Wake Up Union Members
A Union Friend of Raymond's
There were two incidents such as strikes or protests made by federal employees, one was done by the traffic controllers and the other was by the postal workers. I remember the postal workers; because they marched down either Jackson Boulevard or Dearborn Street going past the John Kluczynski Federal Building, at the time I was a college student. I remember the traffic controllers, because President Reagan's administration were responsible for firing those traffic controllers who participated in the strike.
I did not realize the effects of belonging to a union at the time. I was student working for minimum wage. But now that I have been working in the workforce for over 30 years, I've grown to understand the effects the union has had on the workforce.
I cannot comment too much on the traffic controllers' union. I do know that a lot of the traffic controllers who were fired back then never got their jobs back; and they had a hard time getting a decent job. One of television's news network did a report on whatever became of the traffic controllers who were fired.
The postal workers union, especially the American Postal Workers' Union and the National Letter Carriers' Union, I will be able to comment on through experience as a worker and a steward. I am going to talk about the Letter Carriers' Union from a worker's point of view and the American Postal Workers' Union from a worker's and a steward's point of view.
I became a part of the National Letter Carriers Association during the 1980's, after being hired as a letter carrier. I joined the union because my parents and grandparents were union members and strongly believed in the union. In the beginning, I attended the union meetings to learn about my rights as an employee. During my years as a letter carrier, I remember an incident where I needed union representation and I must say they came through. Our stewards were instrumental in keeping me from getting a letter of warning.
By the mid-90's I switched over to the American Postal Workers' Union after becoming a clerk. I found myself requesting union representation a lot. As a clerk, I worked in retail, selling stamps and various services, and I found working with the public has its good side and bad side. The good side was when my co-workers and I are able to satisfy the customers' shipping needs. The bad side was when the customers complained about our services and/or some confusion between co-workers involving a carrier, clerk or even supervisors and managers.
As an employee, I have to say I had the attitude the union could do anything. Yes I never took in consideration there were rules being followed by the union and management; but my attitude changed after I became a steward myself. I became aware of how some of the issues address by the union were sometimes overwhelming or minute. I had to deal with situations where employees were off from work for long periods of time because of personal circumstances. In which, at the time I could not repeat and still had to fight for their jobs. Other times, the situation may involved simple miscommunication between employees or management.
In the beginning everything seemed so cut and dry. Both the union and management followed the contract to some degree. From my experience as a worker, the employees began to take for granted what the union had accomplished. The employees and management cross the line as to what their job description was. Employees and management got so comfortable, management started doing bargaining unit work, and the employees stopped complaining. You even had some employees that management made them feel like they were in charge without the title of supervisor or pay. As time went on those same employees began to complain about management and employees switching roles, especially when management required more with less pay. The unions for each craft have also crossed the line, management has instructed clerks to do mail handlers' work and vice versa.
There were also some employees who worked on projects which went against the rules of safety. We as union representatives found our hands tied, because the employees wouldn't listen nor complain. There were some managers who would abide by the rules, and then there were some managers who just did not care. The employees suffered tremendously behind these actions, but never imagine life as a postal worker could getting any worse than that.
The employees are now faced with excessing, some people have said it is due to the decrease in mail. But I say it comes from management doing bargaining unit work without being penalized and management allowing employees to cross crafts. Regular full-time employees are being forced to work numerous hours of overtime and in some cases being replaced with casual employees.
The handwriting has been on the wall for more than twenty years now, but employees refused to accept it. Please wake up. Read your Collective Bargaining Agreement. Attend your meetings. Get behind your Union. If you are not a member, you need to become a member. The Union needs your participation as well as your financial support.