Moving Forward Safely

apwubadgerOn August 17th we met with District Management to discuss our future involvement in the district safety programs. Of major concern for the APWU was the acknowledgement that our safety advocates must be able to act without fear of retaliation. We agreed that to alleviate any concern on the part of the APWU, all advocates would be provided with the personal cell phone number and email address of the District Manager. In the future if a safety advocate after attempting to resolve an issue is not satisfied with the response of local supervisors, they may contact the District Manager directly. The discipline that was issued to the APWU Safety Advocate has been rescinded by the District Senior Plant Manager and coaching has been provided to the responsible supervisors.

We also discussed the impediment that issuing discipline to employees for safety related accidents has on improving the overall safety and health program. We agreed to a moratorium on all safety related discipline until a policy could be developed and disseminated to management personnel. The core agreement was that prior to any supervisor conducting an investigative interview that may lead to discipline that supervisors must receive concurrence to conduct the investigation from the Manager of Human Resources. The APWU will also make it a permanent agenda item at future JLMSH meetings to review all investigative interviews and discipline that result from accidents/injuries or safety related activities.

We discussed but reached no firm resolution regarding conflict resolution training for supervisors and jointly addressing APWU Safety Advocates. Regarding the conflict resolution training the APWU has seen an increase in supervisors resorting to giving direct orders and contributing too instead of reducing conflict. We will continue to explore these issues further.

The APWU raised the outstanding job that our custodians and the important job that they do in protecting us from hazardous materials. Immediately and without reservation District Senior Plant Manager Flores and District Manager Williams suggested that we recognize these individuals for their efforts. We agreed to hold a function in September.

We concluded our meeting by conducting a walkthrough of the plant to review some of the new safety initiatives that have been put in place recently.

With these agreements in place and commitments to continue meeting, the APWU after consultation with the NALC and NPMHU will renew our participation in the Joint Labor Management Safety and Health programs.

 

 

A Breach of Trust

The United States Postal Service has the dubious distinction of being the deadliest workplace within the federal government. This year alone seven of our co-workers nationwide have lost their lives in the performance of their postal duties. The USPS has historically been one of the worst agencies in accident and illness prevention. The Portland District, which covers the entire State of Oregon and southwest Washington, is currently one of the most dangerous districts in the nation to work in.

You may or may not have heard of some of the new safety programs that are being pushed out by District management. As part of the latest management fad called “Lean Six Sigma” we have new programs, safety slogans and a new vocabulary to learn. Lean Six Sigma programs originate from Japanese led corporations who showed some success increasing efficiency in the manufacturing sectors a couple of decades ago.  That’s why you’ll hear supervisors preening about their new Green Belt or Black Belt certification. You may have been given your White Belt to make you feel part of the team. It’s the Lean Six Sigma program that brought you those “Gemba” boards on some work floors with green and red cards attached.

Portland Oregon Area Local Members stand in solidarity with our Safety Advocates and don protest tape during safety talks

Obviously we have a stake in any program relating to safety and health in the workplace. We are the one’s suffering the injuries, illnesses and tragically death at times. We want these programs to succeed, we want a safer workplace, and we don’t want to die delivering the mail. So it was with cautious optimism that in my duties as President I appointed members to the new Safety Advocate Teams. It was our hope that they would be provided the training and tools necessary to create a new safety culture within the USPS. It was our hope that our appointees would be able to bring safety concerns to their supervisors and have our supervisor’s cooperation. It was our sincere hope that this would not be another example of empty slogans and half measures.

Members protest against management's retaliation

Members protest against management’s retaliation

A breach in trust. Recently a Safety Advocate went to their manager to report a concern over the handling of a potential hazardous materials situation. Instead of cooperating with our Safety Advocate and using the opportunity to show their commitment to the safety of our employees, the manager took offence.  He then abused his authority by removing the Safety Advocate by force from the building.  Finally, the entire management team decided that wasn’t enough punishment for raising a safety concern, and the Safety Advocate was effectively issued a fine for over two thousand five hundred dollars, in the form of a 14 day suspension without pay.

