If the U.S. Postal Service is hit by a strike this summer, USPS officials plan to shift nonstrikers and management people to key offices, ask for National Guard and U.S. troops and even call on college ROTC units to help move the mail.
Under a revisal contingency plan drawn up by the Postal Service, obtained by the American Postal Workers Union, strike-planners would also drop Saturday mail service in some areas if large number of employes strike or honor picket lines. (Postal officials on Friday confirmed that they do have a contingency plan to handle all sorts of emergencies, but would not confirm or deny specific portions of it).
Some union leaders - representing 600,000 rank-and-file employes - have warned of a possible strike this summer unless they get a satisfactory replacement for the 3-year contract, which expires in July. Contract talks are due to begin here in April.
Both union and management officials in Washington have downplayed strike talk. The chance of a walkout both sides agree, does exist. The union wants substantial pay increases, guaranteed cost of living raises and a continuation of the no-layoff language in the current contract.
Postal officials say that the financial condition of the government-owned corporation requires more automation, which will mean fewer jobs. Both sides now say that trouble is possible unless the other group bends.
Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin Bailar recently resigned after three yeras in office. Although Bailar has taken a better-paying job in industry, some aides say that he left primarily to avoid the "no win" decisions that must be made this summer - either an "inflationary" contract that will boost stamp prices or a strike.
The current U.S. Postal Service - replacing the Cabinet-level Post Office Department - was born out of a wildcat strike several years ago that affected more than 220,000 workers. It slowed East Coast mail deliveries and was not ended until President Nixon agreed to a 14 per cent pay increase, promised no reprisals against striking workers and brought federal troops into some offices in New York and New Jersey.
By law, federal and postal employes are forbidden to strike or "withhold their labor" from the government. Penalty for dong that is a stiff fine, a year and a day in jail and/or dismissal. But no postal workers have ever been fired or fined. Some air traffic controllers lost their jobs a few years ago for participating in a work-to-rule action which the government ruled was a strike.
Some federal and postal officials have advocated a much harder line with postal workers in future if they strike.
Union president Emmet Andrews said that "contingency plans" are nothing new in government. "But the Postal Service isn't exactly the Defense Department. That such plans are being circulated and shaped within postal installations tells us much about management's frame of mind . . . It looks as though we are in for a very long, cold spring."
National Treasury Employes Union has been given approval to consolidate its Customs Service locals here and in the field, and negotiate one contract for all 13,000 workers covered.
Michael Nave, former president of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, will run for the top job in the 275,000 member National Association of Retired Federal Employees. NARFE is the largest and most influential group of former federal and postal workers and has been instrumental in blocking merger of the Social Security and civil service pension plans. Don Jaspan, also a retired official of the Postal Supervisors, is the Washington area manager of Nave's campaign.