Opinion: APWU Members Before Voting No On Tentative Contract..

This is an opinion by Don Cheney on why APWU members should think carefully before voting NO on Tentative Agreement.

In the past when the national officers of a postal union agreed to a tentative contract and the membership voted it down, the consequences were BAD. Arbitrators view such behavior as bad faith bargaining and don’t reward it unless others try the same thing.

The last postal union to attempt this was the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association in 2002. They were clobbered with the help of the APWU’s Goldberg arbitration award the year before. Former President William Burrus wrote about the Goldberg award in a 2007. It was mentioned again at the congressional hearing on April 5, 2011. Expect the Goldberg award to come up at every interest arbitration. Ignore it at your peril.

The 1978 interest arbitration award on COLA and Article 6 permanently weakened the former ironclad no-layoff provision, but kept our COLA uncapped. APWU President Emmett Andrews was beaten by Moe Biller in the National Election Of Officers two years later. Our wages and benefits have risen substantially since then and is now being used against us. By federal law, we are only entitled to comparable compensation with the private sector. To comply with the law APWU President Cliff Guffey made the decision to cut the pay and benefits of new hires in exchange for other non-economic gains like no mandatory overtime for people not on the Overtime Desired List (ODL). Non-Traditional Full-Time (NTFT) duty assignments of more than nine hours shall include a 3rd break (see the Tentative Agreement page 190). Numerous other gains were covered in the APWU briefings.

As President Burrus pointed out in 2007, this will be an important factor in future interest arbitrations for any postal bargaining unit. In 2001 the NRLCA membership voted down their proposed contract and got a WORSE one from an arbitrator in 2002 . The 2001 Goldberg award was cited five times . Ask any rural carrier how they like their new contract. The Goldberg award is the new reality in postal negotiations.


The decision of Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg for the 2000 Collective Bargaining Agreement provides a thorough analysis, and I recommend reading it carefully. His examination of the value of postal employment is enlightening. Of particular interest is Goldberg’s “Supplemental Opinion Dealing with Economic Issues,” issued in January 2002 [PDF], in which he analyzes the “Comparability Standard” for postal pay, as required by law.

I strongly recommend that every APWU representative read it carefully to appreciate how one of the nation’s most highly-respected arbitrators views postal employment.

At some point in the years ahead, when the union’s goals and management’s demands cannot be reconciled through negotiation, our Collective Bargaining Agreement will again be submitted to interest arbitration. It is important that union activists understand the analysis of our industry by arbitrators who could have substantial influence on the future of the postal workplace.

William Burrus

APWU members should think carefully about the Goldberg award and what happened to the rural carriers in 2002 before voting “No.” An arbitrator doesn’t reward bad faith bargaining. That’s a fact!

Skepticism is understandable. If you are still unhappy with this contract in three years, you can express your frustration by electing new negotiators. In the meantime give the new provisions of this contract a chance. You’re not going to get a better one, even if it is voted down.

PostalReporter note:

The National Rural Letter Carriers also voted down their tentative agreement in 2007. Neutral arbitrator Herbert Fishgoldon December 3, 2007 wrote:

It is always better for the parties to have the opportunity to mutually address the terms of their agreement and decide the terms for themselves. This consideration has particular relevance when, as in this proceeding, the parties have reached a tentative agreement through collective bargaining, and that tentative agreement has failed ratification by a narrow margin.

Rarely in interest arbitration does either party get all that it wants, and certainly neither party did here.

GoldBerg Award 2001 – USPS/ APWU Arbitration

19 thoughts on “Opinion: APWU Members Before Voting No On Tentative Contract..

  1. I have no respect for the union local where I work.The union and management did a back door deal. I never recieved an abitration and was never separated from the man that violated me. Now because of the on going downsizing I have no choice but to stay. I lost 2 years back pay and losing my home. I cant wait to get out of the union. The union is not women friendly at all. Please note I do love the job I do.

  2. Yes, there might be negative consequences if we vote no. But we already know the negative consequences of this contact if we vote yes. I am not selling out future generations of postal workers just so I can secure my own piece of the pie. Thank god our elder members had a bit more backbone back in 1970, or else we wouldn’t even be talking about a contract. I am voting NO!


  4. You better vote yes. Or you will be sorry. Mark my words. A tragic tale of two cities. Woe is to the one that wears the crown. Where is the beefstew?

  5. Why would we vote a “yes vote”, when we still have issues that are still unresoved? Can we depend on the national to defend our interests during arbitration?

  6. Tell everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Vote NO. If union lies about outcome of ballots. There will be hell to pay. You make 200000 clerks angry because upper APWU officers tried to sell out it members; there will be mad hysteria at union meetings. Gauranteeded!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Hell, I wouldn’t for this!

    By the way, where is the money for the new FSS Lite going to come from,
    I thought we were BROKE ?

  8. Just a couple of small corrections on this “opinion”. The rural carriers did NOT vote down the 2002 contract. No agreement was ever presented to the membership. The NRLCA and the USPS could not come to an agreement during negotiations, went through mediation/fact finding and then proceeded to arbitration. There was never anything presented to vote down.

    Rural Carriers did in fact vote down a tentative agreement in 2007 but we made out a little better in the arbitration in the areas of salary increases and EMA. The USPS and the NRLCA had the basic grounds of an agreement worked out and aside from the things mentioned above, he basically imposed the agreement upon us.

  9. As a Union Steward and NOT a hack or”Yes” man, I am urging our members to vote NO. We have sworn an oath to cause no harm to any member. The national officers must have forgot that bit.

  10. We should vote NO!!!!!!

    Would we have been better off facing binding arbitration if our national officers had not negotiated this bad tentative agreement……of course!

    That’s why during the next APWU national and local elections every union officer advocating this tentative agreement should be voted out of office and be replaced with someone who opposed this bad tentative agreement.

  11. Mr Cheney has thought this out very carefully. There is always a downside to every negotiation and in every arbitration. But, and this is a big one, how can any union give away it’s future. By throwing future employees under the bus in terms of wages, schedules and work assignments; the union is putting itself in grave danger of not being supported by the future membership. There are inducements plugged into this offer for future members to stay unionized but the pay is flat out not enough. The union will die off under Mr Guffey.
    Mr Burress had offered to help the new APWU leadership negotiate this contract but was flatly refused. The reason for their refusal is now obvious. Mr Burress would NEVER ACCEPT this union breaking contract !

    Stand tall and vote this travesty of a contract down. Sacrificing your future for a few pieces of silver is the wrong way to go.

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