Protecting Our Jobs – and Our Futures

Originally published January 2014

by Ted Seidler

A recent article in USA Today ( March 8, 2014, “Disappearing Middle Class Jobs” ) stated that 8.7 million jobs were lost between December 2007 and March 2010. While that number of jobs has since largely been regained, there are some individual job categories that have lost positions, have not regained those positions and are expected to lose even more over the course of the next decade. Number 1 among those – Postal Service clerks.

According to that article, the projected employment change between 2012 and 2022 for Clerks is about negative 31.8% – almost a one-third loss in the total number. Since the Aurora Local APWU had less than 90 members in 2012, our projected total in 2022 looks to be about 60 or fewer members.

What this means for us: Most of hold our jobs with the intention of, someday, retiring with the retirement benefits we have worked for and are entitled to. Until that happy day, we expect to maintain our working benefits at or above their current levels. These are not unreasonable expectations. Literally hundreds of thousands of Postal Service employees – clerks, carriers, Special Delivery Messengers, maintenance workers and mail handlers, among others – have had rewarding careers and comfortable retirements in the past hundred years. We should expect no less.

What we have to do: Obviously the most important thing we have to do is work – a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay is a bedrock principle. More than that, though, we have to stand together. Anyone with more than a few days experience working for the USPS knows that management will stand with each other – even when it is obvious that one of them has made the mistake. Management, however, will not hesitate to burden labor with unrealistic demands, unhealthy environments and impossible service goals, and then try to discipline workers when failures occur. We, on the other hand, have to deal with this pressure from management in a professional manner, while also giving a high level of service to our customers, who don’t appreciate the long lines and can’t understand our need to take the time necessary to properly answer the questions we get from the patrons ahead of them. We are caught between a rock and a hard place.

Our futures are with our Union: Our Union is currently negotiating a new contract. This is neither easy nor inexpensive, but our dues make it possible. Our futures lie in a strong contract, carefully written and responsibly enforced. Our Union is committed to this.
We also have a part to play in this, both in being active in our Union and being activists, holding management to their contractual obligations towards us and our fellow employees. We need to encourage all employees to join the Union, sharing the burden of the costly contract negotiation and enforcement. We need to keep our eyes open for safety and health violations, so none of us suffer from avoidable injuries that might cause suffering or shorten our professional careers. And we need to stand together, with our Union and other Unions, fighting the good fight for worker rights.