About Bill Brickley

Bill is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, serving on the NH Letter Carrier Executive Board as CD1 Legislative Liaison. Also serves on the NH AFL-CIO Executive Board. Former NH Area Coordinator Amnesty International and NH Labor News Blogger Follow him on twitter @BillBrickley

Solidarity; Multiple Unions Join USPS Unions To Picket Congressman Issa At NH GOP Event

Issa Poster 1

Over 150 union workers stood out in below zero degree wind chill Monday night to deliver a message to Congressman Issa. He was the key-note speaker at a NH Republican fundraising dinner. The message delivered to Issa was the US Postal Service is not for sale.

Issa wants to dismantle a highly effective postal service. NALC President Fred Rolando reacted to last weeks announcement that the Postal Service made a $765 million operating profit in the first quarter of 2014 by urging Congress not to dismantle the service. “In light of these results, lawmakers should strengthen the postal network while addressing the remaining problem: the congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree benefits, required of no other public or private entity in the country. Degrading the network and reducing services to the public and businesses would jeopardize the postal turnaround.”

Congressman Issa has other ideas. His 2013 Postal Reform Act HR 2748  will end Saturday Delivery and leaves open the possibility of reducing it further in 2018. Issa’s bill also opens the floodgates to contracting out postal jobs and services at an amazing pace. These actions will clearly accelerate the death spiral. The worlds best Postal Service will be dismantled so its remains can be carved up to be sold off to the highest bidder.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein called Mr Issa “a pure enemy of the Postal Service”.  Clearly Issa has a different agenda than ensuring the long time survival of the world’s best Postal Service. Issa, a long time champion of union busting and privatization, likely envisions the vast amount of money that can made by privatizing its services.

Dimondstein also referred to Issa and his postal proposals as “cynical and diabolical”. Those are also adept adjectives regarding the way Congressman Issa has become the richest member of congress. As documented by The New Yorker Congressman Issa has a dubious past regarding money-making ventures, often staying one step ahead of the law. Issa is going to have a much more difficult time at profiting off the sale of the Postal Service as the whole country will be victims to that crime.

Dismantling the Postal Service and crushing their unions would be a dream come true for Issa. This would allow him and his pro business cohorts to have even more leverage in their never-ending war on workers. It is quite apparent that the wealthy in this country will never say they are rich enough. Our income inequality has reached almost uncharted levels.

The rally against Issa on this cold windy night in New Hampshire was not about just Issa.   It was not about just the Postal Service. It really was about the continuing attack on workers in both the public sector and private sector.

The solidarity shown by seeing  Carpenters , Teachers, Metal Workers , Firefighters, Air Traffic Controllers and many others as they joined Postal Unions demonstrating in the cold was  quite impressive. The union solidarity as well as the chanting and singing gave all attendees a feeling of warmth in this particularly brutal winter.

The message to Issa and his anti union friends was clear. You are going to have a hell of a fight if you expect to defeat us!!

 

Congressman Darrell Issa Still Wants To Gut The USPS And ‘Applauds’ The Destruction of CANADA POST

Congressman ISSA (photo credit Congressman Issa on Flickr)

Congressman ISSA (photo credit Congressman Issa on Flickr)Congressman Darrell Issa continues to astound informed observers of the Postal Service with his misguided comments. Mr Issa “applauded” Canada Post for planning to” phase out expensive to the door delivery “of mail over five years.  He seemed to have no problem equating the US Postal Service with Canada Post. Not taking into consideration that Canada Post lost over a hundred million dollars this year delivering mail while the US Postal Service had an operational profit of $600 million.

Mr Issa also seemed to neglect to mention the fact that Canada Post was raising rates from 63 cents to 85 cents for letter mail. Imagine his reaction if the USPS wanted to raise rates by over 30%.  Most likely his  Government Oversight Committee would hold special hearings around the clock.

