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American Postal Workers Union: An Overview

Working for the United States Postal Service has numerous advantages. One of these is the fact that postal workers are represented by labor unions which ensure that their rights are protected and they get the best contracts that protect their welfare. The American Postal Workers Union or APWU is the world’s largest union of postal workers. The APWU, founded in 1971 as a result of the merger of five postal unions, now represents more than 220,000 employees and retirees of the USPS and close to 2,000 mail workers from the private sector.

From the time of its founding, the APWU has continued to fight for the rights of the postal workers it represents, specifically when it comes to urging agencies and companies to give them decent pay, safe working conditions, and dignity and respect in their jobs. It is the exclusive collective bargaining agent for the Clerk, Motor Vehicle Service, and Maintenance employees for the USPS. The APWU also represents those in Support Services, Materiel Distribution Centers, Information Service Centers, Mail Equipment Shops, and Operating Services Facilities.

The APWU works to negotiate, interpret, and enforce a National Agreement with the Postal Service to establish the wages, working conditions, and benefits of postal workers under them. In addition the APWU also addresses safety and health concerns in the workplace. When union members have problems on the job involving discipline, violations of seniority, harassment, discrimination, or abuse from management, the APWU represents them to ensure that their worker’s rights are protected. If you have reason to believe that your rights have been trampled upon then you need to talk to your steward who will determine if indeed a violation has been committed against you. He or she will then try to settle your case with your supervisor. If this cannot be solved at this level, the union can appeal to management or higher authorities to help resolve your case.

Postal workers who are members of the APWU pay dues (how much varies from local to local) to cover the cost of publications, legal fees, legislative activities, education and training, and community service programs and other operating expenses. This will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. It also elects its national officers and regional coordinators through mail balloting.

One of the perks of being a union member of the APWU is in the area of job security. The National Agreement has specifically spelled out a lifetime guarantee of job security after six years of continuous service. That basically assures you of your job for life. In addition, the APWU also fights privatization—that is, to contracting-out postal work to companies hiring workers that are paid low wages and are not represented by unions.

Union membership is one way of ensuring that you have a “voice in determining your future,” to quote the words of APWU, especially in these troubled times for the US Postal Service.