Signs of the future?
Indians Post Office Closed because of General Pulaski Day . . . Double Pay in Iowa for Youth Honor Day . . . No Stamps Sold to Minnesotans on Leif Ericson Day . . . Mail Early in Florida for Farmers Day! And so on, for 50 state and local holidays.
You aren't likely to be confronted with "closed" signs, for any of those reasons, at the Post Office in the near future. Odds are that Marylanders will continue to get mail on March 25 (Maryland Day). The Dallas post office won't shutdown on March 2 (Texas Independence and the people of Massachusetts still will get bills through the mail on Evacuation Day (March 17) and Patriots Day (third Monday in April).
But the prospect of the U.S. Postal Service pioneering the 3.9 day work week is now being considered by negotiators for the mail-moving corporation and unions representing its half million rank-and-file employes.
The new holidays proposed by the unions would be in addition to the nine the federal workers already get, and the new ones the unions are asking for workers. (Martin Luther King's Birthday, employe birthday, Inauguration Day and a "floating" holiday to be picked by the individual.
Several states, including Kentucky, Maryland, connecticut, Massachusetts and New York already observe Dr. King's birthday (Jan. 15) as a holiday although the federal government does not.)
Obviously the unions don't expect to get all the new holidays they are demanding plus observance of state and local holidays. But they are part of the chips that will be played withdrawn and traded as the nation's largest labor contract is bargained this year. The USPS and unions now are working to replace a three-year agreement that expires in July.
"No, we don't expect to get state and local holidays for our people ," a union leader admitted yesterday. "But we do expect to get some of the others, like Martin Luther King's birthday, or the employe's birthday, which is becoming standard in private industry. These are bargaining chips, everybody knows the way the game is played."
Maybe so. But it is intriguing to consider what would happen if portions of the postal service were closed down in areas where 56 different holidays are observed by various states. A statistician figures that it would put the USPS on the shortes work week in the world with somw workers observing Confederate Day; Huey Long's Birthday) VJ Day (Rhode Island) or Robert E. Lee's birthday, which is celebrated on different dates in the south, or FDR's birthday in Kentucky, or Arbor Day in Nebraska.
The "demand" for new holidays is an eye-grabber and a throw-away. The big issues will be money and job security. The money demand has not been made public, but it will be a stumbling block, especially since President Carter has slapped a 5.5 percent lid on the wages of white collar federal workers.
Unions want guarantees that workers will not be replaced by machines and has told the Postal Serivce to stop using temporaries and management personnel in "reguar" jobs.
Postal officials want to scuttle their no-layout pledge. Unions want it kept, and also want it tightened with a no-attrition agreement.
To complicate matters, Letter Carriers President Joseph Workers Vacca and Emmet Andrews of the Postal Workers Union go to their national conventions - and in search of reelection - right after the new contract is supposed to be in place.If they din't bring home the bacon, they could be in trouble, which could include a strike.
Both union and management are careful about strike talk. But the USPS does have a contingency plan, including the use of military troops to deliver the mail in event of a "work stoppage." And union leaders warn that big city militants could kick off a wildcat strike that would be costly, dangerous and hard to stop.
For the time being, both sides report, the talks are going well. "Better than three years ago," as one unionbargainer said. But that will change once the nonessentials - like the new holidays - on both sides are swept aside and the talk centers on money and job protection.
And how much money and job protection they can win or save will determine the amount of job security that negotiators on both sides have when they return to their offices.