Former APWU President Burrus Defends His Comments On Contract

March 23, 2011

APWU Members

As the former President and a continuing union member, I agreed to the posting of my previous open letter fully anticipating that responses would be both positive and negative. I do not engage in the many forms of electronic communications, other than those union members who have contacted me directly. I have not personally read the responses or shared my views on comments to my previous post and I respect those who agreed and those who disagreed. I did not solicit advance approval for the content of my letter because I reserve the same rights as all members to voice my opinion and reject any assumption of an ulterior motive. My posting was intended to serve as voice for future postal employees who will be negatively affected and will have no vote in the ratification.

It is anticipated that those who defend the tentative agreement would challenge the points of my letter to reject the conclusions, but the facts speak for themselves. Employees yet to be hired will be affected but they will not be provided the opportunity to engage in the ratification debate. No one will ask them if the contractual changes are equal to a 20% reduction in wages. Would a current member willingly accept a 20% wage reduction for the contractual changes? All members who say yes, please raise your hand.

While I have rounded the numbers in explaining the wage reductions, for those who demand specifics, I refer to the new starting salary of a Grade 3 Custodian ($25,657) as compared to the current starting salary of $33,793, a difference of $8.136 per year while serving in the initial step and in each subsequent step (19 Steps or 20 years). In 1970 we struck in part because it took 21 years to reach top Step. Assuming a 30 year career, without factoring overtime, holiday and other premium pay the total loss will equal more than $200.000. A more detailed comparison can be made by the union economist so I challenge any interested member to request an official estimate of salary reduction. How would your life have changed if your salary had been reduced by $8,000 per year, each year of your career?

It follows that a salary reduction of $8,000 per year will lead to a corresponding reduction of retirement annuity. Precise estimates of this reduction is likewise deferred to the professionals, but it can reasonably be assumed that if earnings are reduced by 24%, the retirement annuity will be affected accordingly and the annuity will be reduced proportionally each year. Assuming a working career of 30 years, followed by 25 years of retirement, one can reasonably assume that the total loss suffered by employees hired under the new contract will exceed $200,000 per employee.

A promise that negotiations in future years will address the significant wage reductions is hollow, intended only to mollify dissent. Additional entrance Steps were added to the salary scale over 10 years ago in the form of Steps AA and BB and they continue surviving five negotiations and continuing to date. The removal of the new entrance Steps of this tentative agreement would be added to those new Steps already in existence and their correction would generate pay increases equal to the reduction ($8,136) that would be disproportionally applied exclusively to employees within these Steps. Meaning that employees hired under previous contracts would not receive this increase that would be the largest in postal history. So those who support trading the wages of future employees for immediate contractual changes should dispense satisfying this injustice by promising to correct the travesty in the future. The elimination of the Step I and J ceilings faces the same hurdle. It ain’t going to happen. If it were so easy, why are all wage increases under this agreement that do not begin until 2012, equal 1% as compared to the approximate 20% increase necessary to eliminate the entrance or top steps in future years? If you truly believe that the Step I and J ceilings will be removed or that the entrance Steps will be modified, I have a bridge for sale looking for a buyer.

I understand the uncertainty felt by many employees. The economy is uncertain, the job market is weak and the Postal Service has suffered significant losses. This is not a good prescription for interest arbitration and I do not advocate placing the economic future of our members in the hands of a single individual. But a union that seeks guarantees and is unwilling to fight for what is right is not deserving of the trust of its members.

I will not pontificate about what I would have done or would do. I was not there during the closing days and was not exposed to the lengthy debates and exchanges after my retirement. My offer to share my experiences with the APWU negotiators was not responded to; therefore, I did not have the opportunity to consider their rationale or to expose them to a different view. I only know that the very basic concept of a union that I have lived and breathed for 50 years is contrary to this outcome.

The fact is that the decision is now in the hands of the membership, but in making that decision, I ask that you do it honestly. If you vote for ratification, do it with clear intent. Decide that in 2011, APWU, your union, is willing to trade the economic security of future generations to avoid continuing the struggle.

Let me be clear, I applaud the success of President Guffey and his team in achieving objectives that we have only dreamed about for the entire period of collective bargaining. The return of work, the elimination of mandatory overtime, significant limits on excessing and more are huge achievements; I tip my hat to their achievement. They should be applauded. Where we part company is that in the process, they traded tomorrow. A conscious decision has been made to sacrifice future generations for today. That simply is not my concept of a labor union. Negotiations are not trading this for that. The simple fact is that postal management was willing to trade its control in many areas in exchange for significant wage reductions. Perhaps in the future, COLA or No Lay Off for new employees can be exchanged for some immediate change.