Also this “modernization” enabled Canada to become the first G7 country to eliminate home delivery of mail. Being a public servant you would expect Mr Issa to value service to the public not be “applauding” dramatic regression of services.

Mr Issa gushed “The Canadian Government is supportive of its (Canada Post) decision to modernize.” Modernize?  The US Postal Service is the best Postal Service in the world. There is no disputing that. USPS boasts the lowest rates in the world without a penny of tax payer money while delivering over 40% of the world mail.  US Mail is delivered with reliability and a level of public trust that is the envy of other Postal Services and businesses worldwide.

If Mr Issa  wants to look at Canada and find ways for our country to “Modernize” maybe he should look at their very popular and efficient National Health Care System.

Mr Issa seems absurdly focused at working to decimate the Postal Service. I am hopeful that the over $40,000 he gets from Postal Service rival UPS is not a higher priority than the needs of the millions of people who rely on daily delivery of their mail.

Mr Issa, should be applauding his own countries Postal Service rather than working to decimate it.

 

 

 

Is The Congressional Budget Committee Really Out To Destroy The Post Office?

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.Some on the Congressional Budget Committee seem to be misguided on what their task is by seriously considering a proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The Postal Service has reported an operating profit of $600 Million for Fiscal Year 2013. Its first profit since 2008. Parcel revenue soared to an all time record high of $12.5 Billion. Increasing 8% over last year. So you would think that this is a time to increase service not to decrease it. The USPS is growing to the point that some parts of the country have instituted a limited 7 day’s a week parcel service. Its time to grow the service not shrink it.

This week the Congressional Budget Committee is considering sneaking in a poison pill that would in all probability kill the Postal Service over time and eliminate thousands of jobs immediately. This Budget Committee was set up to mitigate the harmful effects of the Federal Shutdown and sequestration on jobs and public services.   Instead  incredibly they are  exacerbating the problem on both fronts by reducing arguably the most popular and effective part of the Federal Government.

Letter Carrier US Postal Service Though the Postal Service makes an operating profit it is under constant attack by some members of Congress because it provides a popular government service delivered by unionized workers. Government Services and unions are the top targets of the privation zeal of the right-wing. Ideology trumps common sense with these politicians. Somehow they never mention that the worlds best Postal Service does not use ONE CENT of tax payer money

This committee is also attacking the entire Federal workforce by taking $20 billion out of government workers paychecks by increasing workers share of retirement costs.

These same members of this budget committee seem to have no issues with spending billions of dollars every year on a F-35 fighter jet program that literally can’t get off the ground. Yet seem hell-bent on reducing a cost neutral public service that unites our entire country.

The Postal Service financial report is only made gloomy due to an unprecedented retiree health care mandate. The mandate requires the Postal Service to fully fund retiree health care benefits decades in advance, was responsible of 100% of FY 2013 losses and 80% of losses implemented in 2007. This mandate has manufactured a postal crisis that is being used by some politicians to dismantle it.

Apparently the elimination of Saturday delivery will be tied to a trigger that can easily be manipulated by congress and result in disaster for millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service. These same phony triggers were included in Michigan’s notorious anti union legislation Public Act 4. That destructive law was fortunately repealed by voters last month. We must prevent this Budget Committee from making a similar mistake.

Congress expects to unveil its 2014 budget plan on Friday so the time is short to let members of congress know that eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not an option that makes economic sense. It’s a false choice that the Postal Service must shrink to survive.

 

Nelson Mandela A Hero To All

Nelson Mandela (RICHARD LEWIS/AP)
Nelson Mandela (RICHARD LEWIS/AP)

Nelson Mandela (RICHARD LEWIS/AP)

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Nelson Mandela

With the extraordinarily sad news of the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man of unrivaled humility, virtues and compassion. I am reminded of his unbridled determination to improve the lives of working people both in his country but around the world. Mandela’s greatest attribute that can be connected to our current state of politics in America is don’t sell out your idealism .

