(This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
With negotiations for a new contract set to begin on Feb. 19, 2015, it’s worth noting that in the past, when talks have ended in arbitration, the USPS has used the anti-union law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to represent management’s interests.
The firm, which has more than 1,400 attorneys in 25 offices, is considered one of the leading union-busting law firms in the country.
It has a long history fighting workers. When former President Ronald Reagan fired striking Air Traffic Controllers in 1981, Morgan Lewis served as the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) attorneys. The strike was a major defeat for labor; PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union, was disbanded soon after.
Morgan Lewis also represented Major League Baseball during the 1990 spring lockout and the 1994-1995 baseball strike. And as recently as January 2014, Morgan Lewis represented Amazon, helping the online shopping giant defeat a union drive among technicians.
Morgan Lewis attorney Robert Dufek has represented the USPS since 2000, when contract talks with the APWU ended in arbitration. In 2010 Dufek left the law firm; he now works full time for the USPS.
Another Morgan Lewis attorney, Thomas Reinert, has acted as lead attorney against all the postal unions for several contracts now. He also represents airline and railroad companies in disputes with the unions in their industries.
Reinert does not come cheap. A 2013 billing statement for a case involving the AMR Corporation lists his hourly rate as $625.50 an hour – earning him about $50,000 for 80 hours of work.
Think about that: For two weeks’ worth of work, Reinert was paid more than the amount 75% of Americans earn in a year.
In addition to its role as a union buster, it is highly problematic that Morgan Lewis represents the Postal Service while also representing many large USPS subcontractors. For example, the firm represents the Coalition for Government Procurement, an association that helps its large corporate members such as Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, win profitable government contracts.
Morgan Lewis also helps corporations weaken or eliminate government regulations that hold businesses accountable for their bad behavior. These large corporations form “front groups” that lobby Congress and try to shape public policy in their own self-interest.
The front groups’ names are often the opposite of their true intent. For example, the corporate-created Coalition for a Democratic Workplace lobbies against unions and the democracy they bring to the workplace. The coalition, represented by Morgan Lewis, was formed to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it easier to form unions and give workers a voice in the workplace.
Another corporate front group represented by Morgan Lewis is the Coalition for Workplace Safety, made up of large corporations and trade groups, such as the Retail Industry Leaders Association (including Walmart, Staples, and others), that want to weaken workplace safety rules.
Playing Both Sides
The Coalition for Office of Federal Contract Compliance Reform is another corporate organization represented by Morgan Lewis. This “reform” group attempts to weaken hiring rules and other regulations that must be adhered to by businesses that contract with the government.
In 2013 FedEx was the leading contractor with the USPS, with more than $1.7 billion in contracts. The company had contracts with other government agencies as well. In 2012, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance fined FedEx $3 million dollars for discriminatory hiring practices in North Carolina.
On the one hand, Morgan Lewis provides lobbying, consulting, public relations and legal advice to large corporations that are attempting to subcontract more and more government services with less and less oversight. On the other hand, Morgan Lewis represents the Postal Service, Amtrak, and other government agencies that are contracting with many of those same corporations. Morgan Lewis is representing both the government agencies and the contractors. As such, the firm is in a good position to facilitate the transfer of work and money from government agencies to large corporations owned by the 1%.
Given the opposition, our struggle for a better contract will not be easy. Our fight to preserve overnight delivery for our communities will not be easy. The corporations that are influencing the Postal Service are rich and powerful, and they have many allies in the Postal Service and Congress.
We don’t have the funds to compete with corporations in buying politicians and we don’t control the media.
But we have postal workers in every city and state. And no one understands the Postal Service as well as we do. We can speak out because our union contract protects us from unjust discipline. As postal workers, we are uniquely positioned to fight for good jobs and service for our communities.
Future generations will judge how we act in the next few months. Will we sit down and be quiet or will we stand up and fight?
We have the power. We just have to use it.