Tens of thousands of the 245,000 active city delivery carriers who are members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO) conducted a nationwide informational picket at post offices yesterday in an effort to send a clear message to both postal management and the American public that letter carriers demand a fair contract and a substantial wage increase.
NALC members, who delivered nearly 198 billion pieces of mail last year to more than 129.7 million businesses and residences in the United States, are in arbitration surrounding a new national agreement. The current four-year contract expired on Nov. 20, 1998, and contract negotiations began on Aug. 24. Following the end of unsuccessful mediation efforts at the end of March, the contract negotiations process headed to binding interest arbitration that probably will last through the summer.
NALC demands that its members be moved up from Level 5 of the Postal pay grade system (which has salary ranges of $27,000 to $37,000) to Level 6 (where pay scales are an average of 3 percent higher). According to the NALC, the USPS has categorically refused to budge on any of these issues.
“We want the American people to understand that all we are seeking is a fair contract — and the only reason we are picketing … is because the postal service refuses to offer us one,” said NALC president Vincent Sombrotto.
The USPS would not comment on the informational picket or arbitration proceedings.
The NALC and the USPS have selected George R. Fleischli of Madison, WI, as the neutral arbitrator to chair the three-person arbitration panel, which will determine the terms of a new agreement. The NALC is the only postal union not to have settled on a contract with the USPS.
The demonstration that took place is not a strike. Postal workers by law cannot strike and can only demonstrate after the work day is over.