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  No. 05-03  February 17, 2005       
 
 
  Hot Issues in '05!

NALC Executive Council Focuses on
Postal Reform and Social Security Action

Activists are Critical to Union’s Lobbying Strategy

   



Executive Council in Texas

President Young makes a point during week-long meeting of NALC Executive
Council in Texas. Pictured (l-r) are Vice President Gary Mullins, Young, Executive Vice President Jim Williams and Secretary-Treasurer Jane E. Broendel.

The union’s stance and strategy regarding two of the hottest topics in Congress this year – Social Security and postal reform – dominated a week-long meeting of the NALC Executive Council February 7-11 in Irving, Texas, setting the stage for year-long involvement of NALC activists in both debates.

In the end, NALC President William H. Young made clear that the NALC had not yet endorsed any legislation in the 109th Congress on either topic, but would be weighing various proposals and information before reaching any decision.

“We are open to listening to the proposals and recommendations by members of both political parties in the House and Senate, by the Bush administration, from our friends in the labor movement, and from all organizations and individuals that can add to the public debate,” Young said. “No one is excluded. Furthermore, this union has not yet placed its seal of approval on any specific legislation in the new Congress, and may not for several months to come.”

‘Unified Voice’

“We intend to fully participate in the dialogue as legislation is drafted and moves through Congress and will have the strong and unified voice of over 121,000 NALC activists with us,” he added.

On postal reform, Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, has introduced H.R. 22 in the House nearly mirroring legislation that was unanimously approved last year by the House Government Reform Committee, but which was blocked from House floor action on direction of the White House. In the Senate, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chair Susan Collins R-ME, is preparing to reintroduce legislation that may include some revisions from the language approved unanimously by that panel last year.

On Social Security, President Bush has proposed siphoning up to 33 percent from payroll taxes under the current formula and earmarking it for private accounts. That proposal, yet to be submitted in legislative form, has been met with widespread criticism, especially from the AFL-CIO and retirees organizations.

Although the question of how to stabilize Social Security for the long-term future remains open for debate, President Young emphasized that diverting payroll taxes into private accounts is not the answer, saying it “would make Social Security’s financial problems much worse, not better.”

Increases Debt

“The resulting budget deficits would add trillions to the national debt,” he said.

At the council meeting, Young’s remarks were augmented by extensive presentations by George Gould, assistant to the president for legislative and political affairs and other members of NALC’s Legislative Department, and by James Sauber, the union’s research economist.

Officers’ Reports

All Resident Officers made reports to the council on activities they were involved in:

Executive Vice President Jim Williams reported that the NALC was 92 percent organized as of November, 2004, a fraction below a year previous, and urged that all efforts be made to sign-up non-members. Williams announced that the next round of advocacy training will be March 6, and a new three-week leadership training program will begin in July, spread over a five-month period, including periods to work on training projects. The selection application packets will be available shortly from National Business Agents, branch presidents and on the NALC website. He gave new data showing the continued success of the Dispute Resolution Process.

Vice President Gary Mullins reported on the status of cases sent to arbitration, with only 1,176 unsettled at the end of 2004. President Young noted that in 1998, the number of unsettled cases was over 28,000. Mullins, who coordinates the activities of the Contract Administration Unit at NALC, discussed the unit’s action in administering and enforcing the National Agreement. He also reported that he has begun supervision of the union’s Computer Department which is working to upgrade the computer system at headquarters and in the field.

Secretary-Treasurer Jane E. Broendel reported that the size of the city letter carrier craft has increased to 228,181 with NALC active letter carrier members at 209,962. Broendel also said plans were already underway for the 65th Biennial Convention in Miami, August 7-11, 2006. She added that dates have been established for the 66th convention in Boston – July 21-25, 2008, and that exploratory work has begun for a city to host the 2010 convention.

Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Jim Korolowicz reported that Customer Connect, the joint effort of the union and Postal Service to increase business through first-hand contact by letter carriers with their customers has brought in over $60 million to the Postal Service.

Director of City Delivery Fred Rolando reviewed the many issues and agreements involving route inspections during the past two years, culminating with the Service’s unilateral termination of the new route inspection memorandum on December 7, 2004. Rolando also noted that NALC initiated on October 27, 2004 an Interpretive Step grievance on the use of the Carrier Optimal Routing (COR) process because it is inconsistent with the provisions of the M39 handbook. He also discussed the relevant issues involved in the Interpretive Step grievance initiated on October 27, 2004 regarding management’s use of DOIS.

