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Statement on the opening of negotiations for a new collective-bargaining agreement

On June 26, The leaders of the National Association of Letter Carriers and the United States Postal Service formally opened negotiations for a new collective-bargaining agreement. Below is NALC President Fredric Rolando's opening statement.

Good morning everybody. Thank you to Postmaster General Brennan and Vice President Tulino for hosting this opening ceremony for the NALC’s 15th round of collective bargaining with the United States Postal Service. Since 1970, we have negotiated and/or arbitrated 14 National Agreements. We honor that long record of success and we are here today, in good faith, to begin the work toward a 15th contract that will be fair to both sides of this table.

The backdrop for these talks features some familiar obstacles.  As in 2016, we face the impact of the retiree health prefunding mandate that continues to distort the overall financial picture surrounding the Postal Service, accounting for 100 percent of the Postal Service’s losses over the past six years. The outlook for postal reform legislation to resolve the prefunding fiasco remains cloudy at best in the face of Congressional gridlock and political dysfunction. And, once again, the Postal Service is simultaneously engaged with bargaining and arbitrations with the other postal unions, having recently reached a tentative settlement on a new contract with the Rural Carriers.  

But just like in 2016, these factors will not affect the NALC’s agenda in these negotiations. Our unique and indispensable role in the success of the Postal Service dictates a concerted focus on city carrier issues.

As always, we have every intention of securing a voluntary agreement this time – even though we remain fully prepared to resort to binding arbitration, if need be, to achieve our goals. 

As always, we will seek to preserve and improve the standard of living for city letter carriers. We aim to move forward, not backward. There will be no concessions offered or given. But we will work diligently and professionally to find common ground and mutual progress.

Our recent experience suggests that this round of negotiations will be especially difficult. As you know, I’ve expressed our deep opposition to the 10-year business plan you have presented to the unions and to Members of Congress. We view it as a huge step backwards – sending us back 10 years when Postmaster General Pat Donahoe unveiled a very similar plan that failed in Congress and resulted in a period of angry and unproductive labor relations.

Adding to the difficulty is our failure to make progress in recent years on the Postal Service’s often toxic workplace culture.  Speaking bluntly, it has become clear to us that postal management does not choose to acknowledge, much less address, this problem, which festers and persists in too many post offices across the country. We had hoped the workplace culture MOU negotiated in the 2016 contract would result in a serious effort by management to jointly address offices with such work environments.  We will aggressively explore other options to improve the workplace environment in this round of collective bargaining.

We will also seek to address the chronic turnover and instability in the Postal Service’s CCA workforce. To address these problems we will propose accelerated CCA conversions to career status and changes that will facilitate a transition to an all-career workforce.

We will also propose practical solutions to improve safety, efficiency, service, and staffing as well as measures to achieve properly adjusted routes. Unilateral approaches are not acceptable to us – only jointly developed and administered approaches will work.

Of course, today is not the time to focus on the divisions we must overcome. Today, is the time for hope.  And- we are truly hopeful because we believe in the process of collective bargaining. Our track record as collective bargaining partners has been excellent – both sides can be proud of it.  Indeed, we believe we have used this process to serve the common good and to strengthen the Postal Service on more than one occasion over the past 50 years. I know we have the capacity, on both sides of this table, to rise to the occasion once again – not just to reach a fair agreement but to advance the interests of city letter carriers and the long-term prospects of the Postal Service, a national treasure that all of us truly love.

Our competitive advantage, made possible by our unique and unrivaled first mile collection and last mile delivery networks, can be strengthened through this process. We can and must work together to innovate and diversify our customer base. Let us begin to do this in our 15th round of collective bargaining.

This is the third time I have had the privilege of leading the NALC in contract negotiations. I am extremely proud to be representing America’s city letter carriers in this effort, and I am even more proud to be a letter carrier.

Let me finish by repeating something I said earlier:  We are committed to work with you in good faith and to do whatever it takes to achieve a mutually beneficial contract. But we are equally committed to fight for such a contract in interest arbitration, if necessary. 

We look forward to working with all of you in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you again for hosting us here today.