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July 1998
Vol. 1 No. 10 Page 4

M0' Money, Mo' Money, Mo' Money

by Thom Green

Money, money, money -- it's all about money, and we want a part of it. For three consecutive fiscal years, the United States Postal Service has registered a profit that tipped the scales to the tune of over $1 billion.

And, for three consecutive fiscal years, and heading into a fourth this year, the Postal Service has handed out a piece of that pie to management with it's blessings. An $880 plus million creamy delight has been distributed at the expense of the craft employees during those years, and now it's time to serve up a piece to those who have done the real work.

On July 27 President Vincent R. Sombrotto, National Association of Letter Carriers, will gavel together the largest convention in the 109 year history of the organization. Central to this gathering will be discussions about the National Agreement, wages and benefits, work problems, support of organized labor in other circles, computers, and an unknown list of resolutions and amendments.

Heading that list will be a demand for an increase of letter carriers wages which have been "frozen" in time over the last four years. President Sombrotto is not hiding his intentions of stepping up to the table during labor negotiations, which begin August 20. He has already said he will be asking for a substantial increase in wages for the 235,000 plus men and women who deliver the U.S. Mail.

With Marvin Travis Runyon, former Postmaster General, and Joe Mahon, former Vice President Labor Relations, gone, and newly appointed Postmaster General William Henderson at the helm, it is speculated the string of arbitrated contracts is over. PMG Henderson said before a Congressional hearing, June 10 he is hoping for a negotiated contract. The NALC has never gone to the bargaining table with any thought of not bargaining for a National Agreement so it will be up to the Postal Service to prove its intentions are serious.

However, the NALC has been driven away from the table by paltry monetary offers and veiled threats of route realignment that border on pay for performance -- something the NALC is dead set against.

The Postal Service began offering "performance bonuses" during the 1990 negotiations. When that didn't develop as it had hoped, the 1994-1998 agreement put into place two lump sum payments and marginal pay increases. For years the Postal Service has maintained that craft employees are over paid compared to the private sector. PMG Runyon hammered that thought home when he said that craft employees are over paid by 30%.

Losing ground to wage increases the NALC at the bargaining table was able to keep in place the Cost Of Living Adjustments. Not pleased with that the Postal Service went to Congress hoping the legislative body would re-write the forumlas used to determine the COLAs. It failed.

Switching gears the Postal Service offered its bonus plan and incentive pay ideas, taken from private industry, to the management groups as a tease for taking away any potential pay increases. The Economic Value Added Variable Pay Program (EVA) went into place the first year after the arbitrated contract in 1995.

Each year the payouts increased beginning with a war chest of $154 million to last year's $192 million. As the EVAs were paid out the Postal Service bragged to Congress, the press, and the public that it had turned things around for the debt ridden organization and is now operating in the black.

For 1998 the Postal Service is predicting another billion dollar profit. Management personnel took a liking to the bonuses, and in order to assure the pie stayed fresh it began to cheat to keep the performance goals in tact.

Earlier this year 11 postal management personnel covered under the EVA bonus package were caught cheating the system in West Virginia. The Postal Service wrote this event off as an isolated experience. PMG Runyon claimed those persons involved would be dealt with seriously and swiftly. Their fate is unknown at this time.

While Federal Times and other media played this out in a series of publications, South Miami Florida Branch No. 1071 was quietly putting together a package it was preparing to send to Karla Cochran, Inspector General. That package confirmed what craft employees knew all along, that management would go to any length to get those bonuses, and that the West Virginia incident was not an isolated incident.

During the three years the EVA payments were made Postal management said the craft employees could be sharing the "wealth" as well. President Sombrotto has said he would never accept a pay for performance plan. That will surely be hammered home during the Las Vegas Convention.

Not surprisingly, as the contract talks approach, and the demand for a better wage hits the table, the USPS Board of Governors have approved significant changes in how the EVA is paid.

If all goes well the basic structure will be built around $400 million, up from $!92 million last year, which would equate into a per-person payment of approximately $2,200.

This contract will be about money, money, money, and more money. The Postal Service during the four years the current agreement has been in place has taken care of the group that does not handle the mail. Now it's time for it to take care of the people who did the work.

Thom Green is a member of NALC Branch 116 - Fort Wayne, IN. He has been a letter carrier and employee of the US Postal Service for 25 years (October 16, 1972). Thom is a 25 year union member and has been a steward for 20 of those years (off and on). Thom has also been editor of The Summit City Mailbag for 9 years. For the last four years he has served as an NALC DPS Training Coordinator. Thom is also the Editor of Contracts & Conflicts.


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