This breach of trust has serious implications. Upon hearing about the situation and reviewing the statements from management and our representatives, it became clear that every Safety Advocate was in danger. I could not in good conscience put people who I appointed in a position to be disciplined and face the loss of wages and potentially their job because they had the courage to bring a safety issue to their supervisor. This past week I informed management that we were suspending all participation in joint safety committees at all levels and in all facilities represented by the Portland Oregon Area Local until a meeting could be had between the Union and District Management.

Unfortunately in our first meeting with District Management we were greeted with an ultimatum and hostility. It was communicated quite clearly that management would not be badgered over safety. Perhaps this is because they feel that they are above reproach or that they believe that it is their job as managers to give direct orders and our job as employees to blindly obey. This attitude has become more pervasive lately as we have seen an increase in supervisors resorting to giving direct orders to employees and suspending employees without pay when they fail to bow to their demands. We are left with the impression that management has no concern for true employee involvement based on mutual trust and respect. The new programs and slogans seem to be destined for the large trash heap filled with the broken promises and hollow words given by so many of their predecessors.

One promise that will never fail us is the pledge of Solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82 and National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 315. Upon hearing about our struggle both Jim Falvey, President of Branch 82 of the NALC and Bryan Easley, President of Local 315 NPMHU informed District Management that they were joining with the APWU and reconsidering or suspending their respective Union’s involvement in the safety committees.

Members protest  during safety standup

Members protest during safety standup

“While we would like to continue this joint process, it will be impossible to do so if we have reason to believe our Union leaders, who represent the entire craft, are not truly equal partners in pursuit of a safer work place.  To us this means that the creation of a more substantive ‘safety culture’ for all employees includes taking the craft’s perspective, presented by the Union, and regarding it with value.  That also extends to the representatives themselves, whom you have asked to help you.  As a result, the NPMHU is detaching immediately from all joint safety meetings and committees, at all levels, in solidarity with the APWU.” Bryan Easley, President NPMHU Local 315

Despite our abrupt first meeting with District Management we have agreed to meet again on August 17th. We have to be sure that it wasn’t just posturing or the lack of trust that prevented us from having a productive meeting. Our future involvement in these new safety programs will depend largely on whether or not we can secure agreements that ensure our Safety Advocates will be treated as equal partners who are trained and given the tools to vigorously pursue a safer workplace. It will depend on whether management is open to constructive criticism and yes, sometimes even what they might consider badgering.

In Solidarity,

Brian Dunsmore, President
Portland Oregon Area Local
American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO

 

Membership Endorses

During the June 22nd General Membership a motion was adopted unanimously to endorse the following candidates in the upcoming APWU National Elections.

Mark Dimondstein, President
Jeff Kehlert, Executive Vice-President
Vance Zimmerman, Industrial Relations Director
Judy Beard, Legislative/Political Director
John L. Marcotte, Health Plan Director
Brian Dunsmore, NBA NW Region Clerk (A)
Louis Kingsley, NBA Western Region Maintenance (A)
Jerome Pittman, NBA Western Region MVS

Retirement Seminar

The Portland Oregon Area Local invites you to a Retirement Planning Session and Retiree Workshop Sunday, June 26th 10am – 1pm At the Union Hall 2360 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214.

The class will pertain to Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The class will be taught by our National APWU retirement specialist Don Sevre, from the APWU Retirees Department.

A Retiree workshop will directly follow the retirement planning session. This workshop will start at 2pm at the union hall. Retirees will hear from multiple speakers and will learn the benefits of starting a retiree chapter. Please RSVP by calling 503-231-1797. Snacks will be provided

Pen Pushers Update

Last Monday clerks from the P&DC and PACC gathered to learn and discuss strategies regarding the latest round of repostings and excessing. That same evening we were notified by management that the notification letters that had been sent out would be rescinded. At that time no reasons were given.

