If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union. - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that is waging war, and we're winning. - Warren Buffett, Billionaire
John P. Smeekens
Golden Dental Plan Rate Changes
Attention all 480-481 Area Local Members carrying the Golden Dental Plan. As discussed at the June 2014 membership meeting the rates are being adjusted as noted below. Any questions or concerns please give us a call.
Brothers On The Line: New Documentary Explores Dramatic Fight for Worker's Rights
I've always felt confident about the American history education I received in various public schools (my 12th-grade civics teacher Sharon Levin comes to mind). But after watching Sasha Reuther's riveting documentary Brothers on the Line, I realize that every education has a significant gap or two, and one of mine involved the fascinating and rich history of labor in America.
Mine eyes have been opened. Turns out, the Reuther brothers -- Walter, Roy and Victor (Sasha's grandfather) -- are the too often-unsung heroes of the American labor movement, which soon became a model for workers on a global scale. As union organizers who understood the crucial links to both education and politics, they improved the lives of millions of Americans; as a result, they deserve more than a sliver of credit for creating a thriving 20th-century U.S. middle class.
But getting to the 'good old days' took real work. Starting out on the brutal automotive lines in pre- and post-Depression-era Detroit, the brothers became intrinsically linked with the rise of the United Auto Workers; over the ensuing decades, they led strikes and negotiations, and often marched alongside counterparts both in parallel unions and in the Civil Rights movement. Throughout the years, their strong beliefs sustained them, even when various assassination attempts threatened to silence their voices or, at the very least, dampen their resolve.
Despite Sasha's family connection, Brothers on the Line is not a whitewash. Rather than sugarcoat the thorny issues he uncovered in his research, he exposes various criticisms and confronts them head-on. (Of particular fascination are Walter's close and complicated relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson.) The smooth narration of Martin Sheen -- no stranger to unions, he -- adds to the integrity.
Brothers on the Line is now available on digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon. Trust me when I say this is a thrilling movie that does not feel like homework. Below, Sasha provides some insight into his filmmaking process.
What motivated you to make Brothers on the Line?
Sasha Reuther: Well, aside from my intimate access to such a captivating group of characters and dramatic events that I knew would engage an audience, the film really came about from my sense of frustration that this crucial piece of American history was simply lost to my generation and younger. There was little if any Labor history in my high school textbooks. My peers had no knowledge of the Labor movement's contribution to the Civil Rights struggle, in building the middle class, etc.
Unions are tightly woven into the fabric of our nation, and that history has been buried. So I was on a mission to at least reintroduce my family's role in that important chronology.
During the filmmaking process, did you find anything that you really wanted to include, but could not fit into the film? What was the most shocking thing you learned?
Sasha Reuther: Where do I start? I could have easily produced a miniseries with the amount of stories I collected. The Reuther brothers were on the social/political scene for over four decades, playing a minor or major role in a wide variety of domestic and international activism. To name a few specifics, I wish I could have had more screen time to include accounts of the UAW's contribution to the "Arsenal of Democracy" in World War II; my grandfather's work with trade unions overseas; and the vital role of women workers and organizers in the labor movement.
The most surprising thing that I learned during my research was about the intimate relationship between Walter Reuther and President Johnson. I knew that the door to the White House was open, but after listening to the personal phone conversations recorded in the Oval Office -- some of which are included in my film -- it was quite eye-opening in regard to the tangled web of pressure and power politics.
Walter and Roy both passed before you were born, but I imagine you knew your grandfather well. After researching the film, do you identify more closely with one brother than the others?
Sasha Reuther: Well, that's a tough question. I would imagine that I still identify most closely with my grandfather. He is often considered by historians to be the "conscience" of the Reuther brothers. Victor was an academic as well. I can relate to those qualities and interests.
I actually think Walter and Victor were quite similar in many regards. But, as an elected official, Walter was beholden to his membership and his political allies. I believe he reserved some of his personal leanings, and it must have been terribly disconcerting. My grandfather, however, was appointed to his posts, and therefore a bit more free to express his passions and progressive nature.
Some critics claim that, although labor unions had their place in history, they are no longer relevant in today's economy. What are your thoughts on this?
Sasha Reuther: One needs to look no further than WalMart to answer that question. They are reminiscent of what GM was like before the Flint Sit-down Strikes. A union in place at that company could not only attempt to rectify any number of workplace abuses (domestic and international), but also, raising the pay scale of their employees would actually benefit the bottom-line. A majority of WalMart employees spend a significant amount of their earnings on the living essentials stocked right there on those shelves. When UAW contracts were negotiated and autoworkers were finally able to afford to buy the cars they produced, our economy really had some traction. In a consumer economy, to have real growth, you need to raise incomes.
Brothers On The Line is primarily historical, but the Reuthers' story does indeed seem oddly timely.
Sasha Reuther: When I began this filmmaking journey in 2007, with the general goal of producing a Reuther biography, I could have never anticipated how timely their slice of history would become. At the time, the Big 3 manufacturers were on the brink. I was concerned that by the time we wrapped production, there might not be an audience for a little-known United Auto Workers history. But, as we've seen, from Occupy, Our WalMart, and fast food strikes to Supreme Court cases on campaign finance and voter rights (not to mention the auto bailout, Michigan right-to-work legislation, and Detroit's bankruptcy), there appear to be relevant footnotes to today's struggles throughout the Reuther Brothers' saga. For those who have had a chance to see the film, the most common response has been surprise that such a large slice of American socio-political history is so rarely discussed.
The film not only covers the major achievements of the Reuther brothers, but also at times brings into question their leadership and alliances. How were you able to balance this approach, being so close to the subject matter?
Sasha Reuther: I am really proud of the fact that I approached the documentary as a filmmaker first and a Reuther family member second. What I mean by this is that I knew the importance of taking on the subject matter with a critical eye, ear, and pen. 40+ years of Reuther history is by far too vast to cover in 80 minutes. But I believe we selected key events, decisions, actions, and emotions that fueled the trajectory of the three brothers through their careers in and around the Labor movement.
When it might have been unpleasant or uncomfortable for some in my family to know that I planned to portray Walter's tough and, at times, insulated leadership (especially when it came to dismissing former allies in the 1940s, frustrations with African-American shop-floor activists in the '60s, and his complex commitment to the Johnson administration), I pressed on. Having done so, it reveals a well-rounded portrait of the man and the stresses of his office, seated at the elite echelons of power.
For Brothers on the Line to be a captivating, educational film, I felt it was crucial to not only depict the tremendous achievements of the United Auto Workers union, but to also show a bit of the complicated inner workings of an organization that, through juggling so many issues, was, in some respects, literally transforming the nation.
Martin Sheen narrates the film. What was it like to work with him? What was his background as it pertains to labor and the history of the UAW?
Sasha Reuther: Working with Martin Sheen was incredible. He is a consummate professional and so passionate about American history. Martin has a long résumé of activism. His support of numerous farm worker struggles in California put him in direct contact with the UFW/UAW alliance. In fact, it was Paul Schrade, former UAW Executive Board member and west coast Regional Director, who put me in touch with Mr. Sheen.
I had been searching for quite a while for a great narrator for the film. I had just about given up when Paul gave me a phone number for what we thought was Martin's assistant. I left a message on the automated machine. Five minutes later, Martin calls me back himself! Here is this unmistakable voice from Apocalypse Now and The West Wing. I was a bit taken aback at first, but we had such a great conversation and connection over the phone that day.
Growing up, Martin considered Walter Reuther one of his biggest heroes, and I got the impression that he may have wanted to play the labor leader in a film someday. He was incredibly gracious about the family history, as I was about the possibility of working with an actor of his talents. Overall, it was a seamless and inspiring collaboration.
To finish things up, as a documentary filmmaker, what are some of your favorite documentaries -- classics and recent?
Sasha Reuther: To name a few, Harlan County USA, The Fog of War, Roger & Me, The Kid Stays in the Picture, Hoop Dreams, The Cove, 5 Broken Cameras, How to Survive a Plague and The Square.
Contact: Roscoe Woods – President. 480-481 Area Local, American Postal Workers Union, 248-543-3262, firstname.lastname@example.org and for larger national issues please contact: Sally Davidow, 202-368-3324, email@example.com at the APWU in Washington D.C.
Postal Workers to Protest Privatization
|Who:||Members of the 480-481 Area Local APWU, will be joined by members of the National Assoc. of Letter Carriers (NALC) National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) as well as many other unions and concerned American citizens.|
|What:||Informational Rally at Clawson MI Staples, against privatization of U.S. Postal Service retail services.|
|When:||Thursday April 24, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm|
|Where:||Staples, 1129 W. 14 Mile Road in Clawson, MI 48017|
The protest in Clawson is part of a National Day of Action, with events in more than 50 locations in 27 states. Participants will protest the USPS-Staples deal, which established postal counters in more than 80 Staples stores in four geographic areas in October and November 2013. The Postal Service plans to expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide.
“Staples employees receive minimal training, have little incentive to give the kind of service provided at your local Post Office, and the company’s low pay and low benefits results in high employee turnover,” said Roscoe Woods President of the 480 481 Area Local of the APWU.
“With all the concern about privacy and identity theft, that’s just not the right way to handle the U.S. mail. Mail should be handled by highly-trained, experienced postal employees, who swear an oath to protect your letters and packages and who are accountable to the American people. This program is compromising service to our customers.
For centuries the Postal Service has been there, moving the nation’s mail, The American people have confidence that when that when they drop a letter at a local Post Office it arrives within a day or two. They trust the USPS, if this deal is allowed to go through, that trust will erode and America will lose a time-tested and trusted agency, all to the forces of privatization.
“Mail collected at a Staples store isn’t even considered mail until it’s collected by an official working for the USPS. Will the USPS make that point clear to our customers? Given the level of dishonesty shown to date by our Postmaster General about the reasons for the postal debt we doubt it,” Said Roscoe Woods, President of the 480-481 Area Local APWU
“If allowed to continue and expand, the deal will take away good, stable jobs here in communities like Clawson and replace them with low-wage, high-turnover jobs,” said Roscoe Woods. An internal USPS document makes clear that the goal of the program is to replace the jobs held by USPS employees with low-paying jobs in the private sector. “That’s bad for postal workers and it’s bad for our communities and our country.”
“Our fight is not with the average rank and file Staples employee, our fight is to maintain the integrity of America’s postal service and our fight is to inform the American public that there are forces at work that seek to destroy their postal service,” Woods said.
“But this isn’t just about postal jobs,” said national APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. “Many people are outraged that a tremendous public asset is being turned over to a struggling private company.” Staples recently announced that it would close 225 stores by 2015.
“Staples makes business decisions based on the bottom line, not service to the people of the country,” Dimondstein said. “As a nation, we need to decide what kind of Postal Service we want. Are we going to have a vibrant, modern, public mail system that serves all of the people, or are we going to let privatizers kill this great institution?”
Thursday’s National Day of Action follows dozens of protests by postal workers and community allies in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.
For more information about the campaign to stand up for quality service and good-paying jobs, visit Stop Staples.com. See also “Postal Union Fights Staples Partnership,” in the Huffington Post, and “The Postal Service Outsources Itself to a Company Doing Almost as Badly as the Postal Service,” in the New Republic.
A copy of the agreement between Staples and the USPS – heavily redacted – is available on the APWU website.
