Nearly half of the 200 postal workers fired for engaging in an illegal, wildcat strike will get $100 per week in short-term "subsistence payments" from their union.
The American Postal Workers Union has raised slightly more than $61,000. That will be used to pay 89 of its members who lost their jobs after the U.S. Postal Service fired them for alledgedly leading, or taking part in a strike to protest the new contract.
The employes fired - members of the APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers union, and non-members - tried unsuccessfully to lead all 550,000 postal workers out on strike before they had voted on a new 3-year contract approved by national leaders. Union members recently voted to reject the contract. The threat of a nationwide strike sent union leaders and USPS brass back to the bargaining table.
Fired employes - both members and non-union workers - were active at the recent Chicago and Denver conventions of the APWU and NALC. Several have been flying around the country - they say at their own expenses - to big postal facilities soliciting money to help strikers buy food, pay rent and go on with the business of living.
Their presence has embarrassed and irritated many union officials and members who opposed the unsanctioned strike. Although now mandated by their unions to call a strike if the contract (which must be produced by next week) isn't improved, many union leaders wish the strikers would cool their activities, including press conferences, until the new round of bargaining talks is completed.
The APWU expects that the $100 per-striker payments will be exhausted within 5 weeks unless rank-and-file members send in additional contributions. The problems the major postal unions have in providing minimum payments to a handful of strikers underscores the financial difficulty they would face if a major strike occurred.
None of the unions have a strike fund worth mentioning. Leaders don't know where the money would come from if they had to provide payments for a half million workers instead of a couple of hundred.
The two big issues on the bargaining table are money and no-layoff clause which the USPS agreed to in the contract that has been rejected. There is speculation that the unions may get more money from the mediator appointed by the Federal Mediation and Concilliation Service. But there is also speculation that the unions could lose the absolute no-layoff guarantee they now have. Clearly the USPS wants it eliminated or modified.
Civil Service Reform: The House is due to take it up today. Carter Administration officials are hoping to block consideration of amendments to the bill to remove Hatch Act restrictions from federal and postal workers. They also oppose a rider that would shorten the basic workweek of federal fire-fighters (President Carter recently vetoed a similar bill) and the House plan to limit the sweeping changes in the proposed Senior Executive Service to a two-year test in three departments.
Rep. Bill Clay (D-Mo.: is the man to watch on the House floor. The tough, bright and articulate former union official is pushing the Hatch Act reforms as part of the President's civil service reforms. He's got the solid backing of AFL-CIO federal and postal labor unions. If that backing means Civil Service reform must include Hatch Act reform, the President's bill is in trouble. But the top-heavy 87-1 Senate vote on a reform bill WITHOUT Hatch Act changes could give Carter all the legislative muscle he needs.
Decriminalizing The Buddy System: National Federation of Federal Employes (NFFE) President James M. Peirce says the Carter reform plan will "make legal many of the violations for which several top Nixon aides went to jail." His independent union meets in convention next week in Tucson. One of its keynote speakers is Civil Service Commission Chairman Alan K. Campbell, the administration's chief salesman of the CS reform the union opposes.
Call Collect The American Federation of Government Employes is making a major pitch to NFFE members, urging them to pressure their leaders to merge with the bigger AFL-CIO organization. It has sent letters to top NFFE officials and rank-and-filers asking them to support merger and call AFGE headquarters (collect) if they have ideas on how to effect the marriage.