Management requested to meet on Friday and our local representatives met once again with USPS representatives. To his credit Senior Plant Manager Felipe Flores had the letters rescinded in order to address the issues raised by the Union.

During the Friday meeting we secured several commitments from management.

  • We submitted graphs showing the tour one PSE hours in an attempt to reduce the number of duty assignment to be excessed from tour one. Management committed to review the information.
  • Management committed to ensure that employees receive timely notifications that contain accurate information and effective dates.
  • That the majority of notification letters will be hand delivered by supervisors who will be briefed so that they may answer any questions or concerns that the employees may have.
  • That large spreadsheets with the proposed jobs will be posted both at the P&DC and PACC when the notification letters are distributed.
  • That the 18 newly established tour two assignments at the PACC are an increase in complement and will not result in reversions in other sections along with 4 tour two assignments at the P&DC.
  • We were notified that management will not award the 18 tour two assignments APBS this month but will repost them in the next vacancy announcement.
  • Management will provide a plan to fill the 18 tour two assignment at the PACC while they are pending the award and placement of clerks.

We are still demanding and have yet to receive sufficient justification for the changes at the PACC of assignments from NTFT to traditional. We have scheduled two additional meetings to attempt to resolve all the outstanding issues before management proceeds and we are forced to file grievances.

Clerks can expect to receive new notification letters before the end of the month.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Pen Pushers Destroy Work Schedules with no Respect for the Workers

Senior Plant Manager Felipe Flores seems to be content to allow the newest batch of Pen Pushers to create the “latest and greatest” plans to save the Postal Service with no regard to the impact on employee’s lives.

They continue to ignore the fact that upending entire work crews causes everyone a tremendous amount of stress and concern. Child care, transportation, family, and sleep schedules are all disrupted and the pen pushers simply shrug their shoulders. They make no effort to reduce impacts by utilizing postal support employees or allowing attrition to accomplish the changes.

Acting In-Plant Support Manager Bob Vore signed over a hundred notification letters and began distributing them to employees at the Plant and PACC on February 23 before the ink was even dry on their final plan.  These letters do little to inform the employees why these reposting or abolishments must occur. This is because there is no justification. The Pen Pushers met with your representatives and could give no explanation on why the changes were necessary at the PACC other than to say that Southern California’s mail would now be trucked.  Then an hour later with no explanation or discussion the Pen Pushers changed their plan again and signed the letters you received. Actions speak louder than words, so we’ve learned that whatever comes out of a Pen Pusher’s mouth can’t be trusted from one hour to the next.

Also the recent transplant from Indianapolis Pen Pusher MDO Marek Kazibwami seems to be content with stating that the changes are necessary after having worked in Portland for less than a few months.  When confronted with questions regarding their plan he could only read from a national arbitration that has no bearing on the issues presented.  He ignores the fact that employees with over 35 year’s seniority were being displaced by PSE’s with less than two years seniority. He ignores the fact that workers at the PACC just had their job reposted as NTFT.  When challenged to use PSE’s instead he could only reply that they are needed where they are at.

Downtown the Pen Pushers moved employees to tour 3 weeks ago from tour 1. With no regard to these employees many will be shuffled back to their rightful tour because of their seniority. A new batch of employees will learn that they are now excessed from tour 1. These Pen Pusher’s disrespect and lack of consideration for employee’s lives outside their workplace knows no bounds.

The Pen Pushers have been hard at work out at the Mt. Hood DDC also. Mt. Hood clerks have just seen their tour 1 assignments decimated. For the past year clerks have been pushed and pulled from one assignment to the next each time with the promise that the latest and greatest plan will solve all the problems that management has created for themselves.

We as employees understand that at times change is necessary. But we won’t standby and allow the Pen Pushers to disrupt our lives with no genuine explanations for why.

What can we do? We all need to get involved. Spread the word to your co-workers.

Join us on Monday February 29th at 1 p.m. at the Union Hall to discuss how our actions will speak louder than words.