Knowing the Past Leads to a More Secure
It has been often said that most postal employees have no idea of the struggles that took place in order to gain the wages & benefits currently enjoyed by us all. I believe that to be true, and it is a shame because understanding those struggles would enable anyone to have a better appreciation for the union and the brave men and women who continue to fight for justice for all postal workers.
We should look at the past so that we can truly appreciate what the union has done for all postal workers.
In the early 1900s postal employees worked under terrible conditions, often not even having heat in the buildings where mail was processed. They earned less than $1000 a year without any kind of job protection. The first postal union was formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1907. However, it took until 1962 for the unions to be officially recognized by the government.
In 62' President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order #109988 which officially recognized the role of unions in the Postal Service. During a certification vote more than 77% of eligible employees voted for union representation. Six unions were made the exclusive bargaining agents and allowed to negotiate for working conditions, grievances, and safety, but not for wages and benefits! Congress still had the final decision about giving workers salary increases.
By March of 1970 employees could no longer stand deplorable working conditions and low salaries. They were paid so little that in major cities postal employees qualified for the food stamp program. Finally, on March 18, 1970 a strike began that would become the only nationwide walkout in the history of the United States Postal Service! At first President Richard Nixon tried to process and deliver the mail using federal troops. That just made the situation worse and led to massive mail backlogs. It only took about two weeks for the government to realize the strike needed to be settled. This led to the Postal Reorganization Act that made the USPS an independent governement agency and authorized the Unions to be able to negotiate for wages and fringe benefits. It also said that postal management must bargain in good faith and any unresolved issues would be sent to binding arbitration. In exchange for the right to negotiate wages & benefits, the Act included a no-strike clause. Now, 40 years later (2010), the unions representing postal workers are among the few government unions allowed to negotiate wages.
In July of 1971 five unions merged to form the APWU. The United Federation of Postal Clerks, National Postal Union, National Association of Post Office & General Service Maintenance Employees, National Federation of Motor Vehicle Employees, and the National Association of Special Delivery Messengers. They represent today what is the largest postal union in the world.
The first contract that included wages & benefits came in 1971. Looking at the information below, it is very easy to see why the Union can rightfully claim to have represented it's membership well.
Using the example of a Level 5 - Step O employee, just look at what has been accomplished: (examples are annual salaries)
1971 1973 1975 1978 1981 1984 1987
$9907 $11773 $13883 $15483 $18311 $19564 $25037
1990 1994 1998 2000 2006 2009
$29249 $33067 $37831 $40472 $48620 $53102*
* - includes a level upgrade from 5 to 6
This proves the Union certainly delivers for the membership!!!
Do you realize that in addition to salary the Union also negotiates for the following benefits:
Night Shift Differential
Health Insurance Premiums
Higher Level Pay
And, many, many more items
Is it even possible to think that if the Unions did not have this negotiating power, would the Postal Service be that generous with it's employees? I certainly don't think so and there is a very good example to use as comparison - casual employees. If postal management had it's way, all employees would be casuals making $10 an hour.
Today we continue to represent workers to the best of our ability. We are faced with a new set of challenges - mail processing consolidation, station/branch closings, poor financial condition of the USPS, automation, etc. - and those challenges will keep us more than busy. In order for the union to continue to effectively represent postal workers, we need the involvement of everyone. If you belong - thank-you. If you are a non-member, please join.
For more information on the history of our organization and union news & views please visit: