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You may check here for articles and briefs from your officers and stewards. You may also submit a letter of your own to be posted, (subject to editing and approval).

APWU News Bulletin #02-2005, Feb. 3, 2005| PDF

An arbitrator has sustained the APWU’s arguments in two of three outstanding issues in a significant attendance case. In a ruling in late January, Arbitrator Shyam Das said that the Postal Service may not require an employee to describe the nature of an illness or injury during a phone call to report an absence from work. He also ruled that the USPS policy on second and third medical opinions is inconsistent with the Family & Medical Leave Act and the National Agreement.

The arbitrator found that management is not in violation of the FMLA, however, when it requires medical evidence for absences of more than three days in instances in which an employee makes a request to substitute paid sick leave for unpaid intermittent FMLA leave.

The disputes concern the Postal Service’s Resource Management Database (RMD) and its Web-based Enterprise Resource Management System (eRMS) attendance policy, which was first implemented in 2000. In a national pre-arbitration settlement in March 2003, the Postal Service and the APWU reached an agreement that resolved most of the disputes regarding the policy.

That settlement addressed Privacy Act issues, the improper retention of disciplinary records, multiple call-in requirements, medical documentation for absences of three days or less, and fixed numbers of absences triggering discipline. An arbitration hearing was held on the three outstanding issues.

The union contended that requiring employees to disclose the nature of their illness or injury was inconsistent with the Employee & Labor Relations Manual (ELM), unnecessarily intrusive into employee privacy, and not needed for any legitimate business purpose. The arbitrator agreed.

Arbitrator Das ruled that the primary purpose of the call-in is not to substantiate the employee’s incapacity to work, but to notify the Postal Service as soon as possible that the employee is going to be absent. Another major purpose, he wrote, is to determine whether the absence may be covered by FMLA. To accomplish this goal, the supervisor can simply ask whether the leave request is for a new or existing FMLA condition, or can describe in general what constitutes an FMLA-covered condition and ask the employee if the leave is related to one of these conditions. The person answering the call-in may not otherwise require employees to describe the nature of their illness, the arbitrator ruled.

The Postal Service’s procedure regarding second and third medical opinions also violates the FMLA and the National Agreement, Arbitrator Das wrote. The second and third opinions come into play when management questions the validity of an employee’s medical certification.

There is no justification for equating an employee’s failure to request a third opinion with the employee’s acceptance of the second opinion as binding, Arbitrator Das concluded. The arbitrator directed the USPS to rescind the disputed policy.

“These rulings represent an important victory for APWU members,” said Industrial Relations Director Greg Bell. For more information on the case and a copy of the award, click here.




By Marcel K. Luna

December, 2004

Since the last report, there have been various events that have transpired that I’d like to report to the membership. First, as most know is that Wes Hansen did resign as President of this local in early September. It is unimaginable to some of us what our military service men and women are enduring in the various spots in the Middle East. As a result, I would like to offer a word of encouragement to Wes Hansen on behalf of the Executive Board and the membership of this local as he will be reading this somewhere overseas. “Wes, we appreciate your service of our country, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family and we wish you a safe and speedy return home”. At the same time, although Jeff Dillbeck has returned home, I would like to acknowledge him. “Jeff, thank you for your service to our country, welcome home!”

Recently, we as a local have seen the results of past and present officers and stewards diligent and hard work come to fruition. Two major settlements, a T.E. settlement and an administrative leave settlement for eight hours for all employees who were on the rolls and utilized emergency annual for the 1/19/95 snow day, along with other various grievances, have totaled approximately 150,000 dollars. In addition, we have received four fulltime positions. And still, on the horizon, is a major casual in lieu-of arbitration in 2005.

In addition, since July, twenty employees have retired or resigned for various reasons. This has given rise to job vacancies and in turn management has reverted a high number of those vacancies. We have and will continue to grieve any job reversions. In fact, recently, approximately eight jobs that were reverted were grieved and reposted with a lump-sum payment given to those who were successful bidders on those jobs right here at the local level.

Further, there has been an increase of investigations conducted by Postal Inspectors and management. It is imperative that when an employee is brought in for a fact finding investigation that they exercise their Weingarten rights. NLRB vs. Weingarten was a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court Case that enabled employees to have representation during investigative interviews. An investigative interview is when a member of management or Postal Inspectors asks questions of an employee to obtain information which may be used as a basis for discipline. Employees have a right to have a union representation present during investigative interviews. However, management is not obligated to inform the employee of their Weingarten rights. It is the employee’s responsibility to know and exercise their Weingarten rights. So if and when you as an employee exercise your Weingarten rights, management has four options.

1. Provide a steward and proceed with the investigation.

2. Stop questioning until union representation is present.

3. Call off the interview.

4. Convince the employee to proceed without union representation (it is suggested that employees do not proceed without union representation)

In order for us to continue to be successful in handling discipline, the union must be involved from the beginning phases, and in the end, you will benefit the most. Ask your fellow employees.

