Tri-State Training

The Tri-State (AL, TN, MS) training meeting and the MS State Convention was held consecutively this year on April 14 through April 18 at Harrah’s convention center in Tunica, Mississippi.

The weather became a major actor because it unexpectedly took a nasty turn on Sunday night with tornado warnings all around us and then rainy, windy, and unexpectedly cold on Monday and Tuesday.

Harrah’s has been in the local news lately because they are closing their entire complex in Tunica. Wandering around during my free time I spoke to a few employees of Harrah’s about the effects the closing would have on them. Mostly they were reluctant to talk about it to me. One person told me non-union members would get $1500 severance pay but union members would get nothing. Another told me nobody would get anything.

It’s hard to believe this complex will be closed by the end of June and all these employees will be without a job.

This was the first year we have tried having our State immediately following the Tri-State. Usually the two gatherings are separated in time by a few months. I think Alabama and Tennessee have been doing this for two years now and most of those that have done it before told me they were ok with it.

The Tri-State training seminar offered general classes with topics on the grievance procedure, contracting out, PSE’s, steward training, small offices issues, travel procedures, as well as specific break-out training for the Clerk, Maintenance and Motor Vehicle crafts; all facilitated by our National Business Agents.

We also heard reports from some national officers.

President Mark Dimondstein addressed the delegates via live interactive video feed. His comments were optimistic, but he stressed how much work we have to do. He stressed the importance of the Stop Staples campaign against privatization of our jobs and he also stressed Postal Banking as a way for the Postal Service to both provide a needed service to the community, and gain new revenue.

He also told us about the Grand Alliance proclamation of four postal unions in fighting to preserve our jobs and the postal service.

Executive Vice President, Debbie Szeredy spoke to the attendees saying, “We are at a critical time in our history, where the survival of the Postal Service and our very jobs and futures are at stake. That is why we are calling out to you, the members, to get involved now. Writing letters to your legislators is important, but it is not enough. You need to attend your union meetings. You need to sign up non-union members who work side-by-side with you. There are 42,000 of them, and they need to do their share in this fight, too”

Industrial Relations Director Tony McKinnon’s main emphasis was on reducing the backlog of grievances saying, “There is a backlog of 30,000 arbitration cases nationally and that is just unacceptable. Members deserve to have their grievances resolved in a reasonable amount of time”.

Legislative and Political Director John Marcotte told us about how the budget republicans in Congress have produced would harm us saying, “The summary provided by Mr. Ryan is riddled with misleading statements. The USPS has overfunded both the CSRS and FERS by tens of billions of dollars; has $50 billion set aside for future retiree healthcare; is on its way to making a $1billion dollar surplus this year, and takes no tax money.”

Organization Director Anna Smith talked about the organizing campaign going on saying, “The campaign is about each of us standing up and letting our co-workers know that they can no longer sit in the bleachers. We must convince them to join us on the field as we fight management’s efforts to dismantle the USPS. All of our jobs depend on it”.

Human Relations Director Sue Carney echoed the emotion many of us have when she said, “it’s mindboggling how many members abandon their own cause to vote for anti-worker, anti-union candidates. Personal interests won’t matter much if we end up standing in the soup line”.

The main information coming from the Clerk craft was the MOU about filling residual vacancies now that excessing and withholding due to AMPs has effectively ended on February 14, 2014. While we were in meetings this MOU and the Questions and Answers were being worked out at the National level, and things are moving fast. Bottom line seems to be that the postal service has decided to change directions from excessing to hiring, and this means lots of opportunities for part-time-flexibles and PSE’s to fill residual vacancies. Our union leaders are on top of this; making sure that every opportunity for PSE’s and PTF’s to fill regular positions is taken. For more information on this subject, contact your local officials, your district directors, or go on the APWU web page.

In the maintenance craft break-outs we learned the MS-47 handbook is being revised. The last time the postal service tried this it cost them about $70 million so this time they are being particularly careful to follow the correct procedures so as to avoid paying for their mistakes later.

No doubt, if the changes become effective, custodial work will be reduced. The union and management are still negotiating so we don’t have anything definitive yet; which means we are still under the existing MS-47 and management should be forced, through the grievance procedure, to follow it.

Also, the postal service is trying to eliminate BEM jobs, and give this work to AMTs.

Naturally, the Union will try to protect these jobs, but as always, the struggle continues.

Closing Statement

In closing out this report, if I could identify a theme for the Tri-State seminar this year, it would be this: The Struggle Continues.

The importance of the Tri-State training is that it gives us the tactics we need to prepare ourselves to be able to continue the struggle; winning a battle here and there; but the war against workers continues unabated.

The battle-field in this war extends from each local post office all the way up to the halls of Congress, and the soldiers are each of us, volunteers from the average union member up to the executive board members; each doing what they can to preserve the dignity found in work, for us and all workers.

The beauty of our cause is that it knows no difference in color of skin, no difference of religion, no difference in wealth or status. If you are a worker, you are one of us, and every worker’s voice, his vote, counts the same as every other workers voice or vote.

Our strength is found in our reliance on each other instead of reliance on any powerful leader. What benefits one should benefit all; what hurts one, hurts all.

This is our power, our beauty, and our righteousness; this is our solidarity.

This is why our cause will WIN!