Editorial: USPS, NALC and Mail Handlers’ Negotiations

I have been asked to speculate on the breakdown of contract negotiations between the Postal Service, the Letter Carriers and the Mail Handlers. Having received no information directly from the negotiators or from anyone directly associated with the negotiators, I cannot speak with authority on the subjects discussed or the exact points in dispute leading to the termination of negotiations. Nevertheless having been involved in 13 contract negotiations, I can point to the most likely scenario and what issues are in play.

The issues involved are more than likely the USPS’ health care cost and NALC craft jurisdiction. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the Postal Service is not in employee hourly wages, but in the enormous cost associated with health care funding, including that of retirees. One way of addressing this staggering cost would be a health plan covering every letter carrier, controlled fully by the Postal Service and NALC. There are so many possibilities in the design and operations of such a new means of providing health care and details of such a plan are intricate and voluminous. Disagreement is possible at multiple points in the discussions but the pay off, if agreement can be reached is so substantial that the negotiators will extend every effort to find common ground.

From the Letter Carriers’ perspective they would not have to defend existing wages and benefits, in return the union can demand craft jurisdiction protecting against contracting and the ongoing battle in rural delivery. The health care funding and craft jurisdiction will not be decided in arbitration so those issues serve as an incentive to seek a negotiated agreement.

If the Letter Carriers go to arbitration they will have to convince the arbitrator not to impose the draconian wage cuts on the next generation patterned after the APWU contract. Moreover, the Postal Service is aware that an arbitrator is highly unlikely to disturb the historic relationship between postal employees and the federal program FEHB. It is clear by the extended contract extensions that the parties have identified the pieces necessary for an agreement but one or more demands are a deal breaker.

I would not close out the possibility of a negotiated agreement during the extended statutory process culminating in an arbitrated decision. These are smart negotiators who understand what is at stake and they will explore every conceivable angle to reach agreement because the alternative does not get them where they want to go.


I did not expound in my posts about the breakup of negotiations with the Mail Handlers union and my evaluation about the current state.  I know that there is a level of animosity between mail handlers and clerks because they compete for the same jobs and APWU has unsuccessfully attempted to decertify the mail handlers, but setting aside the hard feelings there are basic truths applicable to national contract negotiations.  The Mail Handler union is waiting for the Letter Carriers to break the stalemate, swoop in and say “me too.”  They have become so proficient that they can make their demand in four languages, yo también, mich zu, me trop, me toó!
If the Letter Carriers get an extension, the Mail Handlers will announce within days, me too!  If the Letter Carriers go to arbitration, it will be me too, once again.

Bill Burrus
Burrus Journal

18 thoughts on “Editorial: USPS, NALC and Mail Handlers’ Negotiations

  1. “APWU & NALC members have done a great job of getting the word out to legislators about our concerns: Keep up the good work ,support S-1789”
    — Cliff Guffey,     President

    Call Your Senators:    
    (Capitol Switchboard)    
    [Click here for direct #s]    
    Tell them you Support    
    S. 1789 as it is currently written  

    GOOGLE……….U.S. SENATE………Choose your “SENATOR HOME” State. Look for the area in which to write and send your comment.  
    I wrote ” I work for the U.S.P.S. and I do not oppose S1789 in it’s current form”. This bill offers three types of incentives not to be combined.  
    1. 25,000 cash.  
    2. 3 years added on to your FERS retirement  
    3. 2 years added on to your CSRS retirement.  
    * NOTE: Remember you can only choose one of the three.

    A potential Senate floor vote on which NAPUS will be focusing will be a motion to “waive a point of order” against the bill for violating a Senate budget rule. We expect that an anti-postal Senator will raise such a point of order against the bill. NAPUS will push for a waiver, because congressional budget rules are inherently unfair to the USPS and prejudicial to implementing postal relief.
    In the meantime, NAPUS will continue to work with Senate allies to fine-tune S. 1789, so that the measure will garner the requisite votes for passage.

  2. And Terry Bradshaw sang that song by Nat King Cole:

    The party’s over
    It’s time to call it a day
    They’ve burst your pretty balloon
    And taken the moon away
    It’s time to wind up the masquerade
    Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

    The party’s over
    The candles flicker and dim
    You danced and dreamed through the night
    It seemed to be right just being with him
    Now you must wake up, all dreams must end
    Take off your makeup, the party’s over
    It’s all over, my friend

  3. To SAM, the last contract the carriers got certainly wasn’t a “shit” contract and is a contributing factor to te postal services woes.

  4. A quote from 21st Century Postal Worker:

    “The real strength of Unions dwells within the hearts and minds of the membership. We cannot realize our objectives without their full participation; and we cannot mobilize them, while our leaders continue to conduct our business in secrecy.”

    All the more reason to OCCUPY APWU at the 2012 Convention in Los Angeles (August 20-24) at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (404 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA) OTHERWISE: Shut up and keeping paying dem dues!

