see the affects of the set-up that will later take place.someonewill pay for the mis-dealings of the high and mighties. third world country look-out

  • usps

    As a Level 9 maintenance employee I’m Voting for the contract. Nothing about job loses at are Level.

  • no name

    Burris was also right about the Postal Accountability Act when
    the other stake holders fought to pass it. if this act was not passed do you think this contract would be like this?

  • BAM

    Seems the ones who are supposed to be protecting us from the wolves have thrown us to the wolves. I am undecided if I want to continue being a member of such a group of cowards. It’s depressing to think that this is what we have to look forward to. I feel sorry for those who have many years left to put up with what will be a very hostile work environment,even worse than it already is. A two tier pay scale performing same work is unfair to future postal employees and will cause hate and discontent for many years.

  • working stiff

    on burrus’ watch, the apwu lost tens of thousands of jobs. although many were due to automation there were many more that were abolished illegally but the do-nothing, arbitration backlog union of bill burrus stood by and collected their six figure salaries while jobs disappeared. on the bill burrus watch, thousands of supervisors performed craft work as the do-nothing union sat idly by. now, after retirement, this gasbag wants to preach? you are a bigger joke now than when you held office, burrus, just go away.

  • no name

    We need to look at the job market before we rush out and vote either way. UPS have mostly part-time employees with no benifits the USPS is delivering more and more of their packages so they have cut down on full time people, and FEDX is doing the same thing and they both have a 2 tier pay system.
    We have republician’s in office who do not like us at all and would love for this contract to fail so they can come in and do what they want. Many Many companies are using only temp people work forces no benifits.
    We are between a rock and a hard place, we get it either way but for myself I’ll take the lesser of the 2.