* * *
The American Postal Workers Union represents 200,000 employees of the United States Postal Service, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
Attention all APWU members in the 480-481 Area Local, Detroit District Area Local and other APWU Locals, NALC branches and NPMHU Locals across the Great State of Michigan. In case you have not been paying attention the Postmaster General and others in Congress have been working hard to destroy the USPS and your way of life. The latest and most serious attack is the plan to move our retail outlets into Staples Stores.
Rallies to protest this are planned for 4-24-14 across the country. The details of our rallies are attached to this story and noted below. A [PDF] flyer for the Michigan protests is available here.
Join YOUR UNION brother and sisters at a Staples location noted below on April 24th! Stand with the APWU, the NALC and the NPMHU as we come together to say NO to the destruction of America's Post Office.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
APWU members are busy making plans for events at more than 50 Staples stores in 27 states on Thursday, April 24, to protest the sweetheart deal between the USPS and the office-supply chain.
“We must win this fight,” said union President Mark Dimondstein, “and we can win it — but only if the members of the American Postal Workers Union are engaged and involved in the struggle.
“We are urging union members to participate in a protest if an event is planned in their town, and to ask their co-workers, friends and family to take part as well,” he said.
“We are thrilled that our sisters and brothers in the National Association of Letters, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association have pledged their support for the campaign. That is the true meaning of solidarity,” he added.
“I want to remind APWU members to be sure to reach out to our brothers and sisters in other unions — especially the other postal unions — when planning for the National Day of Action,” Dimondstein said.
In the run-up to the National Day of Action, the APWU is asking union members to:
The agreement between the USPS and Staples established postal counters in 82 Staples stores — staffed with low-wage, non-union Staples employees rather than postal workers. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and Staples CEO Ron Sargent plan to expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide.
“This program is a direct threat to our jobs and to the public Postal Service,” Dimondstein said.
The Postmaster General has repeatedly denied that the program is part of an effort to privatize USPS retail operations, but documents management was forced to provide the APWU reveal the truth. A December 2012 internal USPS memo says:
“The pilot will be used to determine if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail windows at Post Offices… Transferring USPS product and service transactions to retail partner locations should allow USPS to cut costs associated with window labor time and credit card transaction fees.”
“The true aim of the program couldn’t be clearer,” Dimondstein said.
I am off to the National Presidents Conference in Plymouth Mass. today and its coming at a great time. We had a brief teleconference on the new MOU Tuesday but it barely scratched the surface.
I hope that in the next three days I am able to get a firmer grasp on how this MOU is to be implemented so I can come home and get the other officers in the loop.
I have requested that once the USPS prepares to move forward they have a District Level Labor Management Meeting and brief the local Union officials so we can avoid any problems and get the PTF’s and then hopefully the PSE’s into the residual vacancies as smoothly as possible.
In addition I have worked with Chief Steward Eric Neal and set up a meeting at the Metroplex on April 8th, 2014 to go over and review every residual at the Metroplex to be sure we identify each job and then get them filled in accordance with the MOU.
Similar efforts are being made in the Associate Offices and CFS at the Metroplex.
I will note with some pride that we have already been communicating with PTF‘s in small offices for over a year or so now in an efforts to get them converted into residuals through eReassign. We have been very successful and quite a few PTF’s now are full time regulars because of our efforts.
It is my understanding that when the MOU mentions a “District Wide” posting for PTF’s that eReassign will be the method used. So to all you PTF’s out there, if you have not yet familiarized yourself with eReassign, now would be a great time to do so! Instructions on how to apply to the Metroplex/Royal Oak Bid Cluster are found on my page.
Lastly before I hit the road I want to throw out kudos to the HQ folks in the APWU for getting this signed and getting a light at the end of the tunnel for our PSE’s and one item of note, the changes to the Maintenance and MVS portions are permanent changes. So review them and get to know them because they do not expire in October 2014.
I will report on what I learned at the April 13th, 2014 General Membership Meeting so please come on out and get in the loop.
