Mail Handlers Local 323

Representing Mail Handlers and MHAs working for the United States Postal Service

Local President's Page

January 2021 Update

This month’s column will be going in a bit of a different direction.  For a while I’ve had an idea of providing a basic explanation of certain contractual provisions and concepts which affect our day-to-day lives in the workplace.  The initial idea was to create something like a “Know Your Contract” section in the Member’s area of our website.  This section would contain simple explanations of contractual provisions which could help the Membership better understand their rights.  This would require common sense, non-technical explanations, which would include real world examples.  The contract can be hyper technical in places; so, wish me luck with the non-technical part.  In any case, I’m unsure if this month’s column will serve as the starting point for a “Know Your Contract” section on the website, maybe it will.  Time will tell.


This is where I’m going to start: November 24, 1984.  What is November 24, 1984?  That is my seniority date.  It seems like a good seniority date now, but I can assure you it wasn’t in 1985 or 1986.  So, let’s take a look at seniority, who has it, how it works, and how it may be used.


There are places where the contract gives something to everyone and there are places where the contract allocates rights among a group or groups of employees.  The allocation of rights begins with the employee classifications of Article 7.  Those classifications are “Regular Workforce” and “Mail Handler Assistants (MHAs)”.  It would also be accurate to describe these classifications as career employees and future career employees.  The Regular Workforce is further divided into three categories of employees.  Those categories are Full-Time Regular (FTR), Part-Time Regular (PTR), and Part-Time Flexibles (PTF).  FTR and PTR employees have separate seniority lists and may only exercise their seniority within their respective categories.  PTF employees do not have seniority rights; but their relative length of service is used for vacation scheduling and conversion to FTR.  Like PTFs, MHAs do not have seniority rights, they have “Relative Standing.”  This only provides a right to career conversion in the order of that Relative Standing.   


Before delving into seniority let’s look at a couple things that the contract gives everyone.


Who gets overtime after 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week?  Everyone.  Of course, seniority determines who should be selected or required to work that overtime.


Who has Christmas Day as a holiday?  Everyone.  Again, seniority determines whether you are accepted as a volunteer or required to work that holiday.


Turning to seniority, since Local 323 doesn’t currently have any PTRs, and since MHAs, like PTFs, don’t have seniority rights, I’m going to focus on seniority rights among FTRs.  So, what is seniority?  Okay, I’ll give it a shot: Seniority is a system used to allocate contractual rights among employees based upon their length of service.  It operates throughout the contract in two different contexts, seniority and inverse seniority (juniority).  The first context of seniority is used to get something you want.  Put another way, you want that bid with those hours and off days, you want to work overtime, or you want to work that holiday.  The second context of juniority is the opposite.  That means, you don’t want to work overtime or holidays and that there are junior people who will have to work first.  


So, how does this work in the real world?  The closest thing we have to an absolute exercise of seniority is the contractual bidding procedure.  You bid on a duty assignment with the hours and off days you want and if you’re senior you get the job.  Still, there are circumstances in which you may not be awarded or able to keep that job.  While it is unlikely in this day an age, you may have used up all your bids and may be deemed ineligible; or you may be on light or limited duty and it becomes a question of whether you are able to keep that job.  In those situations, seniority is no longer the controlling factor.


You will be required to determine what is most important to you when exercising your seniority.  How you exercise your seniority, particularly in the bidding procedure, will impact your other seniority rights.  You may have been the senior person on the nightshift for years, you always get to work your holidays, and you get all the overtime you want.  Now that day job you’ve always wanted comes up, you put in your bid and are the successful bidder.  You report to your new day job and you’re one of the junior people, you infrequently get to work your holidays, and overtime hours are few and far between.  This is the result exercising your seniority has produced.  Is this what you really wanted?


People bid to new jobs for many reasons.  The list is almost endless.  For some the hours and days off are most important, while other look for areas with abundant overtime opportunities.  Some bid to work in the same area as their friends, and there are even some, believe it or not, who bid just to get away from that certain supervisor.  You must decide what’s most important to you and use your seniority accordingly. 


If you want a duty assignment submit a bid, if you want to work your holiday sign up, and if you want to work overtime sign the OTDL.  Seniority must be exercised.