In the wake of the very recent somewhat divisive APWU National elections-which hardly anybody seemed to care about-our Union held its biennial All Crafts/Retiree Conference in Lost Wages (oops, sorry. make that Las Vegas) Nevada during the last week of October. Its a teaching, come together affair which this year was followed by the newly elected Officers Installation Dinner although barely a handful of officers were “new”. As a retiree, I attended four days of APWU Retiree classes and meetings. Much like the National Union elections, the meetings were not without controversy and even some delegates split into factions over issues. Resolutions were proposed by retirees for the 2020 APWU National Convention. Essentially, the resolutions were split into three different categories. They were #1- Increasing Retiree members representation on the Convention Floor. (If you haven’t been paying attention to the fact that Retiree Department members only get five (5) votes out of the 2,500 delegates at a Convention, you can skip this next part but don’t go away as there is more stuff that could affect you) Full dues paying members are allocated representation on basically a 1 for 25 member ratio. Retiree delegates in Las Vegas approved a resolution that would give them a 1-100 member ration. The resolution is intended as a compromise for our $36 a year dues. As retirees have only one (1) full time officer versus almost seventy in Washington and the field for full dues members and still contribute to the APWU General Fund, it seems reasonable. I personally as one of the five Retiree Delegates just want to be able to speak on retiree issues and stand and vote with my fellow delegates from Michigan at a Convention.
The #2 issue was increasing Retiree member dues to either $48 or $60 a year. Now some Retiree Chapters hold lavish dinners and meetings for their members. Nothing wrong with them doing so. What we do as a State Chapter in Michigan is hold Retiree State Conventions and Educational Assemblies for our members. Its a costly business also but its the only opportunity for us to reach out to members all over Michigan as the locations are moved around the State. We are frugal with our dues rebate from the National Union and spend the money like it comes from our own pocket. So we are doing ok money wise for the time being. Back to those other Chapters with money problems-a means could exist whereby they could raise dues ONLY for their Chapters. If they need it, let them get THEIR membership to approve it. Also, another reason for a proposed dues increase was organizing more retirees to become members in the APWU. As I received an email from APWU Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell prior to the Conference that there were over six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000) in the National Retiree Organizing Fund, I could only view such a reason as ludicrous. At any rate, retiree delegates voted down any dues increase resolution but it will no doubt be introduced again in 2020 at the National APWU Convention when such resolutions are voted on by ALL delegates (including full dues/still working members) with the results binding.
The #3 issue had to do with making it easier for retirees within a state to form a Retiree Chapter. Current requirement to form a State Chapter is that there must be at least three (3) Local Retiree Chapters within a State. In Michigan we have approximately 1,450 retiree members divided into five (5) Local Chapters and the State Chapter for a total of six Chapters. It takes ten (10) members to form a Chapter. Under the proposed resolution ten members could form a State Chapter where no Local Chapter existed and if there were seven or eight hundred (700 or 800) other retirees in that State, then the ten members would receive all the rebate money of over $1,000 a month. Such a situation seems fraught with the possibility of abuse and lack of accountability. This resolution was referred to the APWU National Executive Board for action or modification depending upon a State’s relatively small population e.g. North Dakota, Montana, etc.
So the Conference ended with the only the Convention representation resolution passed and at this point, its only a recommendation. Nothing concrete will happen concerning it or other resolutions until the 2020 National Convention. I spoke numerous times in front of the 200 delegates either for or against the resolutions and personally was in agreement with all of the final outcomes. Now its wait and see what debates and votes happen by Convention delegates in 2020.
Finally, a few words about Unity and APWU Membership action-out of almost 200,000 still working and retired APWU members, we have seen the vast majority look no further than to the day they get paid when it comes to the USPS and their Union. Whether achieving a “good” Contract or enforcement of that Contract or maintaining Retirement benefits or forming the so-called Grand Alliance, the overwhelming response has been a “not my job” mentality. Shame on those members who can’t see past the end of their noses and praise for those who fight the often lonely, often thankless battle for their fellow Union Brothers and Sisters. Thank God for the activists, no matter what their opinions, who have the courage to speak up and work for the American Postal Workers Union. My heartfelt appreciation to all of them, from the Washington D.C. officers to the local stewards on the workroom floor, all those in between, and the retired members who answer the call for political action.
(Originally published in the MPWU State Paper, the Michigan Messenger)
First Name: Paul
Last Name: Browning
Union/Local: APWU – Michigan State Retiree Chapter, President
Office held if any: Central Region Retiree Delegate APWU National Convention