Wayne County, MI
AFL - CIO
Vice President's Report
September / October 2018
A More Perfect Union
Many of you will recognize the phrase "a more perfect union" as appearing in the preamble of the Constitution of our United States. Of course, the union referenced in our nation's Constitution is the union of the States (thirteen in 1787 and now fifty).
However, the analogy of the union of the United States and the union that represents our nation's letter carriers is fitting and appropriate for many reasons.
Our nation's letter carriers truly are a microcosm of America itself, representing the rich cultural diversity of many generations of immigrants during the past two centuries. It is this magnificent diversity that is the foundation and backbone of our nation's
strength and greatness - a greatness that has always existed, contrary to a false and pathetically ignorant political slogan that claims otherwise. Although our nation is badly divided along political fault lines and has been dumbed down by decades of conservative appeals to mindless fear and ignorance, some things remain constant and true, and none more so than the certainty of the U.S Mail and the culturally diverse letter carrier members of the world's best public employee Union, the NALC.
The NALC becomes a "more perfect union" in many ways, most importantly through our shared experience of service to all of our nation's people. One of my duties outside of Branch 2184 is to serve as an administrator for a large NALC social media group. This is a Facebook group with about 16,000 NALC members that range from newly hired CCAs to those with 50 years or more of NALC membership. Membership is limited to active and retired NALC members. Non-member letter carriers as well as management are not welcome to join or participate. Topics of discussion can be quite varied, but there is a wealth of contractual as well as institutional knowledge to be found.
Not unexpectedly, discussions of some of our contract and work rule issues within our online forums can become quite lively and opinions can be quite strong. It will not surprise anyone that knows me that I will jump into the fray from time to time. Although my usual roles are to serve as a contract and work rule resource and to correct contractual misinfon11ation, occasionally I have been know11 to participate in debates about other union issues, especially when in my opinion the NALC has been wrongly impugned.
All of this - our unmatched cultural and individual diversity, our common work in service to America's people, and our interactions inside and outside of the workplace (including on social media), combines to make the NALC a more perfect labor union within the more perfect union of the United States of America. It is thus most fitting that America's letter carriers are the defining and iconic symbol of the world's finest public postal service. We are America itself.
The Banner of Union Solidarity
A social media debate occurred recently following the flooding and devastation from Hurricane Florence. In some of the most hard-hit areas mail could not be delivered for a week or longer, resulting in the payment of administrative leave to affected career USPS employees. However, CCAs working in the same USPS Installations received no pay because USPS rules for administrative leave in such situations do not apply to them. One of the affected CCAs posted a comment wherein they questioned the concept of all letter carriers working under the banner of NALC Union solidarity, given the disparate pay rules in this situation. The concern expressed was not without merit, although misdirected when applied to Union solidarity.
In Branch 2184 we have about 1300 active and retired members. From time to time some of our active members will express concerns or even anger about what they perceive as union negotiated work rules benefiting one or more other employees instead of benefiting them. However, just as with the concerns expressed by the CCA about administrative pay rules, concerns about union-negotiated work rules are also quite misdirected in nature.
About 200,000 active city letter carriers are covered by the provisions of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement. In Branch 2184, about 925 active city carriers are also covered by the provisions of our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU) that we negotiated with the Postal Service. In BOTH instances, the Union's sole mission is always to negotiate work rules that will directly benefit as many actively working letter carriers as possible in any situation. However, it is not possible to negotiate provisions that will equally benefit every letter carrier in every situation. That would require negotiating about 200,000 individual National Contracts and about 925 individual Local Contracts, which is neither possible nor desirable.
As such, the NALC and its local Branches undertake a timeless mission that is indeed about each of us, but even more importantly it is about ALL of us. The Banner of Union Solidarity is most proudly flown whenever our members act in unified support of our common cause. Sure, when necessary we can disagree and debate about the details, but we should do so in a manner which is constructive and not antagonistic.
Most of all, our collective strength requires that each of us look in the min-or and see not
just our own reflection, but instead the reflection of every letter carrier as well as every man and woman whose daily work embodies the power and dignity of labor in our nation.
The Myth of a Proactive Work Environment
Finally, some have suggested that our interaction with Postal Service management would be more productive if the NALC was supposedly more focused on creating and maintaining a "proactive" work environment. As noble and high-minded as this might sound, it fails to recognize both the realities of the dysfunctional work environment existing in many if not most post office stations as well as the singular role of management as the direct cause of this environment.
The realities of the USPS workplace environment, an environment where a deeply ingrained culture of antagonism and disrespect for those that do the actual work of the Postal Service not only exists but has existed for several decades, precludes any
opportunity for meaningful or constructive dialogue that could head off developing problems. In most instances, the Union and its representatives cannot be "proactive" with an employer whose arrogance and refusal to conduct business in a respectful and
cooperative manner is a matter of widespread policy and practice.
In fact, our stewards in Branch 2184 are trained to advise management of potential or developing contract violations. Overwhelmingly, they are ignored, and the result is an inevitable back and forth of grievances and ongoing workplace issues. Most of all, keep in mind that management oversees the Postal Service, not the N ALC. That's where it starts. Too often, the Union must be where it ends.
-- Joe Golonka