Now here’s something you don’t hear every day from a leading organized labor figure: “We must shift the focus of the union away from acting as a grievance machine,” American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey says today in a release on the organization’s web site. “Leaders at all levels of the organization must get more involved in legislative activities and other union efforts.”
If labor-management relations at the U.S. Postal Service will likely never resemble a group hug, there’s an obvious reason for the APWU to re-prioritize: The world’s leading mail carrier is at risk of going broke and Congress will likely have to be involved in any rescue. At present, the Postal Service has to pay about $5.5 billion annually into a retiree health benefit fund and top officials say they don’t have the money to make the next installment, which is due in September.
“All national officers must set an example by assisting locals and state organizations in establishing better ties with congressional representatives,” Guffey says. That includes encouraging lawmakers to back bills that would strengthen the Postal Service without weakening workers’ rights.
The APWU’s national officers will be meeting in Atlanta early next month, the release adds. Among the agenda items: an update on the status of contract talks and discussion of various union programs.