By Paul H (by author’s request)
The Ohio Postal Worker
I wrote this today so that maybe you could share with the Union naysayers what it is like outside the walls of the Post Office.
The job market is tough and if you are lucky enough to get a job this is pretty much what you are facing. I apologize to you and all of the dues paying members that I am working a non-union job but that is a sign of the disappearing good paying union supported jobs of the past.
So you think your union is not doing anything for you. You ask yourself why should I pay union dues and support the union, they don’t help me. How bad could it be if there was no union?
I retired from the Postal Service in June 2011 after 32 years. 26 of those years were spent as a dues paying and supporter of the American Postal Workers Union while in the clerk craft. My last six years were spent in management. While in management I still made every attempt to work with the union and respect the rights and beliefs of the union members which is probably why I did not go very high on the managerial ladder.
During that whole period I took what I had for granted. Good wages, vacation, benefits and someone to go before management on my behalf when I felt unfairly treated, were just a few of the things I could see on the surface. State and national representation before Congress and the Senate were the things I knew were there, but never thought much about. Was I happy with my union? Not always but my dad told me unions have your back, I believed him or maybe I just didn’t want to see what happens when no one has your back.
Now that I am retired from the Postal Service I have taken a part time job at a big box store near my home. It is quite laid back compared to my last position mostly because I am collecting a pension (negotiated and protected by the union) and the money I earn at my new job, well I don’t really need it but it pays for a good meal out and gas in the tank. But I have come to know many of the stories of my coworkers and they do need the money they make here. They need it for daycare, school, utilities and the day to day support of their families. Many of them need a set schedule but that doesn’t happen here either.
One day may be 2 p.m. to 11 and the next 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., that’s called “clopening”, closing one day and opening the next. I never heard that term in all my years in the union. They have no union; in fact, when I went through orientation I had to watch a video on the evils of the union, how you cannot talk about or attempt to organize a union while employed here.
Most of the people in my department have been here longer than I have been yet I make more per hour than they do. Two new guys were just hired with in background in the skills of our department yet they also make more money per hour than the guy (we will call him John) who has been here almost a year. How do you get a raise here? It certainly isn’t guaranteed by a union contract, it is evaluated by a sit down with a supervisor who in the case of John has only known him for 2 weeks. Do you know how much of a raise John got? John got 13 cents an hour. Before leaving the clerk craft for management my union negotiated contract allowed me to make more money every two days than John takes home in a 39 hour week. This is a person that waits on customers, runs power equipment, never misses work, works while he is at work and needs money to pay for college to get a better (hopefully a union) job.
Another employee (we will call him Bill) lost his raise altogether because he forgot to check a receipt of a customer that was leaving the store. Bill was a hard worker, a good cashier and had over a year of service with the company. One mistake resulted in no pay increase and because no union had his back, Bill quit. Think about some of the supervisors you work for, would they fairly give you the raise you deserve? Without union monitored bidding would they give you the good shifts or would those go to their favorites? Would you be able to take a vacation without your union negotiated benefits? John just got back from a week at Myrtle Beach; he didn’t get paid for a single hour of it because a non-union place like this doesn’t have a vacation plan like you do.
Why did I write this? Because I want everyone who reads it to see how good they have it in spite of the current struggles. You did not get what you have at the Post Office because some supervisor liked you; you got it because the union guaranteed that right for you.
Yes there are some things like consolidations and closings that are a struggle right now but if my new employer closed down the facility that I work at a lot of good workers would be unemployed. If the USPS shut down your facility would you be unemployed or inconvenienced?
These are tough times for the economy and the Postal Service is doing whatever it takes to stay alive. Why wouldn’t you do whatever it takes to guarantee that you are not working under conditions so many non-union employers demand of their employees?
Join your union and support your union.