UNION UPDATE. March 31st, 2018
Jim Bjork, Eric Freeman, Humphrey Rutherford and I were in Washington DC this past week.
Day 1: We met with Janet Peterson (USPS Labor Specialist) and Charles Zekan (Program Manager) to discuss many pending issues including: scheduling national grievances to arbitration; transfer denials; recruitment, hiring and advancement; better equipment; the back pay issue for new PPOs who were in the NALC during a retroactive back pay period;—and now that contract negotiations have reached impasse—proceeding with mediation and/or Interest Arbitration.
A little background: By law, if impasse is reached, postal unions cannot strike, but instead, must enter into mediation or interest arbitration. There is a third option, not mandated by law, which is called “Med/Arb.” Simply put, med/arb is where the mediator becomes the arbitrator if a mediated settlement cannot be reached. The PPOA believes that med/arb gives us, by far, the most leverage (for a number of different reasons—too many to address here). Of course, the Postal Service must feel the same way because they have summarily rejected our request for med/arb, and instead are insisting upon separate and costly (non-binding) mediation. By doing so, the Union believes that the Postal Service is needlessly wasting money (while constantly claiming poverty) and only trying to waste Union finances since mediation rarely results in settlement whereas med/arb does. And given how far apart the parties are, it is very unlikely a mediated settlement can be reached—if the mediator doesn’t retain the final word. This brings me to day 2 in DC.
Day 2: Being that the Postal Service has actually testified to Congress that med/arb is more cost effective and time efficient—and should be mandated by law for labor/management dispute resolution, we thought Congress might want to know that the USPS either lied to Congress or is attempting to bankrupt the smallest postal union—the PPOA. To that end, we met with several Congressional offices on the Senate side. One office in particular was very interested in how PPOs are being treated. After hearing about how little PPOs are paid relative to other postal employees; about the EEO currently awaiting class status; and about how the USPS bankrupts the PPOA every four years; carriage/safety issues (among other things)—they were quite interested. Although there are no guarantees, it appears that they may be willing to assist. We have quite a bit of streamlining and work to accomplish in advance of, and in preparation for, these Congressional initiatives on our behalf.
And once again, a big thank you to NAPO for scheduling these congressional meetings; accompanying us during these meetings; and acting as a full-fledged advocate for Postal Police Officers throughout the years.
Day 3: Jim Bjork and I met with DCI Keith Milke, AIC Jessica Wagner, LR Specialist Janet Peterson (CBA Administrator) and Charles Zekan (PPO Program Manager). As you can imagine, this meeting became very contentious at times but was also informative. Basically, the rumors that we’ve all been hearing are, for the most part, true. PPOs are being pulled back from street patrols, not entirely, but—according to the Agency—the primary mission of postal police is 1970s-style “facility security”—and street patrols are a “secondary function” that will only take place if resources allow (using the Agency’s 2014 arbitration playbook—the Agency having said that off-property activity was “mission creep.” This presupposes that mission creep can last for 10 years. We look forward to what an arbitrator will say about that.
We also discussed officer safety—with an emphasis on San Juan PPO safety concerns. DCI Milke states that in-transit carriage may be resolved by the end of April—beginning with pilot programs in some PPO locations.
The other rumor confirmed, whether you believe it or not, was that DCI Milke and a few INCs made a sincere attempt to get PPOs more money, and that was the hope of the PPO Job Evaluation. Unfortunately, the Postal Service, along with the USPIS Office of Counsel, basically told Milke and the INCs to shut up and mind their business. Obviously, and if true, the PPOA appreciates any help on the part of Milke and those INCs who were involved. However, the Union questions why Inspection Service advocacy suddenly disappears when the heavy-handed Labor Relations machine orders the Inspection Service to testify as they demand—to the point where the Inspection Service actually testifies against higher wages for PPOs at Interest Arbitration.
As I’ve said many times before, the Union is in the best position it has ever been. The Postal Service knows this and is resorting to every underhanded trick in the book to deter us but the fight goes on...