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Nelson Mandela

The Labor movement is being harmed as expected by the Obstructionist GOP but also by some corporate owned Democrats. These corporate Democrats balance their position on legislation between what they know is in the best interests of working people and what is the best way to raise money to get re-elected. These hollow members of congress are quick to embrace the fight’s we conduct in the labor movement for economic justice when they are fund-raising but just as quick will cast us aside if its politically expedient.
I am not quite sure what would prompt them to get involved in public service when they truly don’t care about anything but their own personal political career. If Mandela was that way he would be just another ordinary political hack. Instead Mandela is the shining light that should be followed by any person involved in the political process. Never compromise your ideals , never sell out your constituents for personal political gain.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
Nelson Mandela

How long are we in the labor movement going to accept getting frequently sold out by these Corporate Democrats without any type of accountability?

When Congressman Charlie Bass told me and a few other NALC reps that Congressman Issa was pressuring him to remove his support of a bill that would benefit letter carriers and the Postal Service. We were not surprised because it’s widely accepted the GOP National Leadership clearly supports almost every anti union and anti worker piece of legislation. More disturbing is when we get word of Blue Dog Democrats like Tom Carper pressuring progressive Democrats against legislation that benefits working people. Honestly that is simply betrayal to all of us.

We are constantly put in a position to be confronted by our own members who are agitated that candidates we supported are selling us out. Leaving us with the tired argument explaining “well, it would have been worse if the Republican was elected”. Though this is clearly true we shouldn’t constantly be put in that position . Mandela didn’t sacrifice his ideals for constantly choosing the lesser of two evils . The time is nearing where the labor movement has to say enough is enough and move on to a new political dynamic

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Nelson Mandela

 

Our kids deserve highest educational standards – Bill Duncan (@ANHPE)

ANHPE Small Icon

Here’s my opinion piece in today’s Portsmouth Herald and, under the great headline “Common Core standards are good for students, good for the state,” in the Concord Monitor

The new Common Core State Standards are good for our students and an asset to educators working to prepare our kids for today’s world. Each state must find its own way to do this and we can be proud of the approach New Hampshire has taken.

First, what are the standards? They are English and math goals for what students should learn in each grade. Here’s an example: A fifth-grade student should be able to “write opinion pieces … supporting a point of view with reasons and information.”

You can read the standards online. It’s easy — they’re written in plain English, not education jargon. Think, as you read, about your fifth-grader. Look for a standard that you would not want her to learn. I couldn’t find one. It’s good stuff.

And it’s no wonder. Hundreds of educators and researchers worked for years writing the standards in response to a call from the National Governors Association. Governors across the political spectrum wanted to set consistent expectations that would prepare our kids to compete globally whether they came from Massachusetts or Mississippi.

But those same governors were committed to maintaining control in each state and school district. So the standards do not dictate curriculum or lesson plans. Curriculum is still district policy as it has always been in New Hampshire. Lesson plans are still the teachers’ responsibility, though they work together and get professional support from the school districts, the unions and the Department of Education.

For instance, the new standards call for an increased emphasis on reading, analyzing and writing non-fiction.

One principal said to me, “It was an, ‘OK, you caught us’ moment. We’ve been doing 90 percent literature but we need to create a better balance to prepare the kids for the knowledge work they will be doing in this new economy.”

But each New Hampshire school must determine for itself how to achieve this improved balance. English class might still analyze literature, while in history class students might write persuasive essays on de Tocqueville or the Revolutionary War.

Every classroom you look into, if the teachers are engaging with the new standards, the kids are the winners. Now, instead of drilling on how to solve each type of math problem, they will learn how to apply math techniques to solving interesting real-world problems.

The new standards do make greater demands on the schools and teachers because they raise expectations of our students. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Angela Manning, who has implemented the new standards in her fifth-grade classroom at Portsmouth’s award-winning New Franklin School, said matter-of-factly, “It’s overwhelming, of course, because it’s a big shift. It’s been interesting, though, to watch the kids step up to the level of deeper thinking that we’re asking them to do.”

