NALC

When Union Agendas Don’t Meet Member Dreams

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National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando set off a firestorm among NALC union members when he came out strongly against ending Saturday mail delivery in a letter to carriers where he told them to forget about their dreams of weekends off. The letter was posted at PostalMag.com and many letter carriers were soon condemning the letter, accusing Rolando of being out of touch with rank and file carriers, accusing Rolando of dashing the “dreams” of carriers to keep union dues flowing to NALC HQ, and a few even calling for Rolando’s resignation. In another letter, Rolando had stated he believed the majority of letter carriers wanted to keep working their weekends, but that is in contradiction to comments received at PostalMag.com from letter carriers throughout the country.

I’ve heard that NALC is willing to spend every last penny to fight ending Saturday delivery. That’s troubling to me, because NALC has done many things right for its members and it will need funds in the future to fight other battles important to its members. To fight a battle the majority of its members do not want is absurd to me. I’ve done a little research to find other instances where unions pursued agendas counter to their workers’ wishes. I couldn’t find any, but if you know of any please let me know.

I find Rolando’s opposition puzzling on several fronts. First, NALC didn’t vehemently oppose USPS plans to consolidate its network leading to the loss of next-day delivery for some First Class letter mail. Only when faced with the possible loss of union dues did NALC spring into action. Additionally, NALC is engaging the USPS on several fronts, and is picking a fight that it may not win and have nothing to show for it in the end. In this case, NALC is opposing a USPS plan that will undoubtedly save the Postal Service money if implemented correctly while at the same time giving its members the “dream” of having weekends off.

It’s also puzzling because five-day delivery makes sense on so many levels. The plan would align the traditional five-day workweek with operating days, thereby eliminating the need for a sixth day workforce and/or all the all-day overtime spent trying to cover the sixth day. It makes sense because it would make the USPS more efficient, save the USPS fuel costs and decrease service problems on regular carriers’ days off.

It’s also puzzling because five-day would be such a benefit to letter carriers. Today, because of shortages of letter carriers in many districts, many, many carriers are being mandated to work on their days off against their wishes, often with less than 24 hours notice. Today, the “daily grind” is stretched to six days, with a Sunday off and one day during the week for many carriers. Five-day would allow two days off in a row and the daily grind would only be five days. And five-day delivery would of course give letter carriers Saturdays off, the day that is the most requested day off, one of the biggest sick call days and also the biggest day to cut back mail to cover absent routes.

Additionally, five-day delivery is the norm in many other countries, including Canada, without any apparent negative effects, and other delivery companies such as UPS and FedEx also have five-day delivery without any negative effects as well.

It’s also a fight few others are onboard with. The public basically shrugged when told Saturday delivery would be ending. Valassis and Valpak both said they didn’t really care either. There’s been some rural people that are caring though, and they have valid points. Will it make sense for the Postal Service to deliver packages alone on routes that cover up to a hundred miles or more. Does the Postal Service make a 50-mile trip for example to deliver one package to one far-flung destination on a Saturday? But that’s a rural issue, not a city issue. Let the NRLCA address that one.

But if letter carriers are perturbed by Rolando’s stance against five-day, they are aghast at NALC’s other initiative of getting letter carriers out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) into one administered with the NALC union. FEHBP is one of the greatest benefits letter carriers and other employees of the USPS enjoy. It doesn’t get much better than the FEHBP, except the plan that USPS execs enjoy. It’s a benefit that NALC has helped achieve and preserve. To plan against this greatest of benefits is more absurd than the fight against five-day.

NALC is an organization of its members and I’m hoping that NALC will soon get in touch and in line with its rank-and-file members. I can see how this “out-of-touch” happens. Rolando and other top officials travel the land to rap sessions etc. and the people they meet are the one person from each post office that is toeing the union line on six day delivery. You see, at my post office we have one person out of about 40 that is sternly against five-day and that is the union steward. We have a few others against five-day, but a few of those are against because they want to keep working their days off on all-day overtime into penalty time and making their $90,000 a year.

All in all I would like to see NALC get onboard with the will of its members, instead of the will of its own and fight the battles it can win while preserving political clout to further other initiatives.

By Tom Wakefield, City Letter Carrier and NALC Union Member