NLRB hits Postal Service for breaking labor law

WASHINGTON – In its crusade to cut costs and fire workers, management at the U.S. Postal Service seems to be making a habit of “blowing it” – consistently breaking labor law in its dealings with its unions and workers.

At least, that’s one conclusion from the latest National Labor Relations Board official’s ruling against the agency’s management, on Sept. 10.  It’s one of many recent NLRB cases agency managers lost to the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers, or both.

That’s when Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan decided Postal Service managers must give the union documents dealing with their outsourcing of transportation services, so the union would have the data it needs to contend union workers can do the work more efficiently.  But USPS didn’t turn over the documents – the evidence, if you will.

The dispute over the outsourcing is part of what postal unions call the Postmaster General’s creeping privatization of the Postal Service

The Postmaster General’s other measures, which he says he must undertake to stanch USPS red ink, include plans to fire 100,000 workers, let another 100,000 go by attrition, close 82 more Postal Service sorting centers next year, eliminate Saturday pickups and deliveries, and replace full-time family-supporting union workers selling stamps and providing other postal services with minimum-wage no-benefit non-union part-timers at Staples stores.

But his privatization scheme also includes eliminating workers who don’t directly serve the public, such as workers who run highway contract routes to Postal Service terminals.

That’s what USPS announced it would do on April 23, 2013: Renew outsourced con-tracts with private firms for routes feeding eight of the terminals.  But the agency’s contract with APWU gives the union the right to contest such decisions, and to get data it can use to prove that regular Postal Service workers – APWU members – can do the work more efficiently. 

“The Postal Service may not renew its private contracts if the union demonstrates that it can perform bargaining unit work at the same or lower cost,” Amchan noted.  “The Postal Service can cancel a contract mid-term if the union demonstrates that it can perform all or part of a contract route for less than the contractor.”

When APWU official Michael Foster asked for summary contract numbers – so the union could determine if its members could run the routes more efficiently – the Postal Service refused.  USPS cited confidentiality of proprietary company information, from the contractors, to deny turning over the key form involved, which listed the costs item by item.

Its denial broke labor law, Amchan said: “The union…is entitled by contract to recapture work contracted out…if that work can be performed for less in-house.  Thus in a broad sense, any information regarding the basis on which” the Postal Service “decided to contract out this work is relevant and necessary to the union’s functions.”  

Photo: Postal unions have won NLRB backing for some of their efforts to prove that postal employees can provide transportation services more efficiently than outseside firms. AP


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).