The changes made in the 2010 contract will forever change postal employment and future historians will record this as the darkest day. We did much more than negotiate a contract that changes this job from a pathway to the middle class to transient employment, we changed people’s lives. Ordinary people like you and I who have ambition and settled on postal employment as a lifetime occupation will be forced to look elsewhere and in this changing economy there are few jobs not requiring higher education or skills that promise adequate income, health insurance and a decent retirement. But for the Postal Service, our lives would have been different and while many would have landed on their feet many others would have traveled from job to job with little security and less income. If you can imagine if your wages were reduced by up to $500 per week and the adverse impact it would have had on your life.
I know these officers who did this and I know them as decent and good people who wanted the best for the union membership but they erred in the extreme. With faulty judgment they turned back the clock to a period that we had escaped over a 40 year struggle. Postal veterans remember how it was when we could not afford a house or two cars, or when doctors or dentists’ appointments were deferred and every major expense was accompanied by an equal sacrifice. Millions of future employees will experience circumstances that we thought we had put behind us. The shallow promise for future corrections is no more than a cruel dream. You simply cannot advance selective groups of employees who are 20% behind while fulfilling your obligation to others. You cannot negotiate 20% pay increases for those left behind while holding senior employees to 1% raises and in the future when the entire work force is under the new contract it will not be possible to increase wages multiples times the rate of inflation. These changes are permanent.
There is simply no justification or excuse for what has been done. Time passes and a handful of affected employees today will grow to a majority tomorrow and over time all of the represented employees will be affected by the new provisions. Retail jobs will be converted to part time; the supplemental work force will equal over 40% of the employees; the starting pay is reduced by 20% and top pay is reached 20 years before retirement so there will be no annual step increases over the last 20 years of employment and retirement annuities will be 25% less.
To compound the tragedy this agreement has dragged the Rural Carriers to the abyss and the APWU officers are holding their breath hoping that arbitrator Das is likewise “impressed by the APWU agreement” and he ignores the comparability obligation. If Das follows the Starke lead the APWU agreement will have been the catalyst to turn back postal employment to the pre-strike period, and deny 450,000 employees and their families per generation the progress we had achieved over the past 40 years.
Within this abandonment of all labor principles, even though we had waged continuous battle to insure that custodial maintenance jobs were reserved for military veterans and took pride in securing employment for our heroes, we should now be ashamed that these jobs are paid at $12.00 per hour.
And to compound this tragedy the officers diligently protected themselves. With claims of impending doomsday requiring major sacrifices they rallied and designed protections that their jobs are secured and their salaries will multiply many times those of the represented employees.
The mistake made was a focus on today as though time stands still when in reality time passes and tomorrow becomes yesterday. The sacrifice of tomorrow’s employees faces the hard reality of a new standard for workers whose names and faces change but the contract written today is for them and those who will follow. In time, we will know their names and learn that they are no different than the employees that we know so well. They will have the same aspirations and dreams that will have been shattered. The negotiators should have known better and because they didn’t they can never be forgiven for the damage done.