    We will not be silenced by the lemmings and so-called leaders of this union that are happy with the apathetic status quo that is more intent on taking our dues money and maintaining their lifestyles and retirements that neither you or I can enjoy !

  5. hey enufisenuf, Maxwells post is right on the money, I got out out when I realized what Goofy did…the timing could not have been better as far as my anniversary date and my becoming aware of what this clown did.

    no more dues from me…ever!

  6. Unhappy with APWU? Unhappy with the contract? Unhappy with the level of representation you’re getting? Unhappy with loss of 40 hour jobs?

    OCCUPY APWU at the 2012 Convention in Los Angeles (August 20-24) at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (404 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA)


    Shut up and keeping paying dem dues! And, by the way…stay in line all you lemmings!

  7. Goofy should be fired for putting that contact in front of the idiot clerks who voted it in, I have a few years left and still feel that the union sold us out for a health plan that I hope fails usps should start a health plan just to burn the apwu jacoffs and rectum heads not running the union , we got screwed

  8. Burrus, you Cliff Goofey are nothing but hyper-partisans. You would have those that are weak minded enough to listen to anything you advise to vote Democrat straight down a ticket without acknowledging that Democrats had and still have a hand in our current predicament.

    Not to mention the lack of equal protection this last contract negotiated by none other than Mr. Goofey. Those not in the APWU Health Plan pay more while those in that plan are shielded from negotiated increases.


  10. This is the funniest thin I have read. First off the difference between the NALC and NPMHU is huge. Second in the last negotiated contract by Burrus he gave away the CILO language and the NPMHU received raises that brought a level 4 MH to the same pay as a level 6 clerk. Now the last contract basically sold out every APWU member in a hope to create more revenue for the Union. But then Burrus is always been a little pissed off at the NPMHU since he has lost every battle in the RI-399 process to them. Got to go prep some more Flats, thanks for the work

  11. WOW Bill, Who in the world would want that crappy agreement the APWU just signed off on and by the way, You all (APWU) were supposedly “aligned” with the NALC so, what happened to them “Me TOOing” to that agreement of yours? I think after the APWU agreement or should I say, the one forced down it’s member’s throats, both the Mail Handlers and Letter Carriers took a “step back” and have actually considered it’s members over a BS agreement !!!!!

  12. The union wants to run the health plan for all postal employees. Watch management go with : ” You run the health plan so we can run the new pension plan.”. The PMG wanted to take over the pensions when he went before the congressional sub-committee, he’d love to take over our pensions. We’d end up living in card board boxes! Some retirement that would be.

  13. Me too??? This from the president who gave away the casual in lieu of argument during his last round of discussions. For the last few years Mail Handler Locals across the country have been winning in lieu of arguments while the clerk craft career compliment has dropped and supplemental work has increased. Also do not forget that Mail Handler wages have risen by larger amounts than comparable clerk wages under the last set of National Agreements. We recieved larger percentages, additional COLAs, and a longer term of the agreement due to the better leadership at our National Office. This was all done WITHOUT sacrifice to our future employees.

    Who in the hell would me too either of the last two clerk craft agreements???

  14. The union wants a union only health plan…..gee what a suprise. Every year they come out with there bullshit how the union health plan is number one in satisfaction. That’s because they are taking the survey from a national plan . If insurance plans went across state lines and then a vote were taken the results would be different. GHI and HIP in the NY area are the best hands down (compare them with the NALC ). Why in the world would I want to get out of FEHB ? Let it go to arbitration so these jackasses can’t sell us out………

  15. If the various postal employee organizations provide the crack that breaks FEHBP they will have done a great disservice to not only Federal employees but to the American people. FEHBP is a healthcare model that could serve as a next, better step in providing universal coverage.
    The employee organizations, the unions and the management organizations, had better quickly find out that their fate lies in finding ways to stay together and in presenting some sort of united front. Postal management is very successful at cultivating divisions among the employee groups and this only serves to weaken the fight to sustain the Postal Service.
    The Postal Service is an essential American institution and the issues surrounding its demise (and that is what we are currently seeing) speak to a central tenet of American government. Are we going to invest in and support common infrastructure or are we going to abandon the concept of “general welfare” imbued in the Constitution in favor of a privatized commons where access is available only for pay?
    Concerns about the concentration of wealth and wealth inequality do not arise out of envy but out of the consolidation of power that results when the goods of the nation are concentrated in a few hands. The design and premise of the Constitution is that democracy thrives when power is diffuse. When infrastructure, and the postal network is clearly infrastructure, loses its neutral characteristics it also loses its capacity to promote the general welfare, to provide widespread access to opportunity.
    Preserving the Postal Service provides an essential opportunity to make a conscious choice to preserve our foundations. The employee organizations need to come together and understand that their futures are bound together.

  16. I work 42 yeaqrs as a letter carrier. I( like the options of going from one plan to antoher during open season. These people are going to and get a half ass plan that will cost more and get less. I wish to stay in the FEHBP and have my options.These shit heads from Ra.demacher to Rolando got us mostly shit contracts.The worst was probably King Vince.

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