Director of Safety and Health Brian Hellman, who recently moved over from Director of Life Insurance, noted that the NALC and USPS are meeting regarding the New Generation 3 vehicle, with the first units scheduled to be deployed in 2006. Hellman also reported that the USPS continues to deploy bio-detection system (BOS) equipment, and reported that the USPS and NALC, along with the federal government, are developing plans for antibiotic distribution in the case of an anthrax attack.

Director of Life Insurance Myra Warren, who also oversees much of the NALC Building operation, notified the Council that the contract to manage the cafeteria was cancelled in January and was being replaced with some vending machines, a new self-service coffee maker, and other items. Warren has just begun her duties as Director of Life Insurance after serving as Assistant Secretary-Treasurer.

Director of Health Benefits Thomas H. Young, Jr. (who was unable to attend the meeting) issued a report read by President Young on the status of enrollment in the NALC Health Benefit Plan following the most recent Open Season, with data still being collected prior to a final report. Young announced that the NALC Health Benefit Seminar will be October 16-18, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Director of Retired Members Donald T. Southern was pleased to report that over 15,000 NALC members have contributed to COLCPE (Committee on Letter Carriers Political Education), of which nearly 7,000 have used payroll deduction. Southern pointed out that campaigns for off-year congressional elections are not far off and the necessity to build up COLCPE to ensure that Congress accomplishes the goal of letter carriers on postal reform and Social Security legislation.

The Council also received reports from all 15 National Business Agents and the National Trustees on issues in their respective areas.

   
 

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Material Sent to NALC Branches
For Route Inspection Training

   
   
 

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  NALC, Other Unions Win Arbitration
On USPS Administration of FMLA
   

Arbitrator Shyam Das, in a national award, backed the position of the NALC and two other postal unions on key issues involving the Postal Service’s administration of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Das’ ruling, issued January 28, resolved a national level dispute initiated by the APWU challenging the implementation of certain aspects of the Postal Service’s Resource Management Database (RMD) pertaining to FMLA and sick leave. Both NALC and the Mail Handlers intervened, participated in the hearings, and filed post-hearing briefs.

The first issue concerned management’s claim that an attendance supervisor (ACS) was authorized to ask employees to divulge the nature of their illness or injury when they call in to report an absence. Rejecting that, Arbitrator Das cited the NALC-USPS Joint Contract Administration Manual. He held that an ACS is authorized only to ask enough to determine whether the illness or injury may be covered by the FMLA or may require a return to work certification under Employee and Labor Relations Manual Section 865. More intrusive requests for details are prohibited.

The second issue resolved by Arbitrator Das involved the procedure for obtaining third medical opinions to resolve disputes over the validity of an FMLA certification provided by an employee’s health care provider.

The FMLA provides that when there is a dispute between an employee’s and an employer’s physicians, the employer may require the employee to be examined by a jointly designated third doctor whose opinion is final and binding. The Postal Service sought to implement this procedure by means of a standard form letter which told employees that they would be required to notify management whether they wished a dispute to be resolved by a third doctor, and that failure to notify the employer would be deemed an acceptance of the Postal Service’s designated physician’s opinion. The Unions argued that this policy violated FMLA regulations by improperly placing the burden of decision on the employee.

Das agreed, noting that the FMLA “expressly places responsibility on the employer to determine whether to require that the employee obtain a third opinion . . . The Postal Service’s current process, as reflected in the sample letter provided for use in the field, clearly departs from and is inconsistent with the statutory scheme.”

A third issue presented to the Arbitrator concerned APWU’s claim that an original FMLA certification indicating that an employee suffered from a condition requiring intermittent leave relieved the employee from providing documentation supporting a request for paid sick leave of four days or more under the ELM. Das rejected APWU’s argument on this issue.

   
 

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  Temple Appointed as AFL-CIO Delegate
   
Linda Temple

President Young has appointed Linda Temple, president of Mile High Branch 47 in Denver, as a NALC delegate to the AFL-CIO.

Temple fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Andrew Petersen, also of Branch 47, following his appointment by Young to a staff position in the Contract Administration Division at NALC National Headquarters in Washington. Petersen had been elected at the NALC Convention in Honolulu.

In her new post, Temple will join Young and Secretary-Treasurer Jane E. Broendel, along with six other elected delegates in representing the union at AFL-CIO conventions.

   
 

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