Isn’t technology wonderful? From the comfort of my family room I was able to watch snippets of the APWU national convention and see old friends in their familiar roles of advocating for postal employees. The memories of attending every convention over the past 40 years came tumbling out and I experienced a small case of nostalgia. (It was not severe enough to want to come out of retirement.) Many of the events were familiar and I could anticipate them before the speakers spoke. Securing the presence of Congressperson Debbie Wasserman Shultz was a major “get” and her words were inspiring. And, old friend Danny Davis did not disappoint in the delivery of a timely message in his baritone voice.
The proceedings were following a familiar script until the point that I was taken aback when a top national officer expressed surprise that the Postal Service was not abiding with the contract Duh? One would have had to have spent their entire postal career on the Mars rover to be unaware that postal management violates the contract, every contract, every day. This was the same officer who announced that the Watershed agreement included safeguards with questions and answers that would eliminate disagreements that had plagued prior contracts. But standing there in the glare of the klieg lights on camera he said that this would have been a Watershed agreement, if only management complied. Well I guess that takes care of that.
Welcome to postal labor relations but it is a little late. In the – this for that bargaining the union surrendered 40 hour full time, increased casuals (PSEs) and emasculated the wage scale in exchange for a mirage of contractual changes that management has a different interpretation. Perhaps it would have helped if the agreement was written to the grammar standards of a 5th grader but to look into the camera without blinking, he announced that the only negative was management’s compliance. I was sure that he was not talking about full time being changed to fewer hours, casuals being increased 300% and working jobs previously banned. And I know he was not talking about any disagreement over the new entry wages. You can bet your bottom dollar that there will not be a single grievance filed on the entry wages of employees hired after the date of the contract. Their salaries will be reduced by 40% and the union and management can go skipping into the sunset in full agreement.
In closing, there was recognition of the language purported to limit excessing to 50 miles. To refresh my memory, I consulted the language of the agreement and having spent several decades writing contract language I know that if you reach agreement to limit excessing to 50 miles you do not word that agreement with:
”If the radius of the event exceeds 50 miles, the parties will agree on a time frame for the offering and awarding of the residual vacancies” and
“If in unusual situations there are insufficient residual vacancies available for placement within fifty (50) miles, the parties will determine what steps may be taken.”
This language is purported to absolutely restrict excessing to fifty (50) miles and is an issue waiting to be included with others as “management’s refusal to comply with the contract.”
If you want to write language that prohibits excessing beyond 50 miles you do not use weasel words like “if in unusual situations” or “if the radius of the event exceeds 50 miles.” This begs for an interpretive dispute. Instead you agree that “Involuntary excessing will be limited to a distance of 50 miles from the former and new duty assignment as measured by a straight line.”
The wording agreed to cries out for future disputes on what constitutes 50 miles, measured from where to where? Is it from the employee’s home or the Plant in the case where the employee is assigned or to a Station or Branch that may be 20 miles from the Plant? Since the editorial expounded on the employee impact, how do you measure if the employee prior to excessing lives 30 miles to the east of the Plant where currently assigned and the new assignment is to the west? How do you measure the distance and what is the starting point which is important because most communities are connected via a circular beltway that increases distance while reducing commuting time?
While taking credit for the absence of 300 mile relocations, I suggest that the contract language is not the restricting factor.
What a convention, but I could have skipped that particular interview.