In the June, 2014 Pittsburgh Retiree newsletter, John Richards suggests by innuendo that the Pittsburgh Local President was bought off with an appointment by the former National APWU President to the “plum Constitution Committee” (Richards words) for the 2012 APWU National Convention. This time around in 2014, Richards got the “plum Constitution Committee” appointment for the National Convention from new APWU President Mark Dimondstein. Subsequently, as the ELECTED Eastern Region Retiree Convention Delegate, Richards spoke AGAINST EVERY RETIREE Constitution Resolution at the 2014 National Convention.
In his August, 2014 newsletter, Richards had the audacity to accuse retirees of attempted “Empire building” with the resolutions. Richards also went so far as to pull a dollar amount out of seemingly thin air for the cost of one resolution. What were those resolutions? Retirees at their pre-convention Conference prioritized two Constitution resolutions to add a Retiree Technician to the Retirees Department (with its 41,000 members, one fourth of the APWU membership) and to add the Retirees Department Director to the present 13 member National Officers National Executive Board. And yes, Retirees had several wish list resolutions (as everyone does at every convention), but again, the two referred above were the priority.
Richards “Empire building” remarks are particularly ironic as at the 2012 National Convention, he proposed a Constitutional resolution to completely divorce the Retirees Department from the APWU. Only two years ago, Richards wanted to make the Retirees Department an independent entity retaining all retiree dues moneys and merely pay rent to the APWU for office space and equipment at the APWU National Headquarters building in Washington, D.C. Did Richards have an Epiphany since 2012? Or is it now that he got the “plum” committee appointment, he was bought off by his new crony, National President Dimondstein? Are Richards’ actions further advancing his perceived ambition to run for Retirees Department director as part of the “Team” in the next APWU National Elections?-an ambition which was thwarted in 2013 by a lack of support from Retirees in the field. Who is John Richards working for? APWU members (including retirees) or himself?
And let’s not forget APWU Human Relations Director Sue Carney’s duplicitous antics at the Convention. Carney sat in at the Retiree Conference as well as a state caucus and gave apparently friendly advice regarding the Retiree resolutions. It turns out she was actually a spy snooping on Retiree arguments and strategy for winning delegate support for the subject resolutions. When the Retiree Technician resolution came up on the Convention floor, Carney went into a shrill ranting tirade at the microphone with a carefully orchestrated theatrical rebuttal against a Retiree Technician position and lambasted the Retiree Department with her prior knowledge gained as an undercover agent. This is the same Sue Carney who in her Human Relations Director Convention Book Officer’s Report wrote she was “thrilled to share” that the APWU has hired a former Deputy Director of Federal Employees Compensation as a “consultant” for the Human Relations Department. In a Convention where the Administration preached austerity and Carney parroted the company line, there was no mention of this new hire or the cost. I won’t question whether Carney needed the help or not. It just seems awfully hypocritical to say I got mine and the heck with you. Or maybe the cost of the “consultant” was mentioned in the 2014 Convention Book. On page 85 concerning the Finance Committee Report, it is noted that the “Consulting” fees paid by the APWU rose from just over a half million dollars in 2012 to over a million dollars in 2013. That’s right-over a MILLION dollars. Perhaps the money paid for Carney’s “Consultant” is included in that total.
Further regarding Carney and her Human Relations duties, it must be noted that in a conversation discussing the possible Retiree Technician position with new APWU Executive Vice President Debbie Szeredy, she suggested that perhaps Sue Carney could help out in the Retirees Department. It was told to Szeredy that the 2012 National Constitution removed any description that was in the 2010 Constitution of Retirement duties in the Human Relations Department Director’s job description. In 2013 via an email inquiry regarding this unilateral change (it was never passed at a National Convention) in the National Constitution from Central Region Retiree Convention Delegate Al LaBrecque to National APWU Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell, Powell responded via email that some changes were made by a Postal Press Association review committee. Carney’s response via email to LaBrecque was that she was never allowed to do Retiree training by a previous APWU National President. Carney also wrote “my plate is full”. (But still maybe her “consultant” can help out the Retirees Department-my words) Szeredy apparently knew nothing of this job description change/deletion in the duties of the Human Relations Department Director. A Job description change that if Postal management pulled behind our backs in the bargaining unit, one big grievance ruckus would be raised. But give Szeredy the benefit of the doubt. She is new in her job and did seem genuinely concerned.
It is difficult not to bear a grudge against Richards and Carney in light of their hypocrisy. But before retirees break out the torches and pitchforks, let’s look at who these two were beholden to for the “plum” appointment and “consultant” help. They were just the puppets of our new National President Mark Dimondstein. He pulled their strings and they spoke against APWU Retirees. Plus with his adroit manipulation from the Convention Chair, Dimondstein was able to skillfully engineer a change in the Convention rules making it virtually impossible to obtain an actual standing teller count of voters on the Convention floor concerning resolutions. He also, with what was regarded by many as a dismissive wave of his presidential hand, able to deny Leo Persails, former longtime NBA and former Central Region Coordinator, his opportunity to speak on an issue on the convention floor microphone. Dimondstein’s actions belied his manner of Hey, I’m your new affable rookie President. For many retirees, it was a meet the new boss, same as the old boss experience with some previous National Administrations.
I spent 32 years on the workroom floor, 20 years as a part-time Union rep and Arbitration Advocate and now five years as a retiree member. I will always be a proud member of the American Postal Workers Union. As our retiree’s website page says “You helped build the Union. You fought for–and won–better wages, benefits, and working conditions”. I will continue the fight off the workroom floor to benefit ALL APWU members regardless of whether they are retired or working toward retirement. I have hoofed it a little bit against Staples, contacted the local Labor Council to boycott Staples, contacted legislators by letter, phone, email, and in person concerning postal and retirement issues, and contributed to COPA. I am just an average retired postal worker and no one has to agree with, listen to, or even read my opinions. But as a retiree with representation for 41,000 APWU members of only 5 out of 1900 convention delegates, I’m tired of sitting in the back of the bus. The Retirees Department has no Union expense or any cost in the grievance/arbitration procedure at the Local or National levels nor any expense in national negotiations. We belong to the APWU because we support all our APWU brothers and sisters. To President Dimondstein-we don’t want to drive the bus, we would just like to occasionally sit closer to the front.
Paul Browning, Member
American Postal Workers Union