Roscoe Woods - President
An important March 20 agreement between the APWU and USPS outlines a procedure for filling residual vacancies in the Clerk, Maintenance and MotorVehicle Crafts, and will result in the conversion of Postal Support Employees to career status and the conversion of Part-Time Flexible Clerks to full-time, APWU President Mark Dimondstein has announced.
“Establishing a fair procedure for converting Clerk Craft PSEs to career is a major accomplishment,” he said. “In addition, the settlement protects the contractual rights of career employees, ensuring that workers who were excessed are given the right to retreat into residual assignments, where they are eligible. It also will give mobility to unassigned full-time employees and to part-time flexibles who are converted,” he said.
The precise number of conversions that will take place as a result of the agreement is not yet known because it depends on the number of residual vacancies and other factors, Dimondstein said.
The agreement stipulates, however, that residual assignments that were related to the Area Mail Processing (consolidation) excessing and have been released from withholding will be considered “viable” and will be filled without being subject to additional review.
The agreement, as it relates to the Clerk Craft, will remain in effect until Oct. 31, 2014, and may be extended by mutual agreement. It establishes the “pecking order” below for filling residual assignments in the Clerk Craft. Procedures for implementation also are enumerated.
In the Maintenance Craft, duty assignments will be filled in accordance with Article 38.3, 38.4, 38.5 and the Order for Filling Vacant Maintenance Positions in the Joint Contract Interpretation Manual (p. 280). After applying Item 7.a (Maintenance transfers), custodial duty assignments will be filled by offering conversion to PSE custodians. The APWU and USPS will address procedures concerning PSE conversion in the Maintenance Craft in a separate memorandum.
In the Motor Vehicle Craft, residual duty assignments will be filled by applying Articles 39.1.B.6, 39.1.B.7 and 39.2.A.11. Residual vacancies will be filled in accordance with these articles by converting PSEs working in the same position as the residual vacancies (i.e., Mechanic, Technician, Tractor-Trailer Operator or Motor Vehicle Operator) in the same installation.
The agreement was negotiated by Dimondstein and the USPS vice president of Labor Relations.
“Hammering out this important agreement was an arduous process, and it required a collective effort by many APWU officers, including Director of Industrial Relations Tony McKinnon Sr., Clerk Craft Director Clint Burelson and Assistant Directors Lamont Brooks and Lynn Pallas-Barber, Maintenance Craft Director Steve Raymer, Motor Vehicle Craft Director Michael Foster and other national officers,” Dimondstein said. “I commend them for their assistance, insight and cooperative spirit.
“I encourage locals to immediately review the records of all residual and withheld vacancies and ensure that local management adheres to the agreement,” he said. For more information, visit www.apwu.org.
E-Mail links are intended for questions of a general nature and are not for formal administration of the grievance procedure. Individuals with specific questions and or problems must contact their steward within 14 days in order to protect grievance time limits.
The 480-481 Area Local maintains offices at 810 Livernois in Ferndale, Michigan 48220 and represents all APWU members in the following USPS installations: Almont, Allen Park, Anchorville, Belleville, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Brighton, Carleton, Chelsea, Clarkston, Clawson, Davisburg, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Fair Haven, Flat Rock, Garden City, Grosse Ile, Hartland, Hazel Park, Highland, Keego Harbor, Lake Orion, Marine City, Marysville, Michigan Call Center, Michigan Metroplex, Milan, Milford, Mt. Clemens, New Baltimore, New Boston, New Haven, New Hudson, Novi, Oxford, Pickney, Plymouth, Pontiac, Port Huron, Richmond, Rochester, Rockwood, Romeo, Romulus, Royal Oak, South Lyon, South Rockwood, St. Clair, Sterling Heights, Trenton, Union Lake, Utica, Walled Lake, Warren, Washington, Waterford, Wayne, Westland, Willis, Wixom, Wyandotte and Yale.
The Union office is normally open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday and the telephone numbers are (248) 543-3262/3263/3264. The 24 hour number is (248) 543-3262. FAX: (248) 543-2750.