Why have working conditions deteriorated for APWU workers?

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Written by Jerry Stidman

It is easy to identify problems, but sometimes it is more difficult to find solutions that solve the problem. My goal is to point out what I believe are common problems nationwide for postal workers and hopefully make helpful suggestions to fix the problem.

In the arena of sports if your favorite team has a track record of losing games for a few years the owner fires the coach and starts his search for the next coach. If the new coach also has a losing record for the next few years, he repeats the process again. Unfortunately, when this happens the team loses support from the community and its fan base. By now approximately 9 years have passed if it’s a college team dramatically less time if it is a professional team. The team now must rebuild from a culture of losing. This is the current reality for postal workers.

For multiple decades the APWU enjoyed great working conditions under the leadership of Moe Biller and Bill Burrus. The APWU defended the workroom floor with great success. Steward’s filed grievances for varied types of infringements of the contract with a high percentage of winning. The wages of APWU members were growing under at a steady pace under Biller and Burrus. APWU workers had greater control over their hours worked. Junior APWU members had a positive outlook on issues of job security and the hope of very good jobs as they gained seniority. Workers felt hopeful their retirement would be there for them when they chose to end their work life. Then came Cliff Guffey and Mark Dimondstein. We now have a 9-year record of declining working conditions, wages and serious attacks on benefits like our retirement. We now pay dramatically more for our health insurance.

In all fairness to both Cliff Guffey and Mark Dimondstein both inherited very difficult cards to play in a real-life situation. However, history will illustrate both individuals failed to maintain the quality of employment APWU workers enjoyed under Moe Biller and Bill Burrus. I will now start to illustrate what it will take to improve APWU workers situation for hours worked, working conditions, wages and varied benefits. To identify the problem without suggesting real life solutions is wrong. I will do my best to steer the reader in a solid attempt solve the problem. The first order of business must be to replace APWU Mark Dimondstein and all his surrogates. They are very toxic for this union.

Now the APWU is not a team and we should not pick our leaders like a general manager or collegiate athletic director. When we start thinking about a given future officer has a given skill set with experience in a certain area of expertise our next thought should not be a logistical question. That’s how APWU teams are formed. If we say person “X” can be on a team because they come from a large local, is a more politically savvy person and is more charismatic than person “Y” we are truly doing an injustice for the membership. Follow that up with person “X” is from a different race, gender, and comes from a desired geographical location than person “Y” is corrupt thinking. I personally will look for that lone wolf with a proven track record over a boutique glamour candidate in most cases. Not all the time but in most cases!

The most important issue to improve our working conditions and wages is the upcoming national contract. Any hope in averting the upcoming train wreck of a contract coming our way is to replace Mark Dimondstein. Trust me it is going to be a train wreck. Just because two trains are moving at 5 miles per hour doesn’t mean they will stop before they cause catastrophic damage. There is no alternative. He must be removed, impeached, or voted out unless that happens what the APWU gets for a national agreement might make the 2010 contract look like the Magna Carta in comparison.

This is not a time to be silent and any effort by the APWU headquarters to squelch information to be relayed to the membership should be met with harsh criticism. Transparency about a bevy of issues not just the upcoming contract just does not happen. Communication is a two-way street. The membership must find numerous ways to show just how unhappy they are with their leaders. That local president or shop steward who hears the angry voices of their members because the national doesn’t speak up on important issues knows exactly how the current APWU administration has let them down. Demand transparency accept nothing less.

 

I encourage all officers and members at the local and state level to engage sitting national officers about real issues. You need to get real answers to problems that exist. You cannot expect to different results to your problems if you do not demand honest answers from your questions. You can’t expect different results in working condition, wages and the core issues you have if you continually elect the same people. Look for change but make sure you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There are some worthy people doing an amazing job at APWU Headquarters. I encourage you to take the time to figure out who those people are and do your best to help them. There are some who should have been replaced long ago. Be an educated union member and make sure you vote during the next election.

This will not be the last time I write on issues like these. I feel an obligation to the postal worker at the local level. I am a current postal employee who is retirement eligible. I feel a sense of loss for my peers who have endured much in our local. Our current sitting Postmaster has a reputation as being one of the most austere in our state. The jobs me and my friends who hired in with me currently hold are not what we thought we would have when we gained this level of seniority. The one small skill my maker gave me was the gift of “outreach” and this is a time where I will not be silent. What the APWU needs is workers movement for workers rights. Internal rights, not some socialist vision for some random cause that might even be at odds with the best interests of the individual postal worker.

The questions the individual postal worker needs to ask themselves are:
1. What will make my job a better job?
2. What will make my life more secure in retirement?
3. Who can improve my working conditions?
4. Who can negotiate the best wages, working conditions and a secure future for me and my family?
5. When can I expect these positive changes to happen?

For the sake of transparency, I will be asking for an APWU national election packet. I haven’t made up my mind what I will be running for or even if I will even enter the election process as a candidate. As many know I ran against Mark Dimondstein three years ago. Even though he was very popular at that time and had a positive slant on many of his issues. I felt compelled to insure he was not unopposed as I felt he was very weak on issues that were important to members and that weakness would be exposed as time rolled along. One side note the reason why I would request an election packet and not move forward to run is three years ago I took the time to type the mailing list into a data base. By requesting a packet, I have the ability to update the data base. Many opposition candidates know this to be a fact as I have shared the old data base with them.

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