APWU’s national officers will meet in Atlanta for several days in early February, as President Cliff Guffey seeks to move the organization in a new direction. “We must shift the focus of the union away from acting as a grievance machine,” he said. “Leaders at all levels of the organization must get more involved in legislative activities and other union efforts.”
A top priority for the APWU is to encourage members to visit their elected representatives and urge them to support efforts to resolve the Postal Service’s financial crisis. Union members also must encourage legislators to endorse bills that would strengthen the USPS without weakening workers’ rights, Guffey said.
“All national officers must set an example by assisting locals and state organizations in establishing better ties with congressional representatives,” the union president said.
The single biggest challenge confronting the Postal Service — and APWU members — comes from the Congressional requirement to pre-fund future healthcare liabilities, a burden no other government agency or private company faces, Guffey said. The requirement is a provision of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. To address this problem, support on Capitol Hill is essential.
The pre-funding mandate drains more than $5 billion per year from USPS accounts, Guffey noted. “And although taxpayers do not fund the USPS, when unions, mailers, and postal management try to rectify this misguided policy, some politicians erroneously characterize it as a ‘bailout.’”
Closer relationships with members of Congress will help union members win support for efforts to resolve USPS financial difficulties, Guffey said, and they will help locals and state organizations fight ill-advised facility consolidations and station and branch closings.
The APWU president also plans to unite officers around other union activities. “In addition to supporting our legislative agenda, I want to impress upon national officers the importance of promoting union organizing efforts, human relations campaigns, educational programs, and the APWU Health Plan,” he said.
“Being a leader of the APWU means more than being an expert on the contract,” Guffey said. “It means being a champion of the union’s long-term goals. Every national officer should be able to articulate the union’s objectives in each of these areas and should be leading our efforts to advance them in the field.”
The meeting of the National Executive Council will include discussion of various union programs. Department directors and craft officers will outline their plans; seek input from other officers, and engage in dialogue with regional coordinators and national business agents about how best to advance the union’s cause. Field officers also will be invited to discuss their views about how to strengthen the union. The council is comprised of all national union officers.
“I hope the meeting will unite national officers around these programs and motivate them to play a more active and leading role in all of our activities,” Guffey said.
The union’s negotiating team will also brief field officers on the status of contract negotiations. The APWU is still working to reach an agreement that will benefit postal workers and the Postal Service, Guffey said. The parties are discussing job security, excessing, wages, benefits, and issues related to workforce structure.