May 2022 Update
So how are things going in Local 323? That’s a good question. I found myself contemplating that very question as I searched for a topic to cover in this month’s column. At times there’s something particularly positive or interesting to cover. The passage of Postal Reform or the ratification of a new National Agreement would fall into this category. Alternatively, there are times when I find no shortage of topics which arise from my frustration. I don’t think you need examples of that. And then there are times when significant events loom on the horizon and we focus on improving at our core function of providing representation. That is where Local 323 finds itself right now.
There are two significant things looming on the horizon. The first of course is the negotiation of the 2022 National Agreement. The 2019 National Agreement expires on September 20th of this year, the proposals for our next contract have been finalized, and the negotiators head to the bargaining table on June 10th. Now we wait. The second significant item is the 2020 NPMHU National Convention. This Convention was delayed to August of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the National Convention, the Delegates will debate and vote on the rules under which our Union will operate.
Today, tomorrow, and until its necessary to adapt to the changes that lay ahead, we have an opportunity to improve on our core functions. What does that mean exactly? It means that each individual Representative, from the most recently appointed Alternate Steward to the Local President, should evaluate how they can become better at providing service to the Membership. This is a process which varies with time and experience; but it starts with a frank appraisal and a few simple questions. Am I getting better; am I better than I was a month ago, six months ago, or a year ago? What do I need to learn; where is that information; how will I use that information to become better? This is not something I’m preaching to our developing Representatives, but something I do personally on regular basis.
The process I use to evaluate my individual progress is also used to evaluate the progress of the Local Union, although with broader questions. Is Local 323 getting better, is Local 323 better than it was a month ago, six months ago, or a year ago? Do the Representatives have the tools and training they need; what additional tools and training can we provide; are we creating and environment where the Representatives can become better? These are question I not only ask myself, but also the Members of the Local Executive Board and Local Union Council. My viewpoint is well known, good enough is never good enough; it’s always possible to do better. It is important that those entrusted with leadership roles are always striving to create a better and more effective Local Union.
So, how do we do that? How do we create a better and more effective Local Union? It starts with a frank appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses. Our greatest strength is that we all come from a common background. We all come from the work floor as Members of the Mail Handler bargaining unit. This is also our greatest weakness. Not the fact that we’re all Mail Handlers, the fact that we all come from the work floor. Who runs the work floor? Does anyone think that we should look to management for a model of how to operate? I hope not. We’re not looking to become an organization with a culture of apathy and disfunction. The Local Union must be something else.
The Local Union must create a culture that is completely divorced from the culture of management. This can be difficult to do, particularly when considering that our primary function is to process grievances which result from management’s culture. The first step is knowing that there is a difference. It takes some newer Representatives time to adapt to the differences between the cultures. Yet, I see Representatives transition between these cultures daily. They know when they put on their “Steward’s hat” they are working in a different culture, with different rules, and with different expectations. Put another way, they know that they’re changing their mindset from the mindset of a craft employee to the mindset of a Union Representative.
Each Representative must remain flexible in their thinking and be able to adapt their mindset to changing circumstances. Still, it’s possible that I’m overly entrenched in one mindset. I shared that one with you earlier, it was “good enough is never good enough; it’s always possible to do better.” Although, that doesn’t seem to be a bad mindset in which to be entrenched. It comes from knowing that for things to change, we must change, and that for things to get better, we must get better. It all starts with being able to adapt your mindset.
So back to where I started. How are things going in Local 323? You tell me.