One immediate effect of individuals retiring and subsequent job reversions is that mandatory overtime for employees is increased in all sections. We have grieved the issue and believe that excessive use of NON-OTDL employees is in violation of the Memorandum of Art 8 which states in-part that “excessive use of overtime is inconsistent with the best interest of postal employees and the Postal Service, it is the intent of the parties in adopting changes to Article 8 to limit overtime, to avoid excessive mandatory overtime”... In addition to petitioning management on hiring, we have proposed a Letter of Clarification on overtime to protect the interest of those who want to work overtime and to protect the interest of those who do not want to work overtime. It is currently pending.

Also, I want to report that six new members have joined our ranks in the last three months or so. It was certainly encouraging and a privilege to sign them up. I want to encourage all members to speak to our fellow non-union members in a dignified and respectful manner about joining our membership. They must realize that in addition to doing their jobs they should become union members as another means to protect their jobs. The more union members we have, the better equipped we are to defend our rights and our jobs. When was the last time you talked to or had something to do with signing up a non-union member?

I’m equally encouraged to report that the backlogged grievances are caught up here at the local level. We had some outstanding grievances that were over two years old. These grievances were residual from past Step 2 designees. As a result, I specifically tasked Vice-President Lincoln to handle those outstanding grievances, and he has done an exceptional job. We the Executive Board will continue to be committed and strive to process grievances in accordance with Article 15.

New Technology will be implemented in 2005 for the AFCS and the AFSM 100. These will certainly be topics for RI-399. RI-399 is an inventory which contains job operations with associated duties and specific craft designations. When new technology is implemented which brings about change to a given operation, it creates opportunity for a possible change of craft jurisdiction for that operation. These discussions will take place in the Local RI-399 Dispute Resolution Committee which I’m the representative of the APWU. Although we have been lax in the past on these issues, we are not any more. We cannot afford to be anything but aggressive in these discussions because our jobs are on the line.

2004 posed several challenges, and I believe we meet them head on and were successful. This Executive Board is committed to progression not regression, stagnancy or complacency. Whatever challenges 2005 brings, the membership should have confidence that we will meet them head on and be successful.


Info Bytes

By Bruce Lincoln

I would like to pass on the following bits of information to help keep the membership more knowledgeable of day to day issues. With more technology on the way and the loss of personnel, we will be faced with new and greater challenges. Don’t hesitate to question the information a supervisor tells you. When in doubt, request a steward. Most floor supervisors are mere puppets of the Tour MDO or Postmaster. They do what they are told and seldom research the information they disseminate.

Choice Vacation Selection: January is right around the corner. With it comes vacation selections. Ensure that you bid the max amount of weeks you are allowed to. With the increasing shortage of personnel, supervision has stated that it will be very difficult to bid incidental leave in 2005. If you don’t need all the time you bid you can always turn it back in for another person in your section to bid on. Remember, plans made in January can change throughout the year.

— Caring for a parent: ELM 513.1 reads you are allowed to take up to 80 hours of accrued sick leave per leave year to give care for a biological parent or individual who stood in that position to the employee when the employee was a child, with an illness, injury, or other condition that, if an employee had such a condition, would justify the use of sick leave. Another route to take is FMLA. You are allowed up to 12 workweeks of leave within a leave year using annual leave, sick leave or LWOP or a combination of these. There are certain conditions that are required for FMLA -see a steward for a FMLA packet.

— Sick Leave Usage: With several employees retiring in the near future and no replacements in site, you can bet that management will be focusing in on attendance. If you have a condition that is covered by FMLA, go for it. Leave taken in compliance with FMLA cannot be used as an “infamous red mark”.

Clock Rings: Several members are not clocking into the operation they are working. This makes it extremely difficult in grievance processing where the only evidence is clock rings. Help us help you in a favorable grievance decision.

OWCP: When injured on the clock or medical attention is required for an occupational related injury/disease avoid the use of a company doctor or USPS contracted medical facility. You have the right to use your own doctor and can refuse treatment by the company doctor. Importantly remember once you initially use the same doctor twice you are essentially married to that doctor for the remainder of your OWCP claim. Why do you think the USPS was more than glad to have a contracted medical treatment organization come and give seminars on the clock postal employees. Do you really think that was for your benefit? These contracted medical personnel work essentially for USPS. Who’s interest do they have in mind? Yours’ or the hand that feeds them. The supervisors are more than glad to rush you over to the contracted medical office for treatment. These contracted doctors will always schedule you for a follow up appointment. You go to the follow up appointment and bingo! You are stuck with using a company doctor for your OWCP claim. Get the picture. Also, the supervisor that transports you to the medical facility, is just that, a driver. He/she is not to be in the treatment room with you. It is none of their business! The APWU is only required to assist union members on OWCP matters because it is their dues that paid for the training of stewards and officers. More to come in the future on OWCP.

Our greatest weapon against management’s games is knowledge and how to make it work for us.