. The following article is from Detroit Workers' Voice #39, September 15, 2003. The introduction is from Communist Voice #32.
Demonstrate against Bush's postal Commission!
Sept. 17, 3:00 pm Fort St. P. O. (called by APWU)
|. 150 postal workers demonstrated on Wednesday Sept. 17 in front of the main Detroit post
office, and then marched downtown to hear speeches. They denounced Bush's postal
commission, which had recently issued a report calling for heavier exploitation of postal
workers. The demonstration was called by the APWU (American Postal Workers Union), but
was opposed by various officials of the NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers). For
years the NALC leaders have been helping postal management speed-up the letter carriers. The
APWU leaders, however, aren't much better, and they seek to restrict the workers' struggle to
little more than lobbying. At the demo, they restricted their criticism to Bush, looked to the
Democrats, and insisted that they were not also demonstrating against postal management.
. The following article is from Detroit Workers' Voice #39 (Sept. 15), which called on workers to participate in the demonstration. It was distributed to postal workers in the days before the demo and at the demo. DWV is produced by the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group, which consists of Detroit supporters of the Communist Voice Organization.
. Bush's commission on reforming the postal service recently issued its recommendations. The proposals are an outrageous assault on postal workers. Bush wants to end collective bargaining rights over wages and instead just dictate big wage cuts. The commission also plans to gut retirement and other benefits. It wants to do away with tens of thousands of jobs through attrition, thereby increasing workloads on already-overburdened workers. It wants service cuts that will affect mainly working class and poor customers. Meanwhile the commission wants fat pay increases for postal execs.
. Bush's commission's plan is mostly an endorsement of the plans to crush the workers contained in management's own postal reform policy, the "transformation plan". The fact that the postal commission reached the same anti-worker conclusions as management is no surprise since it was stacked with corporate supporters of Bush.
. Postal workers, don't take these attacks lying down. Your livelihood is at stake. It's time to get
organized to fight the Bush/management assault!
Bush wants to dictate big wage cuts
. One of the main goals of postal management has always been to drive down postal workers' pay. Whenever a new labor contract is negotiated, in every collective bargaining session, management always proposes cuts in pay and benefits. That is why an arbitrator is usually called in, because management simply refuses to bargain in a way that might give workers a gain in pay. Arbitrators, while generally favorable to management, have allowed postal workers some measly pay increases over the years, and this is a big source of grief to postal management and their corporate brethren. Now Bush's postal commission recommends a new mechanism to sidestep collective bargaining over wages entirely.
. The commission recommends setting up a Postal Regulatory Board of three members appointed by the president. This Board will have the job of enforcing "pay comparability", that is, ensuring that postal workers are paid "comparably" to private-sector employees. It will be up to the Board itself "to determine the appropriate sector(s) of the private-sector workforce to be used as the basis of comparison. " This sounds like some impartial investigation will be made, but really the commission has determined the outcome -- that postal workers are overpaid.
. Bush's commission makes it clear how they think the comparability determination will go when they say, "The comparability determination . . . should be enforced as a cap on the total compensation of new employees. " In other words, they think that present postal workers are already paid too much, and they want it to stop, immediately. They envision a new class of employees paid less than older ones. As for present employees, ". . . if the Postal Regulatory Board determines that a total compensation premium exists for current employees, it should be authorized to determine the appropriate period of time during which the premium must be eliminated . . . ". By "a premium" the commission means a situation where postal workers are being paid more than their private-sector comparables. If such a premium exists (and the commission obviously thinks it already does), it will be up to the Board to wipe out this premium. This will not be subject to collective bargaining; in fact, the Board will have the legal right to override collective bargaining agreements to eliminate the "premium".
. What it comes down to is that the president will appoint a few of his pro-big business friends to
drive down the wages of 800,000 postal workers, who will have no say at all in the matter. The
rich corporate slavedrivers aren't satisfied with the meager collective bargaining rights of postal
workers; they aren't satisfied with this system that denies postal workers a right to strike and
instead forces them to swallow the meager crumbs meted out to them by arbitrators. No, they
want the president and his cronies to just directly slash postal workers' pay. This is clear enough
from their talk about "premium" and putting a "cap" on new employees' pay. And note that the
commission doesn't even consider the possibility that a "comparability determination" might
come up with the conclusion that postal workers are underpaid; no, they'll make sure a
determination like that is never reached.
Destroying retirement benefits
. Bush's commission also wants to attack the present system of Federally guaranteed pensions and health care plans. The commission says ". . . the Postal Service and its unions should have the flexibility to develop new plans that are separate and apart from existing Federal pension and retiree health care plans. " And just to make sure everyone knows what they're after, the commission wants to repeal the current statutory requirement that "no variation . . . with respect to fringe benefits shall result in a program of fringe benefits which on the whole is less favorable to . . . employees than fringe benefits in effect on July 1, 1971". That is to say, postal management should drive down the pensions and health care benefits of postal workers; and there should not be any statutory limits on this -- management should be free to drive down pensions below what they were back in 1971!