And, I would add, to watch Ms. Manning and the whole faculty step up. That’s happening all over the state.

Principal Judy Adams at Manchester’s Bakersville Elementary School said, “Some of the teachers and I just completed a book study on Common Core. Others are beginning a book study on higher level comprehension skills.” They discuss their readings for an hour before class starts.

You’ll hear complaints that the new standards are a “federal intrusion.” Not in New Hampshire. We’re a small state with no budget for the research necessary to develop our own standards from scratch, but as the Common Core standards became available, our State Board of Education saw that they were a step forward from what we had been doing. They adopted the new standards as soon as they were ready — with no push from the federal government or anyone.

As you would hope, the U.S. Department of Education wants to fund only states that have high educational standards. It doesn’t have to be the Common Core standards, but even states like Massachusetts, universally acknowledged to set the highest standards, has chosen the Common Core.

Instead of complaining about federal intrusion, we should be proud of our role in the national commitment to preparing our kids for today’s world.

The Common Core State Standards preserve local control in New Hampshire. But local control does not give school districts the right to do a bad job educating our kids. Our Constitution gives every N.H. child the right to an adequate education. Our colleges demand it. Our businesses demand it. Our state has an obligation to ensure that our public schools deliver for our kids.

But we can’t go it alone — and we don’t need to. The Common Core State Standards help our school districts deliver for our kids.

Bill Duncan is a resident of New Castle and founder of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education.

Our kids deserve highest educational standards | SeacoastOnline.com.

Without Pre-Funding Obligations The USPS Would Profit How Much?

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.

The new USPS Financial Report issued Friday further validates the claim that the Postal Service is neither broken nor in crisis. Excluding the pre-funding expense the USPS has turned a $660 million profit delivering mail in fiscal year 2013. Showing again that Senator Carper, Senator Coburn and Congressman Issa are manufacturing a postal financial crisis as an excuse to dismantle it. Standing in their shadows are vultures named FedEx and UPS.

Senator Carper on Friday in an interview with NPR spoke of the need to “right size” the Postal Service. Apparently Mr Carper has not noticed that the Postal Service has eliminated 31% of its jobs in the last 10 years. Going from a career workforce of 729,000 in 2003 to slightly over 500,000 at the present time. While letter mail volume has dropped, it has been made up by a spike in highly profitable parcel delivery that as of this moment is at all time highs. Adding to that the Postal Service now delivers to 10.8 million more delivery points than in 2003. Yet Carper makes the outrageous claim that the Postal Service needs to be “right sized” and has too many workers. Mr Carper just insulted 500,000 postal workers and the intelligence of any informed observers.

NALC President Fred Rolando attempted to enlighten congressional leaders on Friday:

“The congressional priority should be to address the actual source of red ink: the $5.5 billion annual pre-funding albatross that is hampering the Postal Service. This mandate is not only onerous, it is unnecessary, because the Postal Service already has put aside sufficient money to meet the needs of future retirees for decades to come. Few, if any, companies can say the same.”

“The path to profitability is clear: Address the pre-funding fiasco and give the Postal Service the freedom to innovate and grow in the digital era. Do not eliminate Saturday delivery, which would raise costs for small businesses open weekends, and do not force people to traipse around their neighborhood looking for cluster boxes. Such steps would inconvenience the public and would destroy the Postal Service by driving mail—and revenue—out of the system.”

It appears that Senator  Carper and Senator Coburn  are being influenced by FedEx and UPS who would capitalize on a dismantled Postal Service. The facts paint the picture: Since Carper’s reelection nine months ago he has received $30,000 from FedEx and 26,500 from UPS .  His next election is over 5 years away! Why the sudden interest? In January, Carper assumed the powerful chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. He became a powerful man in the Senate regarding Postal Affairs.

The ranking member of that committee is Senator Coburn (R-OK). Coburn infamously introduced an amendment in Postal Bill S1789 last year that created quite a buzz. Amazingly it would “require the Postal Service to dismiss its workers who are retirement eligible in order to cut costs”  It is unknown if Coburn will reintroduce this amendment in S1746.

Colburn introduced with Carper the Postal Reform Act of 2013 (S1746) he has also been the recipient of $25,000 from FedEx this calendar year. Placing FedEx in the top five of his donors. Coburn , it can be argued, owes his political career to ALEC founder the Koch Brothers

FedEx and UPS are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)  and both companies have held the vice-chair position on this insidious anti worker and union busting group. FedEx and UPS have donated enormous money over the past few years to Carper and quite possibly they helped craft the new Postal Reform Act S1746.

In the House of Representatives FedEx has been an enthusiastic supporter of Issa’s draconian HR 2748. In the past a Democratic controlled Senate would be the voice of reason and push back against the extreme right-wing ideologues of the House. That does not seem to be the case at this time as Carper is adding fuel to their witch hunt.

The Postal Service is  governments most popular and efficient agency and its being dismantled for pure ideology and greed. Fed Ex,UPS and other ALEC members will profit immensely by the privatizing of the Postal Service and the destruction of their unions.

 

Senator Carper introduces legislation to virtually end the USPS

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Democratic Senator Tom Carper has moved the Postal Service one big step closer to extinction this weekend by introducing his new Postal Reform Act S 1486. Mr Carper a long time ally of wealthy corporate interests intends to drive the stake into the heart of the worlds best Postal Service. His bill on many levels closely resembles Congressman Issa’s HR 2748 which passed out of a House committee 10 days ago on a party line vote, with only GOP support.

Carper’s S 1486 will allow the elimination of Saturday delivery in just one year. That itself will put the USPS in a death spiral. Cutting service is clearly not the way to compete in a 21st economy. Cutting 16% of the USPS services to save at most 3% of the budget doesn’t seem to be a rational strategy. Saving any money itself is in question as studies have shown that losing Saturday delivery would reduce mail volume by 7.7% that itself would result in a revenue loss of $5.3 Billion far exceeding the money projected to be saved by cutting a day of delivery.

Other aspects of this bill that would harm the American public is that this bill requires the Postal Service to change your mode of delivery to the deivery mode “that is most cost – effective and in the best long-term interest of the Postal Service” This may save the Postal Service some delivery time but to force elderly people into a situation where it will be difficult for them to retrieve their mail in the harsh winter or sweltering summer is not a matter that a civilized society should put a price on.

This Senate bill also removes safeguards for rural customers that have been in place to guarantee them reasonable access to a post office. There will be no limit on how far you must travel to get to your “local” post office. I guess for Mr Carper being a Senator from Delaware that issue does not resonate with him.

S 1486  makes it easy for the Postal Service to sell historic buildings. This was previously forbidden in past postal reform bills. As we all know the conservatives love the idea of selling off Postal Service assets, it is a long-held dream of the right wing. Key Romney advisor Kevin Hassett outlines the plan: “The Postal Service owns or operates 33,000 facilities nationwide, and owns 219,000 vehicles. If we were to auction it off to private investors, the bids would likely be enormous. FedEx and UPS, for example, have a combined market capitalization of almost $100 billion. Given that, how much might a private bidder offer for the right to start a business with the Postal Service’s footprint? The $100 billion mark might be a good first guess” At least they are not hiding their motives.

S 1486 in tandem with HR 2748 if enacted will seem to put an end to a great American institution for purely ideological reasons. The wealthy could never allow a highly unionized and efficient government institution ( USPS does not use a dime of tax money) like the Postal Service be allowed to thrive. In 2006 Bush inserted a poison pill requiring the USPS to prefund retiree health care costs 75 years into the future over a 10 year period. This resulted in this manufactured crisis that corporate owned politicians seem more than happy to capitalize on to increase profits for their wealthy campaign contributors.

The only losers are ordinary American people whose very popular postal service, with an 83% approval rating, has to be dismantled to be “saved”.

 

NHLN  Note:
Read the Union Response to this proposed legislation.
Read the LTE in response to this post.

HR 2748 Postal Reform Act of 2013 Aka Ultra-Wealthy Congressmen Destroying The USPS

Image By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photos/Newsroom
Image By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photos/Newsroom

Image By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Photos/Newsroom

So this is how the worlds best Postal Service may meet its demise. Early Friday evening an obscure 2nd term  Republican Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, who was born into great wealth. Introduced HR2748 that will destroy our nations Postal Service it’s  no surprise that the wealthiest and arguably most corrupt member of Congress Daryl Issa is the one setting this tragic play in motion. There is money to be made selling off Postal Service assets and these people want to capitalize.

Mr Farenthold has a net worth of $35.8 million according to the Center for Responsive Politics and Mr Issa is the 2nd wealthiest member of congress at $220,000 million, according to Roll Call. These two people are making reckless decisions that will affect every ordinary working American in this country who depend on mail delivery. These two are as out of touch with mainstream America as two people can be but they are self appointed experts when it comes to our nations mail delivery.

HR 2748 Postal Reform Act of 2013 will end Saturday Delivery and leaves open the possibility of reducing it further in 2018. HR 2748 also opens the floodgates to contracting out postal jobs and services at an amazing pace. These actions will clearly accelerate the death spiral. The worlds best Postal Service will be dismantled so its remains can be carved up to be sold off to the highest bidder.

This new bill will eliminate most of door to door delivery. People will have to go to the end of the street to retrieve their mail. That’s not going to be immensely popular, especially for the elderly and those of us who deal with harsh winters.  Amazingly there will be a limited number of deliveries to the door as long as the customer pays a few hundred dollars a year fee. I can’t make this stuff up.   They are going to make people pay hundreds of dollars a year to get mail delivered to the door!

They are creating a Five member Postal Service Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority that will take operating power from the USPS Board of Governors. They will  have the power to restructure the Postal Service and cut costs wherever they see fit. That sounds ominously similar to the panel that the State of Michigan uses to shred existing collective bargaining contracts.

I am sure many more details of this bill we be made public before Wednesdays markup and possible vote in the House of Representatives so we should all be vigilant. Please be prepared to contact your congressman and have them vote against HR 2748. Senator Carper has pledged fast action in the Senate so this could domino quick and along with the dominos the worlds best  Postal Service will be knocked to the ground.

NH Association Of Letter Carriers Raise Thousands For Muscular Dystrophy

MDA Bowl 1

MDA Letter Carrier Bowl 5NH Letter Carriers have been applying their athletic skills for a good cause recently. Their efforts  raised both money and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. MDA is the worlds leading non-profit health  organization, sponsoring research, seeking the causes and effective treatments of neuromuscular diseases. Currently MDA research grants are supporting over 250 projects worldwide.

MDA Letter Carrier Bowl 2 (Lew Henry)In Dover NALC Branch 44 held its 10th annual MDA Bowlathon raising over $1000 . Carriers from Manchester, Durham, Hampton, Derry and Somersworth participated. While Derry walked away with the winning trophy, the real winners were the people who rely on MDA’s many services.

MDA Letter Carrier Bowl 1This past weekend NH Letter Carriers from across the state participated in their annual MDA Golf Tournament at scenic Hale’s Location Golf Course.  The event was a huge success raising over $3400 for MDA!!  A team led by NALC Branch 44 President Dan Yianakopolos walked away with the bragging rights as they squeaked out the tournament title edging a  team of local letter carriers:  Wayne Alterisio, Don Cummings, Rick “Shep” McArdle and  Elka Waddell.  It was great to see so many letter carriers take part in this fundraiser.

MDA Coordinator

MDA Coordinator

The National Association of Letter Carriers has a long tradition of supporting MDA and actually was the first national sponsor of MDA. Our efforts have raised over $20 million in the past 15 years alone.

One way we can each help MDA is to ask your elected representatives to co-sponsor HR 494  the MD Care Act of 2013.  Its official name is the Paul Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance , Research and Education Act. This act helps enable scientist in the worlds best research facilities develop new drugs in the treatment of muscular dystrophy.  Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has already co-sponsored this bill along with many other members of Congress.

“It’s important that our branches make these fundraisers their own,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “The results are always better when they do. And every dollar we bring in is one more dollar we’re closer to delivering the cure.”

NH Letter Carriers MDA Golf Tournament

NH Letter Carriers MDA Golf Tournament

Unions are stepping up and building bridges with community organizations nationwide. These local activities are just one example of this partnership. As always unions put the boots on the ground and people in the streets (or bowling alleys, golf courses) for worthwhile causes. Whether its economic justice in the workplace or social justice in our nation or simply working for the common good, unions will lead the way.

Mourn For The Dead, Fight For The Living. A Contrasting View Of Safety In The Workplace

Workers'-Memorial-Day-Banner

Workers'-Memorial-Day-Banner

With Workers Memorial Day approaching Sunday April 28 two high-profile safety situations this week have helped further illustrate the gulf  between a union and non-union workplace. Union leaders have called out the Postal Service for being slow in handling one situation while in Texas a completely different regulatory atmosphere turned into a catastrophe.

Postal employees were reminded of the risks in moving the mail.  Ricin tainted letters passed through mail plants in Tennessee, Maryland and Washington DC.  The media reported the story before the USPS told its employees according to the  American Postal Workers Union (APWU). The hope is the Postal Service will communicate faster with employees if a similar problem occurs in the future.

The APWU was displeased with the Postal Service not telling his members sooner about the Ricin tainted letters sent to President Obama and Senator Wicker. Especially considering the deaths of Postal Workers during the Anthrax mailings in 2001 the APWU expected a quicker response.

“It is unacceptable that postal officials did not contact the union immediately to notify us of this potentially deadly hazard,” Union President Cliff Guffey said. “Postal workers have learned through bitter experience of the dangers we face when poisons are sent through the mail.”

“We intend to demand that this lapse be corrected,” Guffey said. “The safety of postal workers must be management’s first concern in an incident like this. Postal workers have a right to be informed immediately and to have the assistance of their union immediately to make sure that everything is being done that can be done to protect their safety!”

Seemingly the Postal Service was slow in handling this. In the big picture the Postal Service preaches safety constantly and OSHA inspectors frequently visit. It can be legitimately questioned if the Postal Service focus on safety is being done for the right reasons, but there is no doubt safety is emphasized. Lets contrast that to the travesty in Texas.

We are learning grim new details of the West Fertilizer Plant fire last week that killed at least 14 people and injured over 200. Astoundingly this plant was last inspected by OSHA in February 1985.

That is right a non-union fertilizer plant next to both a school and a nursing home went over 27 years without a OSHA inspection. The EPA found numerous safety violations 5 years ago but that was never followed up on. What could possibly go wrong in this situation?

OSHA inspectors have been reduced consistently over the past 30 years  and currently there are only 2,200 inspectors for the country’s 8 million workplaces and 130 million workers. So OSHA could be expected to visit each plant every 129 years.  With no union voice workers are not really empowered to make a call on their own. The whole community in West, Texas is now paying the price.

Routinely government leaders side with industry profits  over public safety.  If you are a union worker and contact OSHA they will undoubtedly respond.  Union officials called out the Postal Service for being 2 days late in notification. Contrast that to the 27 year delay in Texas. If you are a non-union worker and you report a violation most likely your next call will be to the State Unemployment Office.

With Workers Memorial Day being later this week its time for our Congress and Administration to address worker safety. People somehow have to be placed above profits.