May 2019 Update
Progress continues to be made on some fronts, and, while we continue to battle on others, significant developments have the potential to shape our future. Specifically, the metro area facilities are seeing substantial progress in the number of MHAs being converted to career as we begin battling with management over their latest plan to adjust duty assignments using the Function 1 Scheduler. Meanwhile, Congress has introduced legislation to end the onerous pre-funding mandate regarding the future health benefits of retirees and the National Association of Rural Letter Carriers has announced a tentative agreement with the Postal Service.
Regarding MHAs, our permanent industry of pursuing conversions had produced some significant results. Our Branch Representative have remained focused on this objective, while continuing their efforts on an array of additional issues. If experience teaches us anything, it is that there will be issues in completing the conversion process. Once these issues have been resolved we will continue working on the next round of conversions.
The Function 1 Scheduler has been a problem in the past and I don’t expect this round to be an exception. We must consider in the broadest context how we want the Postal Service to respond to changes in the business environment. This is particularly true as we approach negotiations over the terms of the 2019 National Agreement. I don’t believe we want to see the Postal Service going back to the days of excessing numerous Mail Handlers to facilities which are hundreds of miles away from their homes. Nor do I believe we want to see excessive sectional excessing within any facility; although, internal excessing is always preferable to external excessing. If these events are off the table, then we are left with the realignment of occupied duty assignments. We are definitely in a lesser of the evils scenario.
Still, management would do well to consider that each time they change a Mail Handlers duty assignment and disrupt their lives, they are creating an environment of uncertainty in which individual people feel that their value to the Postal Service has been diminished. Do I expect the Postal Service to take this into consideration? I do not. I expect that management will blindly follow the dictates of their superiors without regard to the realities of the work floor or the impact their decisions have on people’s lives. To be sure, it’s managements job to run the Postal Service. Conversely, it is our job to minimize the impact and ensure that each individual Mail Handler receives their rights under the contact.
Turning to the Congressional front, legislation was introduced in the House that would end the requirement of the Postal Service to pre-fund the future health benefits of its retirees. Specifically, the USPS Fairness Act (H.R. 2382) was introduced by Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). He says the pre-funding requirement is "unfair" because the Postal Service is the only agency with such a mandate. The timing of this legislation couldn’t be better as we are preparing to attend the 2019 NPMHU Legislative Conference. The first week of June I’ll be in Washington, DC to help carry the Mail Handler message to Capitol Hill. I will be accompanied to this event by Recording Secretary and Minneapolis Branch President Dean Abatte as well as ND State Executive Board Member Brock Engstrom. Together we’ll make sure that the voices of the Mail Handlers in Minnesota and North Dakota are heard on Capitol Hill.
Along that line, I’ve added a page to our website to inform the Membership of the NPMHU Political Action Committee (PAC). No dues money is donated to political campaigns; so, the PAC was formed in order to allow Members to support our issues on Capitol Hill. Participation in the PAC is completely voluntary; however, you must be a Member to participate. The PAC does not take a position on any “hot button” issues. But rather, the PAC supports members of both parties who support our legislative goals. More information is available on the PAC page. Join the PAC and you too can be an NPMHU Legislative Activist!
Finally, it was recently announced that the National Association of Rural Letter Carriers (NARLC) has reached a tentative agreement with the Postal Service. Like our Union’s process, this tentative agreement will be subjected to a ratification vote by the Members of the NARLC. I will not attempt to determine whether this is a good or bad agreement, that’s up to their Membership to decide. But, it’s encouraging to see that a negotiated agreement is still possible in today’s environment.