. The commission's recommendations also include giving management the right to force injured
workers into retirement instead of paying them workers' compensation.
Job cuts and bigger workloads
. Bush's postal commission encourages postal management in its present fierce productivity
drive. It says, "Fortunately, the Postal Service will soon be presented with a unique attrition
opportunity with some 47% of current career employees eligible for retirement by 2010. The
Postal Service is urged to take full opportunity of this attrition opportunity and to exercise
maximum discipline in its hiring practices . . . . " Instead of hiring new workers, management is
supposed to drive the employees who are left to work a number of different jobs, to work more
intensely at more complex assignments. All this at lower pay! And if someone gets injured in the
process, management will have the right to cut them loose, to force them into retirement. Where
they will get reduced pensions and gutted health care coverage! Quite a system, isn't it?
Executives to get higher pay
. Meanwhile, is postal management subject to all this cutting and slashing down and trimming of
the workforce? Not on your life. After all, they represent the same class of parasites as Bush and
his cronies. For them the commission recommends the opposite of what the workers get. For
executive compensation, they say "the current statutory salary cap should be repealed. Further,
the Postal Service should be authorized to establish rates of pay . . . at levels competitive with the
private sector. " So while the workers' pay will be capped, due to comparability determinations,
for executives all caps are off! Postal management will be free to pay themselves the same
outrageous salaries given to private-sector executives at corporations like Enron and K- Mart.
Serving the rich while reducing service to the masses
. The commission makes a number of recommendations that would make postal service more expensive and less convenient for the ordinary citizen. Like management's Transformation Plan, the commission urges the closing of unprofitable post offices and raises the idea of doing away with uniform rates. At the same time, the postal commission permits certain types of special deals for the rich corporate mailers.
. One difference with management's Transformation Plan is that the commission wants the USPS
to be limited in taking on new ventures where it will compete with its private competitors. Postal
management claims that such competition will help save postal jobs. But this is a lie since they
will cut jobs, wages and benefits to defeat their competitors. Postal management proposed
making the PO a semi-private Commercial Government Enterprise with the right to re-invest its
profits into any line of investments it chose to. But Bush's commission opposes this, saying the
PO should be limited to investing in their present core services. Bush's commission wants to
stomp postal workers, but they are worried about the USPS infringing on the profits of private
capitalist competitors like UPS and FedEx.
Workers need to get organized to fight
. Bush's commission recommendations, if followed, will result in drastic changes in postal service that will affect tens of millions of people. But the core of the struggle against it must be centered on the postal workers, who are most directly affected. Bush's commission is recommending drastic changes; if they are implemented, the cuts in workers' pay and benefits will be placed beyond workers' ability to address in collective bargaining. Postal workers need to mobilize themselves and gain the support of other working class people to beat back this attack on the rights of all workers.
. The top postal union officials are expressing opposition to the commission's recommendations. But this is weak and halfhearted. Leaders of the NALC (the letter carriers' union) actually support some of its anti-worker proposals. E. g. , in the Sept. "Postal Record" they say proposals promoting that the "USPS should take advantage of attrition" are one of the "positive ideas" of the commission. (p. 6) This means support for slashing thousands of jobs and increasing overwork. This is part of the NALC leaders' on-going support of management productivity measures which have been ruining letter carriers. Rather than fight management, the NALC wants to help them "grow the business". They say it will save jobs, but this is double-talk since slashing jobs, wages and benefits is how management increases their market share.
. Leaders of the APWU denounced the commission as "dishonest" and are organizing a media campaign against it. But it's hard to take their defense of collective bargaining rights too seriously, since when the last contract expired they didn't even try to negotiate a new one -- they simply endorsed an extension of the old one. And the old one, negotiated in 1999, was a sellout contract!
. APWU and NALC leaders are also gushing with enthusiasm over the alleged opposition to Bush's commission by phony "pro-worker" Democrats such as Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Carper denounces proposed wage/benefit cuts, but he too is pushing hard for attrition to radically cut jobs and increase workloads and injuries. Thus, the APWU and NALC bureaucrats are supporting alternative ways of attacking the workforce.
. Some APWU local unions are organizing a protest march against the commission on September 17. Shamefully, the NALC officials are telling letter carriers to have nothing to do with these protests. But postal workers of all crafts should, if possible, come out to this event and express their opposition to Bush's commission loud and clear. Our tasks are much more than that, however. Workers should build independent networks of activists to agitate among postal workers and the community. We cannot rely on the sellout union leaders who support different ways of helping management ruin us. The rank-and-file needs it own militant voice and organization to oppose the commission and the daily attacks on our livelihood.
Say NO to Bush's postal commission!
Build independent rank-and-file organization!
Last modified: October 15, 2003.