Now the whining begins that the 2011 national agreement was a choice between arbitration and the worst negotiated agreement in the history of bargaining. The revised story is that they held a gun to our heads and the wise choice was to maximize contractual gains rather than facing an arbitrator more sinister than Jack Clarke in the rural case. This was not the spin during ratification, but as the horror stories multiply the fall back position is that they held us hostage.
Over the course of 41 years of bargaining, APWU has completed 16 contract negotiations sessions, including two extensions and a special negotiations over the division of health care payment. The results have been 10 voluntary agreements and six arbitration decisions. On each occasion the union negotiators had the choice of voluntary agreement or arbitration. In those negotiations where it became apparent that the union negotiators could not achieve their objectives, the decision was arbitration and we lived with the results. When voluntary agreements were reached, we did not justify them with the threat of arbitration. Each was evaluated on the merits and we did not give excuses. We did not whine that “the Postal Service is broke,” mail volume is depressed” or “the times are bad.” We used negotiations to achieve the objectives of the employees and we were determined to use every tool available. Invariably, we came up short and did not achieve all of our objectives, but we did not whine that we had no choice.
Any comparison to the Rural Carriers’ award or the pending NALC and Mail Handlers’ arbitrations are misplaced. In each of those negotiations they failed to reach agreement on a basket of contractual provisions so as a last resort their contracts will be decided in arbitration. This was a conscious decision.
Negotiators have choices and they were exercised in the recent APWU negotiations. Deliberate decisions were made to exchange the wages of future generations to achieve what was considered to be breathtaking changes. Over a period of six months, the union and management exchanged packages of proposals that finally led to an agreement that will dramatically change postal employment and the lives of millions of postal employees. The union got the agreement that it bargained for. Any efforts to mitigate the judgment applied by blaming it on the threat of arbitration are to rewrite history; it will not fly. A decision was made and future generations of postal employees will pay the price. Whining is not an excuse for judgment.