A review of the testimony presented by the president of the NALC in the contract arbitration proceedings reveals the huge chasm existing between the philosophies of representation between the two unions. In that both unions operate within the same work environment, with the same employer, one would expect that each would respond similarly with duplicate demands. One could reasonably expect that since the financial condition of the Postal Service exists for all postal employees regardless of craft, the union negotiation positions would mirror one another, yet the APWU’s position was that sacrifices were in order for future employees negotiated wage adjustments and other changes that will shift one billion dollars each year from the employees to postal management.
The APWU’s public position was that the regressive changes were necessary to “save” the Postal Service. The alternate positions were that: 1. An arbitrator would have imposed more onerous reductions or 2. The union negotiators outsmarted management and achieved unprecedented changes that will be paid for by future employees who can refuse postal employment and seek better jobs. The contrasts between the unions could not be more diverse.
In this day of deficits, turmoil and congressional inaction the NALC response is an appeal to the arbitrator to upgrade every letter carrier. The reader is invited to refer to the Exhibit authored by President Rolando (page 56 Conclusions). After thorough justification, over two thirds of the brief the NALC demands of the arbitrator “to upgrade every letter carrier now and forever to Level 7 and 8.” Contrary to the APWU’s negotiated provisions, this upgrade would apply to all present and future employees, not just those on the rolls on the effective date of the award but every letter carrier from this date forward. I guess, if they are successful in keeping with the APWU justification for reduced wages, we can advise prospective future employees that if they want to enjoy a middle class standard of living, they can apply to become letter carriers.
One cannot suggest that letter carrier leadership is unaware of the Postal Service’s finances, the onerous health care payment and reduction of single piece first class as they have retained the services of professional consultants to review the books and verify their authenticity, but they have made an institutional decision that the role of a labor union is to take circumstances as they exist and represent the interest of the members without qualification.
This is not to suggest that the NALC’s arbitration decision will be superior to the APWU negotiated contract because so many other factors are involved, but it illuminates the different philosophies of leaders and their response. One reacts with concessionary bargaining justified by the excuse of the day because it changes dependent upon the audience. The comparable union reacts with aggressive proposals that place the focus on the employees as opposed to the employer. It is the lives of affected employees that are changed by the outcome. There will be a Postal Service 50 years from today and the negotiating philosophy embraced by the leaders today and into the future will determine the rewards for postal activity.