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Postal Workers’ Contract to Go to Arbitration in February

The American Postal Workers Union announced that it will go to arbitration with the U.S. Postal Service over a new contract on February 17. The neutral arbitrator will be Stephen Goldberg, who presided over negotiations the last time APWU went to arbitration on its 2000-2003 contract.

An emeritus professor of the Northwestern University School of Law, where he taught negotiation and arbitration, Goldberg is a salary arbitrator for Major League Baseball and the United Mine Workers of America. He also serves as president of Mediation Research & Education Project.

Under federal law, both the APWU and USPS were required to agree on the choice of Goldberg (left), who will sit between advocates chosen by the union and postal management on the three-person negotiation panel. Similar to court cases, arbitration proceedings include opening and closing statements, witness testimony and cross-examination, and presentation of documents and briefs.

APWU leaders contend that the Postal Service seeks to decrease cost of living adjustments for current workers and create a new workforce tier that would receive no COLAs and suffer reductions in paid leave. The union’s chief demands will include provisions for fair wage increases, continued COLAs, and retention of the no-layoff clause.

“We’re fighting for justice, for a strong Postal Service for generations to come and economic justice for postal workers and retirees,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein in a statement. On the opening day of the hearing, the union’s members plant to wear stickers saying, “Fighting for Justice.”

The Postal Service expressed hope for a favorable outcome for all through arbitration. “We want a contract that is fair to employees, our customers, and to the Postal Service,” said USPS spokesperson Toni DeLancey.

According to Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, arbitration means never having to say you’re sorry. “If things go to arbitration, no one, other than the arbitrator, ever gets any blame for the outcome,” he says. “That’s why the unions have no fear of arbitration. If they win, they’re heroes. If they lose, it was because of that bastard arbitrator.”

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