The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) has wrapped up its 72nd biennial convention and it is clear that the post office is facing a time of struggle. Workers in the NALC are facing unprecedented hours and workloads that have made breaking the terms of their contracts a norm within the workplace. The dedicated mail carriers are consistently putting in longer hours than expected, picking up shifts on their days off, and working routes beyond their assignments to continue their oath to deliver goods and information to the American people.
For one group of organizers though, struggling is not an acceptable solution. The Clean Sweep NALC campaign is a push to garner votes for union leadership in the NALC with David Noble spearheading the movement as their potential president. The platform put forth by Noble and the rest of the Clean Sweep campaign includes not just steps to help better the lives of the carriers within the NALC, but also to help expose some of the issues that brew within union leadership. This is an issue Noble has dealt with before as he sacrificed his position at NALC HQ to blow the whistle on secret payments NALC officers make to themselves. Noble wishes to continue that fight as part of his platform is to eliminate the payments and amend the NALC Constitution to prohibit secret, self-authorized payments to officers.
Another issue facing the United States Postal Service (USPS) involves the retention of city carrier assistants (CCAs) with the looming threat of a mass retirement as a large number of career mail carriers are eligible to retire but are continuing to work at this time. CCAs are the starting position within the USPS’s city delivery service. They are non-career employees, and their job is technically a part time job. Under the current contract, CCAs must complete two years of postal service before moving into a career position within the organization. A CCAs job is to assist the career carriers and fill in for days off, sick days, and burdens of mail that would put them past their contractually obligated workloads. Because of all the work that CCAs do they have become a backbone of how the post office functions. Without them, carriers are asked to come in during their scheduled days off, deliver mail until well past their scheduled shifts, and give up holidays.
CCAs however, are not receiving competitive benefits to endure this workload though, and many offices are unable to retain them. To exacerbate this problem, CCAs are not eligible to become career carriers for at least two years. This means that even if there are routes that do not have a dedicated mail carrier, a CCA may wait two years or even longer before they can even bid on being that route’s dedicated carrier. Their pay is not equivalent to other starting positions within the industry, their hours and workloads are unpredictable, and it takes years to reap the benefits of the work they dedicate to the USPS. Noble and the Clean Sweep campaign have taken notice of this, and it is a large part of their platform and how they hope to build the ranks of USPS mail carriers.
Some of the key points of the Clean Sweep platform are:
- The Postal Reorganization Act which requires that postal wages be comparable to those paid in the private sector. The obvious comparator to letter carriers is UPS drivers, who make much more than letter carriers. This position should be pushed in bargaining and arbitration that letter carriers’ pay should be comparable to UPS drivers.
- The Postal Reorganization Act also requires that USPS focus on providing career employment. Enforcement of the law can be done by going to court to force management to eliminate the non-career CCA classification and create an all-career workforce. Negotiations, lawsuits, and lobbying should be used to accomplish all goals.
- The four postal unions bargained jointly in the 1970s and made large advances in pay, which have since been frittered away. There should be a return to joint bargaining, as in size there is power.
- Force management to properly adjust routes by strictly enforcing the contract’s requirement that a normal work week consist of five eight-hour days.
- Seek to abolish, through legislation, the prohibition against strikes by postal workers.
It is clear that the USPS needs to consider that there are issues being faced by letter carriers on a national scale. Historically, the mail has been one of the backbones of growth in America. Letter carriers continue this tradition today by not only continuing to deliver mail as they have always done, but by also taking on the role of delivery drivers, newspaper delivery, and acting as a pickup point for businesses and homes to deliver parcels without having to visit the post office. The letter carriers of the NALC deserve a chance to see their union grow, and Noble has every belief the NALC can be saved by providing transparency, leadership, and understanding the role that CCAs play within the union.