Postal workers, unite! The USPS
national contract offer is an insult!

. The following article is from Detroit Workers Voice #21, December 9, 1998,
and was reprinted in Communist Voice #20.

Vote NO!
The tentative contract settlement is an insult!

. Tentative contract agreements have just been reached between USPS [the US Postal Service] management and the unions representing clerks and mail handlers. As we write, an agreement with the letter carriers' union has yet to take place, but it likely will be patterned on the other agreements. These contracts are a complete insult which should be voted down by the rank and file.

. Over the last four years USPS management has made some $5 billion in profits. These profits come from the sweat and blood of postal workers. They come from ever-heavier workloads, from keeping a tight lid on wages and benefits, and from farming out postal work in various privatization schemes. Does USPS management reward the workers for their efforts? No. They offer us a contact which offers us a few tiny crumbs, which does nothing to protect us from increased work burdens and allows even more privatization. They are saying in effect that "we got away with treating you like dirt for the last four years (and more), so we will continue to treat you like dirt with this new contract."

. USPS management is trying to ram this rotten contract down our throats with the help of the national postal union leaderships. The APWU (clerks) and the NPMHU (mail handlers) national leaderships are bragging what a great contract they have won. Here's what they consider a great victory:

Billions for management, peanuts for the workers

. While profits have been pouring in hand over fist, this new contract contains a pitiful wage increase of 2.0% in the first year and 1.4% in the second year. Wow, how generous! This amounts to a puny $12 per week increase in the size of a Level 5 workers' paycheck after 2 years.Originally management offered no wage increase but only two lump-sum payments totaling $1900. This sucked. But isn't it also an insult that the total amount of basic wage increases a worker would get in the present agreement is only about $1.37 per week more than management's original lump-sum offer? Meanwhile, outgoing Postmaster General Marvin Runyon got a retirement package worth over a million dollars for his brief stay as chief slave-driver and was treated to a retirement party that cost $150,000.

. The union leaders also tout a tiny increase in the share of health insurance costs to be paid by the USPS, resulting in the employees' share being reduced to 15%. But this doesn't begin to make up for the fact that, before the last contract, the employees' share was only 10%. So with this new "victory" workers will still pay 5% more of the share of health costs than 5 years ago!

More privatization

. The APWU and NPMHU leaders are boasting that this contract contains powerful protections against privatization. This is a lie. There is a so-called 18-month "moratorium" on new national privatization agreements. But it's not worth the paper it's written on because the proposed contract also allows management to establish 25 new privatized priority mail centers. Moreover, what happens after the 18 months? That doesn't even cover the length of the contract. So management could privatize whatever it damn well pleases in the last 6 months of the contract!

. True, one of the 25 subcontracted facilities will use postal employees. But this is just an experiment to see if the work can be done just as cheaply by postal employees. It's a lose-lose situation for the postal workers. If the work isn't done as cheaply, privatization goes ahead. But if postal workers work just as cheaply, this means they will have to accept increased workloads and poorer compensation. In other words, this is just another attempt at driving down postal workers' conditions by threatening them with privatization. It's a method of pitting one group of workers against another to the detriment of both.

Increasing use of casuals

. In its never-ending drive for slave-labor, management would like to replace as many career workers as possible with low-wage casuals who work only at management's whim. The NPMHU agreement states that the cap on the percentage of casuals employed at an installation will rise to 12.5%.

Vote NO on the sellout agreement, prepare for struggle!

. Management has been running roughshod over us for too long. Now is the time to stand up against them. Let's have a massive NO vote against the contract.

. But we cannot simply vote NO and rest easy. If the contract is rejected, management and the union leaderships will then take the contract to arbitration. History has proven that contracts that go to arbitration come back with little for the workers. That's why management in the past has shown little inclination to reach a negotiated settlement. The arbitration boards are closely tied to the same fat-cat capitalist establishment that has been on a rampage against the jobs and conditions of the workers across the country.

. If there is to be a serious struggle for a decent contract, the rank-and-file must mobilize themselves for mass action. The more a protest movement against the contract can be built, the more pressure will be put on management and the arbitrators to give us what we deserve. Who will organize such a movement? Some local union leaders like the APWU's Roger Holbrook have voiced criticism of the local contract. But the track record of the local leaders show they cannot be relied upon to build serious resistance to management or that they are interested in mobilizing the bulk of workers for a real fight. That task must be undertaken by the rank-and-file itself.

. As we encourage our co-workers to vote NO, let's also discuss what forms we can use to build up a mass protest movement. True, postal strikes are illegal. But this is only another reason that we must get organized. If workers are not yet prepared to defy the anti-strike law, let's organize other protests to help unify our ranks and put us in a better position to use even more powerful forms of struggle in the future. We don't have to sit passively by while others decide our fate. Let's take matters into our own hands. <>


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