I make no recommendation as to how each member should vote. I did not in my previous post and I do not at this time. I respect your decision but I ask that you be honest and consciously decide if you are willing to trade the ability of future postal employees to enjoy the same level of economic security that you have achieved on the backs of those who went before you. If your answer is yes, you should vote to ratify.

The conventional wisdom advances the theory that the creation of more jobs will result in additional prospective union members demands further review and analysis. Repeated public statements listed the union objectives as more jobs but peeling away the public relations purpose of such priorities as applied to the contractual changes one must conclude that low wage jobs are unlikely to result in union membership growth.

The tentative agreement includes new categories of bargaining unit employees including the conversion of casuals to NCAs, the return of outsourced work, reduction of 204bs and the opportunity to compete on a cost basis for contracted work. In combination these changes should lead to increased numbers of bargaining unit employees, but in an open shop environment this will not automatically convert to equal an numbers of union members.

The primary objective of postal employees upon employment is to maximize earnings to sustain or improve a preferred lifestyle. Every expense is compared against the earnings achieved through employment, including union dues that are optional and APWU dues that averages $50.00 per month ($600 per year) will consume a significant portion of net income.

The salary ranges of the new employee categories range from $12.00 per hour (NCAs) to $17.59 per hour for Grade 6 new employees. The APWU dues structure has evolved through negotiated salary increases leading to hourly wages ranging from $16.90 per hour as the lowest entrance wage for Grade 3 to $20.28 per hour for Grade 6 new employees.

These lower entrance amounts will lead to reduced allocation of earnings and union dues will likely be targeted.

For these new employees, the APWU annual union dues will consume almost two weeks net pay after required deductions for the NCAs and former contract employees; for newly hired career employees union dues will consume almost one week of net pay. This is in comparison to current newly hired Grade 3 employees who pay less than 4 hours per month in union dues with smaller proportional amounts for higher level employees. This net pay is after required deductions including federal, state and local taxes, Medicare, Social Security, health insurance if covered and retirement. Union dues are paid from the net balance.

The simple analysis is that it can be expected that the union will assume the burden of representation for large numbers of the new employees without corresponding increase in union membership on the basis of pure economics. Those newly hired employees who are convinced in orientation to join will revoke at the first opportunity while demanding equal representation. The REC Sites are a case in point even though the wages were far superior to those included in the tentative agreement.

Delegates to the union national conventions have discussed repeatedly the option of setting dues on the basis of income but have resoundly rejected any modification. And even if dues were set differently, total revenue would be seriously reduced through the attrition of highly paid employees who would be replaced by those lower paid whose dues would be reduced. Over time this dilemma will necessitate upward dues adjustments that would in the end be self defeating.

In Solidarity with all postal employees, past, present and future.

Bill Burrus

source: Burrus Journal

33 thoughts on “Former APWU President Burrus Defends His Comments On Contract

  1. What a lot of U don’t understand is that if Mr. Burrus would have been able to remain and continue the negotiations, he would have been required to run for office another term after he had stated that the Unions needed new blood. I applaud him for his dedication of 50+ years of Unionism and wish him and his family the very best in retirement.

    I was told recently by a Union Member for life that “we just need to be thankful we still have a job” in response to the NCA’s and the new pay grades. It seems that most current postal employees were more worried about keeping their jobs than excessing. Well the fact of the matter is that to my recollection, the USPS has not hired or contractually established new hiring registers for any career employees in the past five to ten years which equates to all current employees are still protected by Article 6 so what would you have lost?

    As career postal employees remember “THE USPS NEVER TAKE AWAY BENEFITS, THEY JUST SUSPEND THEM THEN NEVER RESTORE THEM” point in case: 1980s, USPS needed to suspend retirees ability to receive lump sum payments for a couple of years; benefit never returned.



  2. What a lot of U don’t understand is that if Mr. Burrus would have been able to remain and continue the negotiations, he would have been required to run for office another term after he had stated that the Unions needed new blood.

    I was told recently by a Union Member for life that “we just need to be thankful we still have a job” in response to the NCA’s and the new pay grades. It seems that most current postal employees were more worried about keeping their jobs than excessing. Well the fact of the matter is that to my recollection, the USPS has not hired or contractually established new hiring registers for any career employees in the past five to ten years which equates to all current employees are still protected by Article 6 so what would you have lost?

    As career postal employees remember “THE USPS NEVER TAKE AWAY BENEFITS, THEY JUST SUSPEND THEM THEN NEVER REVER RESTORE THEM” point in case: 1980s, USPS needed to suspend retirees ability to receive lump sum payments for a couple of years; benefit never returned.


