APWU CONVENTION REPORT 2014
An unprecedented provocative attempt by retiree operatives to “Empire Build” the Retiree Department was soundly defeated by the delegates at the recent APWU Chicago Convention! This came on the heels of several days of intense debate about critical structural elements of the Union. The retiree initiative was spearheaded by a small but misguided vocal clique comprised in part by several elected retiree delegates to the Convention, ‘regular’ delegates who are retired, and the Retiree Director.
The Convention Constitution Committee, who had the responsibility to review and make recommendations about proposals to amend the Constitution, met in Washington DC prior to the Convention. This writer was honored to serve on the Committee. At the outset, we examined in meticulous detail the complement and financial trends in the Union. Details are not published here since our ‘enemies’ who read our publications don’t need to be privy to the data. However, it is -no-secret that there has-been-seriolls downsizing in the Union as the Postal Service shrinks the work force. The Committee developed a primary concept that all proposals would be tested against the cost that would be incurred if they were adopted, and would be rejected if there was a cost associated with them. A secondary consideration was that proposals would also be rejected if they resulted in an infringement on the powers of the president.
SETTING THE STAGE
Before the retiree issues were considered, serious debate about a number of staffing proposals took place. Offices that were vacant and were removed from the Constitution were: Assistant Legislative/Political Director; Assistant Clerk Craft Director A; Maintenance National Representative At Large; Wichita Area National Business Agent A Clerk Division; and the Cincinnati Area National Business Agent A Clerk Division.
In addition, the Convention supported the Constitution Committee rejection of limiting the authority of the president and adding staffing for the Support Services Division. The Support Services Business Agent would have had a salary of @ $144,100.00. Moreover, a salary increase for the Support Services Director of about $20,000.00 per year was also rejected. It was obvious that most delegates understood what was going on with the Union by strongly supporting the recommendations of the Constitution Committee. Except for two vacant offices that the Convention voted to fill, the Convention moved along in a serious cost saving manner. The debates for the two offices that were not eliminated were more emotional than factual. The delegates were swayed by heated rhetoric delivered in personal emotional tirades that plucked their heart strings. Nevertheless, all in all, to this point of the proceedings things had been moving along in a slow but deliberate pace in a responsible cost savings attitude.
THE RETIREE ISSUES
On a personal note, as an elected delegate to the Convention, I participated in the Retiree meeting that preceded the Convention. At that meeting I reported on the financial and complement structure of the Union, and the basis for the Committee’s rejection of the retiree proposals. The delegates at that meeting chose to ignore the Committee’s recommendation, and moved instead to prioritize their proposals for later presentation at the Convention. Thus the die was cast.
These were the retiree issues that came before the Convention: Add an appointed technician to the Retiree Department (at an estimated cost of at least $144,000,00 per year); increase the Retiree Director salary @ $20,000.00 per year; change the five elected delegates to become Regional Representatives with compensation; put the Retiree Director (and the Legislative/Political Director and the Health Plan Director) on the Executive Board; and designate the Retiree Department as the Retiree Division. During the debate that followed, it was revealed that since the Department was created, more than $200,000.00 had been paid for lost time for ad hoc assistance.
When these issues came before the delegates, the small clique that supported them manned the microphones in support of them. As a member of the Constitution Committee, I took the floor in support of the Committee’s rejection of them. When it became obvious that the proposals were being defeated, a couple were withdrawn by the makers. The result … a retiree raid on the treasury and “Empire Building” was averted in line with the fiscally responsible actions that had taken place earlier in the Convention.
A few members of the clique later approached me in a most hostile manner, describing me as a “prostitute” for opposing retiree initiatives in my role as a Committee member. In my opinion, the cause of retiree involvement has been set back by their naked thirst for resources and power. I have cautioned retirees in the past to avoid how retirees might be seen as a power hungry bloc within the Union. Behavior by the clique at this Convention was an example of that ambition, in my opinion. Unionism is about being for the all, not the few.
The clique acts as if our modest dues of $3.00 per month, with $1.80 rebated to Chapters where they exist, is a private fund within the Union to be used only for retiree issues. It is a misguided distortion of the reality. The dues go into the general fund, as all dues do, to be used for all Union operations. The fact is the Retiree Department is the worst organized entity in the Union, with a mere 40,000 members. That is a pittance of those that have retired since the Department was formed, bolstered by recent early outs. It is a shame that the clique chooses to act as an elite bloc that ignores the realities that the rest of the Union faces in a highly responsible manner. I choose to take the high road to support the Union as a whole, not any political bloc within. It is the right way, IT IS THE UNION WAY!