October 2020 Update
Continued From Page 1
Only after identifying all issues and discussing things with the Branch Representatives can a decision to open Local Negotiations be made. The next step is to identify a potential bargaining team and set up a meeting for specific discussions on potential proposals. This where things start to get serious and where I emphasize the role the team members must play. For this round of Local Negotiations, I was going to serve as the Union’s spokesperson in both Branches. Both bargaining teams needed to understand that they we responsible for providing me with perspective. Granted, I’ve conducted Local Negotiations for both Branches before, I’ve arbitrated cases in both Branches, I’ve even served temporarily as a Representative in those Branches; but I’m not there on a daily basis providing representation. My understanding of any issue is totally dependent on their ability to provided me with thorough information. I will not write a proposal, much less put a proposal on the table if I’m not confident that I have a complete understanding of the issue. This principle carries forward into negotiations. During one of our bargaining sessions management raised an issue that I had to back away from. I told management frankly that I had to discuss the matter with our team because I wasn’t sure I had a complete understanding of the issue. The bargaining table is no place to start “winging it.”
The bargaining team must understand that there is no turning back once we deliver the letter opening Local Negotiation. We are starting down a road that we must follow to the end and that road could be bumpy with many twists and turns. During the process we review the local implementations procedures from the opening letter up to and through arbitration. We also consider areas where management may put a proposal on the table. What will our response be; will we submit a counter proposal; how will this affect the proposal we have on the table?
Once the decision has been made to open Local Negotiations the real work begins. Proposal need to be drafted, re-drafted, and refined. Through this process the members of the team get on the same page and become a cohesive unit. While this process understandably varied between the two Branches, there were two common dynamics in play. The first involved me informing the Branch Representatives of the local implementation procedures, and the second involved the Branch Representatives teaching me about their specific issues. When these two dynamics came together we were ready to sit down at the bargaining table.
Before I touch on some specifics relative to each Branch, I’d like to point out a couple of things. Successive rounds of bargaining build upon each other and it’s unrealistic to expect to accomplish all of your goals in any single round of bargaining. This is true regarding a LMOU and equally true regarding the National Agreement.
Looking at the Branches I’ll start with the NDC. No facility supports the proposition that every Branch is unique better than the NDC. Why? Because it an NDC. It’ not a P&DC, not a P&DF, not an AMPF, not a L&DC, and I know it’s unique because there’s only one. Similarly, the NDC Branch LMOU is designed to address issues specifically for the Mail Handlers working at an NDC.
The bargaining team appointed for the NDC was comprised of Branch President Mike Straiton, Stewards John Frey and Tony Stickler, Alternate Steward Jennifer Simmons, and me. Bargaining at the NDC could probably best be described as light bargaining. That’s because the NDC LMOU is already well developed and there are no major issues. Your get to your destination quicker when you start that much farther down the road. Still, improvements were made. Move a Letter of Intent here, clean up a little language there, add this, clarify that, a little nip a little tuck, and you’re done. Incremental progress is still progress because each round of bargaining builds on the foundation of the last. The NDC LMOU has been developed to a point where it will likely be light bargaining from here on out. It’s language is clear, both parties understand it, and very few grievances are filed regarding compliance. Some might say that’s how things are supposed to work.
Turning to negotiations in the St. Paul Branch, the bargaining team appointed was comprised of Branch President Edward Yun, plant Stewards Delicia Johnson and Brian Newhouse, L&DC Steward Brian Lay, and of course yours truly. I’m reluctant to describe the bargaining in St. Paul as heavy bargaining, but it was definitely heavier than bargaining at the NDC. Much discussion occurred around the local leave program and in particular vacation bidding. The language in that section was dated. It wasn’t worse for either management or the Union, just old and bad. Quite frankly, some of that language needed to get into this century. That was cleaned up and some flexibility in vacation bidding was added. Two Letters of Intent were moved into the main document. Once concerned MHA vacation scheduling and other concerned overtime scheduling. Moreover, we added some additional flexibility to sign the OTDL when Mail Handlers bid within their section or when their hours are changed. Some additional provisions were moved from the Q&A which concerned the scheduling of holidays and overtime when someone has short term leave. Did we get everything we wanted? No, but that’s the nature of collective bargaining. There was one proposal that Ed felt strongly about that we were unable to achieved. That concerned moving part of a section. All in all, we did better than incremental progress in St. Paul. We made good progress that will add to the foundation on which our future efforts will be based.
Local Negotiations have been completed in both Branches. We’re currently in the process of finalizing things and preparing to review drafts of each LMOU. Each Branch can be proud of their Representatives because they worked hard on your behalf. We went into every bargaining session prepared, we remained focused, and everyone conducted themselves in a professional manner. Some of our team members had their first look at Local Negotiations; that will make us stronger in the future. To the members of both teams I’d like to say thank you. Our focus and unity were unshakable; and I’m proud to have been part of these teams.
One final thought. A couple of months ago I wrote about a dented, scratched, high mileage, old beater being ready to roll. Is that old beater coasting down the road; or is the pedal on the floor? You tell me.