  3. This may be off point. I work on tour 1 and there isn’t a whole lot of work available. When there is work, a lot of employees as well as supervisors don’t care. A 204B came by my area and pounded on some cages with live baby chicks in them. He then proceeded to shake each box of LIVE CHICKS very violently. These live animals were being shipped Express. Now can you imagine if there was a hidden camera recording that and the public was able to see that? Just an example of how the Postal Service works – idiots are in charge. Most of the time he just sits at a desk watching the clerks. He needs to be paid more for doing that? If the public really knew what happens at the post office, they would be furious! We have clerks that don’t handle mail properly, and when told the proper way, they just don’t care. I have found management doesn’t care as well. Does either deserve to be paid what they are being paid? I have found the union mostly protects the fuck ups and lazy folks. It’s not a pleasant atmosphere to be working in nowadays and it’s unfortunate I can’t retire right this minute so I don’t have to be a part of this anymore. Vote yes or no? Does it really matter in the end? If there isn’t any work, how can it be justified to pay more and more? Not siding with management, just looking at it from a financial prospective. If you are going to come to work, do the work that is available at least. Unless the postal service cleans house of all of this excessive management, nothing is going to change…. And unless we totally clean Congress, repubs and dems, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. EVER…

  4. I am only goig to address the COLA aspect of the agreement. Mathematician, on 03/25 you stateted that we lost COLA’s in 2010 and will lose them for 2011. The facts are that as of 11/17/2010 we were still well below the benchmark set in July 2008. We probably were not going to get one for 2011. So exactly what are we giving up? And where did you get your falce numbers? Facts only please.

  5. To Sam In Sa Your a asswipe of the biggest kind.
    And yes it has been a proven fact that every contract that has gone to Arb. the Union has made out and not lost anything.

    Try looking for the right facts before running the fat mouth that has nothing but hot air blowing out of it.
    The last time they stated it was not the employees fault that the Post Office can not run itself correctly , there for we should not be penalized by pay cuts for there miss management .
    Your part of the problem……..what let me guess your a scab!!!!

  6. Mr. Burrus,

    I was present at the President’s Conference in Kalamazoo Michigan where you gave your farewell address to the conference. In your speech you spoke of the dangers of arbitration. I can’t recall your exact words, but in effect you said that should the contract go to arbitration, all aspects of the agreement is subject to the arbitrator’s decision. You said that we need to very careful and look at what we could lose in pushing it into arbitration.

    It is my opinion that, should the contract not be ratified, it will most likely go to arbitration. The solid gains we have in this contract will also go under scrutiny. What’s more, the precedent set by other Unions in years past of agreeing to a two-tier system must weigh in the arbitrator’s mind when he makes his decision.

    So it strikes me that rolling the dice in arbitration is not such a hot idea.

  7. You can agreed and disagreed about Mr. Burrus opinion, but the name calling and personal attacks is not fair. For someone who gave 50 years to this union. Jim and Burrus should have stayed. About the new CBA time will tell. Specially about the non-traditional position and the 20% PSE’s in the clerk craft.

  8. Wow, there seems to be a lot of anger out there; that is how the union movement began! So the question becomes; is it true that history repeats it’s self? I’m a women who experienced the equal pay for equal work ammendment, remember that? For me, a women, who grew up with all brothers, it’s wonderful to work in a union shop, finally equal! The contract purposed does sound faboulous, for the time and the current situation of the economy, but if we don’t remember what our history has proven, we’ve learned nothing! Please remember what the baby boomers were taught, ” If it’s true good to be true, it probabley isn’t”. A vote of no , will respect all of our past brother and sisters who fought the fight, walked the line & gave us this opportunity to continue the fundemental fight.

  9. The only thing that comes to mind about Mr. Burris is why did you retire before negotiations? Why didn’t you stay on get us one last FAIR contract and then ride off on a high note. My opinion is that you couldn’t. I am on the fence about this contract, I am glad of somethings and disapointed in many. I would like to see what changes to the JCIM are as the CBA is a bit fuzzy. I forsee many grievances and fights over what all the new stuff means. Already managment is saying they don’t understand what some things mean. I feel sorry for anyone who is not close to getting out of this job.

  10. It’s wonderful to care about the future Postal Worker Mr Burrus, but
    why didn’t you care about the Casual Employees that were used and abused during your tenure?

