(from Detroit Workers' Voice #78, December 26, 2008)
. During the past few weeks, postal management has gone on a rampage of attacks against postal workers' jobs. First, management forced all the window clerks in the Detroit district to re-bid for a decreased number of jobs. Then all expediters got letters stating that they would also have to re-bid, while the number of positions will be radically cut to 34. For over a month management has had the 20 lowest-seniority automation Tour II (day shift) workers on so-called "stand-by" -- doing nothing at all for 6 hours per day to illustrate that their shift is supposedly not needed. (Evidently management did not need the money it is paying them not to work!) Then, on December 15 all automation clerks of all shifts received letters stating that they, too, must re-bid, yet there are clearly not enough positions on afternoons and midnights to absorb all the workers from three shifts. At the same time, the past few months have seen management step up its efforts to renege on its commitment to provide work for workers it has injured and instead to force injured workers out of the postal workforce altogether through the National Reassessment Program. Currently, carriers in the Detroit area are being hit hard by this program, but it is directed at all injured postal workers.
. The goals of these brutal maneuvers, which management has stated are going on all over the country, are:
1) to eliminate day shift at Fort St. , the preferred shift for high-seniority workers, and to force those workers onto afternoons or midnights or out of the workforce completely;
2) to speed up the workers' labor, by having smaller numbers of workers perform the work formerly done by larger numbers;
3) to force the lowest seniority automation workers (the word is, those with 1997 or less seniority) out of the clerk craft and into the mail handler or carrier craft; and
4) reduce the postal workforce by placing both injured and healthy workers in extremely difficult situations, causing undesired retirements, injuries and resignations.
. All these steps will cause severe hardship to many workers.
. Postal management justifies these actions by pointing to the deep crisis in the economy. It hoped to cut 40,000 workers through early retirement but offered almost no incentive, so now it is turning to job elimination by other means. True, the economy doesn't look good, but there have been low-mail periods before. Capitalism goes through a boom-bust cycle. The capitalist system goes on expanding production even though the worker majority of the population is suffering lay-offs and growing poverty. It has spawned over-production in auto and elsewhere, a housing bubble and massive speculative ventures lacking firm material basis. This is how capitalism works.
. When capitalism was "working" better, the Postal Service made big money. Even then, they cut jobs, and tried to keep our wages and benefits down. Now, with the economic slump, they are trying to ruin us. But why should the workers have to pay for the evil deeds of the big banks, and the multimillionaire CEOs? The workers didn't cause the economic crisis! We can't let management use the economic crisis as an excuse to rob us of our rights and everything we have worked for! Management tells us, "don't complain, you're lucky to have a job." But that argument is ludicrous when they are taking your job!
. If there's any justice, the capitalists should bear the burden for the crisis they created. But postal management helps the greedy, not the needy. They make us suffer so they can continue to give over-generous discounts to the big corporate mailers. The capitalists get another bailout, the workers get the shaft! The postal budget woes should be solved not on the workers' backs, but through making the big mailers and other capitalists sacrifice.
. The APWU leadership locally has been silent all through the month of day-shift's paid "stand-by." Nationally, it has rested its hopes on an appeal to the known anti-worker National Labor Relations Board and, more recently, on a national grievance. Local leadership held a meeting Dec. 14 on the question of the window clerks' re-bidding but spent much of its time trying to get the clerks to blame the carriers, not management, for job cuts. For the clerks, the union leadership is relying on going through the long, drawn-out grievance channels. This means that it is letting the clerks suffer for many months while it hopes that an arbitrator, someone with an upper-middle-class position and outlook, will side with the postal workers.
. Furthermore, the APWU leadership is not challenging management's right to cut jobs, only that it did not go through the right procedure by properly notifying the union (see Latest News on the APWU web site). Management is going after jobs, and even violating their own procedures to do so. A fight to save our jobs can't just be to find some legal technicalities to delay cuts for a little while; we must fight the job eliminations outright. And above all, we cannot allow the union leaders to turn the fight against job cuts into a fight between the workers of the different crafts! We must fight management, not each other!
. Grievances have a role, but without mass struggle and mass pressure they are weak and unreliable. This is not the way for the workers to struggle against the management attacks! A more powerful way is possible! We, the workers, hold a potential power greater than either postal management or the APWU leadership, if we only take the struggle into our own hands!
. Postal workers, let's hold discussions and meetings among ourselves to plan how the rank-and-file wants to answer these attacks! Let's unite all the postal crafts against job elimination! Read and circulate leaflets like these! Confront Boudreaux and the APWU leadership and the other union leaderships over their lack of action! In 1990 a group of injured clerks and carriers united to combat the mistreatment of the injured. They held a very successful mass picket of Fort St. [Postal Facility in Detroit] and other protests that forcefully raised the issues and won better treatment for the injured. And more recently, when 200 workers from several crafts protested at a City Council meeting, management was forced to drop its plans to move the cancellation operation to Pontiac.
. Now a much larger number of workers are under attack. Let's unite and go into action! <>
Last modified: December 25, 2008.