Understanding the USPS APWU Agreement: Implications for Postal Workers and the Public
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a vital institution that delivers mail and packages to every corner of the country, serving over 160 million addresses and processing more than 470 million mailpieces each day. To sustain its mission and adapt to changing demands and technologies, the USPS relies on its workforce, which includes about 496,000 career employees who belong to various unions, such as the American Postal Workers Union (APWU).
The APWU represents over 200,000 postal workers who perform a variety of jobs, from clerks and mail handlers to maintenance and motor vehicle operators. The APWU also negotiates collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the USPS, which establish the terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, benefits, working hours, and job security. The latest agreement between the APWU and the USPS was signed on July 27, 2019, and covers the period from September 20, 2018, to September 20, 2021.
The USPS APWU agreement is a complex document that spans over 600 pages and addresses hundreds of issues that affect both the union and the management. However, some key provisions and changes are worth highlighting, as they have implications for postal workers and the public. Here are some of them:
– Wage increases: The APWU agreement provides for three general wage increases (GWIs) of 1.3%, 1%, and 1% over the life of the contract, as well as four cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) for urban wage earners and clerical workers. The first COLA was retroactive to September 1, 2018, and the last will be effective on August 29, 2020. The GWIs are nominal raises that apply to the basic salaries of employees, while the COLAs are supplements that adjust the wages for inflation.
– Career path modifications: The APWU agreement modifies the career paths for some craft employees, such as clerks and maintenance workers, by creating new levels and titles that reflect the evolving nature of the work and the skills required. For example, the clerks who handle mail processing operations will have three levels: Mail Processing Clerk 1, 2, and 3, instead of just Level 5. Similarly, the maintenance workers who install and maintain building systems and equipment will have five levels: Maintenance Mechanic 1, 2, 3, 4, and Lead, instead of just Level 7. The changes aim to provide more opportunities for career growth and development, as well as better recognition and compensation for specialized expertise.
– Health benefits adjustments: The APWU agreement modifies some aspects of the health benefits program for postal employees, such as the contribution rates, the prescription drug plan, and the wellness incentives. The contribution rates for the employee share of the premiums will increase by 0.4%, 0.9%, and 1% for the three years of the contract, respectively, while the USPS share will remain the same. The prescription drug plan will adopt a new formulary that aims to reduce costs and promote generic and preferred brand drugs. The wellness incentives will continue to encourage employees to participate in health screenings, activities, and coaching, but with some adjustments to the rewards and requirements.
– Workforce structure changes: The APWU agreement includes some provisions that affect the structure of the USPS workforce, such as the creation of a new category of non-career employees called Postal Support Employees (PSEs) and the conversion of some PSEs to career employees. The PSEs are temporary workers who perform clerical and mail processing tasks and receive lower wages and benefits than career employees. The agreement limits the percentage of PSEs in the workforce to 20% of the total hours worked, up from the previous limit of 10%. The agreement also requires the USPS to convert some PSEs to career employees if they meet certain eligibility criteria, such as working a certain number of hours and passing a test.
These and other provisions of the USPS APWU agreement reflect the ongoing negotiations and compromises between the union and the management, as well as the external pressures and challenges facing the USPS, such as the decline of mail volume, the competition from private carriers, and the political and financial uncertainties. The agreement aims to balance the interests of the postal workers, who seek fair and secure employment, with the needs of the USPS, which seeks to maintain efficiency, affordability, and relevance in the 21st century. The agreement also affects the public, who rely on the USPS for their communication, commerce, and community services, and who may feel the effects of the changes in the workforce, the benefits program, and the mail standards. Therefore, understanding and monitoring the USPS APWU agreement is crucial for anyone who cares about the future of the postal system and its role in our society.