  11. this is the most sense i have seen come from burrus i have been looking at the new tenative contract online and there is some very bad language in this contract if it is voted in there is no guarantee that are work will be returned to the craft management will due an audit and MAY return work to the craft and the GRIEVANCE that awarded us back our work that management has not returned will be thrown out. this grievance goes back at least ten years. that is a big settlement .
    and if you believe that we cannot due better than 3.5 percent raise over 5 years than wake up my boss got a 3 percent raise this year why don`t someone look at the raises management got over the last two years and then compare it to what we got.
    not only are the new hires going to be earning less they will also have to pay more for health care
    and full time will be reworded for new hires as for only having to work 30-44 hours i can see a whole bunch of jobs that are 30-36 hours per week now at that a ptf that we got rid of in the last contract

  12. Hey Burrus….why the heck did you retire????? It’s easy to cast stones now, isn’t it? You WERE in a position to help the APWU, but noooooo…you jumped ship!!!!

  13. In addition to future employees, the current employees could be giving up quite a bit as well. No COLA in 2010 AND 2011. In 2010 the loss was a 1.6% COLA and 2011 is shaping up to be about 6% for a total of 7.6% or about $4000 lost. The APWU will tout the 3.5% that is included in the tentative contract which is less than half of what we will lose with the current contract.

    The other major hit current employees will take is the additional premium they are going to pay for health insurance. In 2009 employees paid 14% of the total premium. With the new contract, by the year 2016, employees are required to pay 24% of the total premium …. a 10% increase! A family policy would increase by 25% so the average cost would be $20-$50/pay period greater than today and making the assumption that rates will not climb.

    I truly believe the APWU threw the members under the bus so it could create potential dues paying members. I am voting no and will explain the numbers to other members so they can make an educated decision.

  14. Sirs, Mr Burress is right on the money. This nis a terrible contract offer, and the nationasl APWU should be ashamed to send this to the membership.
    Has the national APWU ever heard the story of Judas?acrificing your future for a few pieces of silver!
    How will your children feel wqhen they come to work at the post office and find out their parents sold them out?
    Is $25,000 a living wage?
    Will new people make enough to pay union dues,; or for that matter will they want to support the union who sold their jobs out?
    How can national think that this is a good contract?
    Shifts “somewhere” between 4 and 12 hours any given day? How do you do daycare?

    Pay attention to Bill Burress, he is as dedicated as the day is long and ir right.
    Kill this contract and let your national officers that you support your union and they had better not try to sell you out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Fear of losing your job and/or the high unemployment rate is not a good reason to agree to hose yourself. As a matter of fact, the USPS is as usual using your fear against you once again, if you vote yes simply because your afraid. I hope you don’t invest 100% to the G fund because your afraid of the Stock Market. No one ever got ahead by playing it safe. Vote NO! You can do better than the crap being offered.

  16. so do we leave the contract in the hands of an arbitrator? nothing was really taken away from us as far as night pay, sunday pay, and our salaries haven’t been touched. there is growing anti-union sentiment out there and an arbitrator may take more away. what to do?

  17. I think that with the economy we are in that we should be happy with another contract.I thought that the union would have to give up quite a lot,but I am happy with what they did.Pick up a paper and see how many are out of work,then look at the jobs that are available and at what pay.Count your blessings and be happy you even have a job.I am not a big union fan but I am happy they saved some jobs.Now if we can get the locals to stop the warfare amongst themselves we we be okay.

  18. Like Burass or not, he is on point! The Tentative Agreement only stands to benefit the USPS and increase membership dues for the National Union.
    Gliff Guffy sold us out with this one. Not many people have actually “Thoroughly” read past contracts. Having been a Union officer for 15 years, I can assure you that you will be getting hosed if you vote ‘YES”
    VOTE NO!

  19. Just wondering why any CSRS employee that is eligible to retire would vote for this fiasco? We have nothing to lose by rejecting this farce? Our retirement is in the bank. I personally will not sellout future employees. Thankfully my brothers and sisters who went before me did not do that to me.
    Did the union make any provision for the employee if and when the USPS prefunding of healthcare is eliminated? Why would the union defer COLA’s? Did you know that if you retire at the end of 2012, the 2012 COLA that is deferred to 2013 will not be rolled into your retirement pay? What does the union mean by the statement that our healthcare contributions will go up by “several” dollars a pay period? Guffey and company negotiated this provision and they don’t know what the percentage is? Huh??? My guess is that our increased contribution to our health care costs will supercede the 3.5% pay raise over the lifetime of the contract and the talking heads don’t want us to know it.
    A previous poster said that they did not respect Burris. I feel the same about Guffey. In my opinion, he sold out the membership with his end around memo that allowed postal management to go around the junior vet and continue the excessing of employees.

  20. So, were any of you aware that Bill also tried to back door ALL postal employees, current AND future, out of the federal employees health system and into a new one controlled by the USPS totally? When the national convention caught wind of it, they slammed the door in his face and forced him to take it off the table.

    Everything Bill has said since is sour grapes. I’ve know him for 14 years, and had little respect for him at first, and less with every meeting since.

    Now, with his little tirades of late, I have lost all respect. Bill will die a very lonely old man.

  21. Every Contract has thorns and this certainly will!! Burrus gave an informed second opinion and he had every idea of what was in store but the fact remains the Postal Service is moving forward with plans to shrink the network and in the midst of the anti-union atmosphere that benefits big business, special interests and the GOP, working families struggle will continue. Mr. Burrus is home collecting checks and did not stay around long enough to see this through so the period of blame will rest on his predecessor.

  22. We will have an all ‘super casual’ work force.

    The number of PSEs
    derived from the retail/customer services (function
    four) percentage may be used in function one and
    when doing so will not count against the 20% mail processing (function one) District cap.

    6. In addition to the caps in paragraph 3 above, PSEs will
    not be counted towards the allowable percentages of
    PSEs within a District when employed for new work
    that is brought into the bargaining units covered by
    this Agreement, including work being contracted out
    that is brought in-house, as follows:

    a. In the Clerk Craft, in any former Contract Postal
    Unit (CPU) that is brought back in-house, unless it
    is a full-service unit or it primarily provides postal
    b In the Maintenance Craft, for custodial work
    formerly contracted out that is brought in-house,
    subject to the provisions of the Maintenance Craft
    Jobs MOU.
    c. In the Motor Vehicle Craft, for highway contract
    routes (HCRs) that are brought back into the Postal
    Service and assigned to postal employees, subject
    to the provisions
    d. The Employer and the Union may agree upon the
    use of additional PSEs in other circumstances when
    new or contracted work is brought in-house, or
    when new retail initiatives that are not full-service
    post offices are established.

    There won’t be any overtime ever again.

  23. I am against the contract and will vote NO!!! Even wild animals, mothers,
    will starve to death BEFORE they eat thier young. Are we Ameircans
    or cowards? I am ashamed of all who are so selfish and un American.
    Fight now as our forefathers did or go backwards to the sweatshops
    of the 20’s. DO not spit on our predicessors graves!!!!!!!!!!
    Give them an inch and they will take a yard! Say ENOUGH TO THE GUFF!!!!!!!!

  24. All very good comments. Whether you agree with Mr. Burrus or not, if you read his viewpoints carefully, at least now you have a much better chance of making a rational and informed decision when your ballot arrives in the mail.

  25. Mr. Burrus
    Do you really think we will get a better offer through an arbitrator.
    I think NOT.
    You left the Union in your protege’s hands… just ride off into the sunset.

  26. If Mr. Burrus is a civil service retiree, he probably draws a much bigger pension than one of us FERS will ever touch. Therefore, long ago looks like the new hirees were eaten then as well. Same situation, different method of cutting pay. I’d love to have a gauranteed pension as opposed to my half gone 401K.

  27. As a person in a VMF who has an Article 32 grievance in the works, it would be a breath of fresh air to NOT have to grieve the fact that we CAN show that we do the work cheaper and better than any contractor. Thats IF they stick to the new contract(haha) (if approved) and don’t force us to grieve the same thing. Then the money you sacrifice now will be returned in the amount of O T which has been lacking lately, due to giving all our work out. I am still also up in the air about this contract. I am waiting for my copy to arrive so I can read it back to front. Then I will be able to make an informed decision.

  28. For those who bring up Mr. Burrus’ varied income sources as a member of the union leadership at the national level, what is it that he has to gain in his current position; that of a retired APWU member?

    His “factual opinion” gains him nothing but what he is entitled to as a retired member.

    I am also retired and agree with him totally.

    The sad fact is that most USPS employees are all about “me” and have never had a problem screwing their co-workers in order to gain whatever advantage they seek.

  29. Mr. Burrus is 100% correct. People only care about themselves. The contract will be approved overwhelmingly for just that reason.

  30. Nice speech. Whether I agree with it or not the point of view that Mr Burrus is expressing is easy for someone who for years drew a postal pension, a union pension and was additionally compensated as the Union President with a personal driver.

    I am still up in the air as to how I am going to vote but I doubt that anything we do will have an impact on Mr Burrus and his financial situation….easy to attack when you do not have to worry about it.

  31. Mr Burrus:
    While i respect your right to your opinion… there is one glaring error in your statement that new hires will not get to ratify the contract. They will ratify it if they accept employment knowing the financial provisions contained therein.

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