Wayne County, MI
AFL - CIO
Vice President's Report
July/ August 2017
The Contract, the Union, and YOU
The active membership of Branch 2184 and the entire NALC recently participated in a ratification vote involving a new NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement. The overwhelmingly affirmative vote of our membership means that the new Contract is now fully in effect and it will remain so at least through its scheduled expiration date of
September 20, 2019.
Branch 2184’s stewards have and will continue to provided with updated information for contract enforcement purposes. NALC members are understandably most interested in the wage and benefit package in any new contract. However, the now-ratified agreement with USPS management does contain some work rule changes; although 95% or more of previously existing contract language is unchanged. Your Branch leadership will utilize various forums, including this publication, in an effort to make our members aware of pertinent new or modified contract language.
Many of our members are not aware of just what an uncommon privilege the right to vote on a labor contract is. During the past several decades there has been a steady decrease in the number of unionized workers in the United States. Fully negotiated union contracts, such as that just settled by the NALC and the Postal Service, no longer exist in many previously-unionized industries. Whether you chose to accept or reject the proposed contract, you had the opportunity to participate in something that is increasingly uncommon in our nation which is to render an opinion on the document which directly establishes the terms of your employment.
An Invisible Presence
For most letter carriers their membership in the National Association of Letter Carriers is something which understandably receives little day to day thought. This is especially true given the complexity and challenges of day to day living. There is simply too much else to think about and we live in an age of constant distraction. In many ways the background role of the NALC is a direct and positive reflection on our Union’s ability to accomplish most of its core mission in a behind the scenes manner.
However, it is your membership that provides the means and resources to accomplish this on behalf of all letter carriers. The NALC’s effectiveness can often be measured as much by what we don’t have to do rather than what we do. Our primary role of contract enforcement means that in most situations Postal Service management will act in a manner thatnis consistent with the terms of our collective bargaining
agreement. Of course in some situations the presence of the NALC is much more involved and visible on a day to day basis, especially in post office stations with poor management and where frequent contract violations occur.
Thus, the actual involvement with the NALC by many letter carriers is generally limited to the deduction of union dues, with a reasonable expectation in return that the union is diligently protecting their interests each day in the workplace as well as on a
However, some letter carriers will also find that their union membership takes on a much greater personal dimension over time. Typically this happens without any specific intent of this occurring. In fact the great majority of NALC representatives and activists do not initially get involved in the “union business” with any sort of plan about where we are going to take this stuff.
Such was the case of a 20-year old letter carrier working in the Plymouth Penniman station in the spring of 1973. That same letter carrier is now retired from the Postal Service but not from union activism on behalf of the NALC and its members, and
thus he is writing this article more than 44 years later. For most of those who get bitten by the “union bug” the future inevitably takes on a life and direction all its own, as it did with me.
More than a Few Good Men and Women
An increasing number of the NALC’s more recent crop of burgeoning union activists, including those in our own Branch 2184, began their Postal Service careers as CCAs. There will likely be a future time where every NALC representative, from Branch 2184’s stewards and officers to our NALC National officers, will have begun their postal career
as a CCA. Some of the future leaders of Branch 2184 might well be reading this issue of our Branch publication without even knowing their future will include union-related activism. However, for the majority of our members this will likely not be the case, so where do you fit into the picture?
In actuality it is those who are NOT the NALC’s current or future leaders that will most determine the future of our union. The union is not defined by its leadership or by any individual or group of individuals. NALC officials at the local, regional,
and national levels are not “the union” in the same manner that your supervisor is not the Postal Service. YOU are the union and YOU are also the Postal Service in the very same manner as NALC President Fred Rolando and Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Having a “title” in the NALC or in the USPS conveys both authority and responsibility. It does NOT under any circumstances convey ownership. All NALC members are equal co-owners of the Union and of the Postal Service.
For those who have already chosen to take on a role of leadership as well as for those who will choose to lead in the future the task at hand and the responsibility is great and it will remain so. But it is never ONE of us, or even many of us, that ultimately
defines the Union which represents the world’s finest delivery service employees. The National Association of Letter Carriers is ALL of us, and it always will be.
-- Joe Golonka