on Mar 15th, 2010 in Labor | 21 comments
 
March 18 marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in postal history — the postal strike of 1970. The night before, postal workers in New York voted 1,555 to 1,055 to go out on strike in protest of a House committee vote to limit their wage increase that year to 5.4 percent on the heels of a 41 percent increase in Congress’s own pay. The wildcat strike and picketing were effective in shutting down postal operations in New York and quickly spread to about 30 other cities. Within days about 152,000 workers in 671 locations were on strike. It was illegal for federal workers to strike, or even to advocate a strike, but union officials said they had no control over the action. The strike shut down New York’s financial industry, kept 9,000 youths from receiving draft notices, delayed the mailing of census forms and tax refunds, and generally disrupted the country’s communications. Injunctions and heavy fines were levied on union leaders; but the membership paid no attention. President Nixon called out 24,000 military personnel to distribute the mail, but they were ineffective. While the president asserted there would be no negotiations until the workers returned to work, Secretary of Labor William Usery did engage in negotiations that brought the strike to an end after 2 weeks. By all accounts, the strike was extremely successful for the unions, and it set the course of postal affairs for decades to come. No postal worker was ever disciplined for the walkout. Negotiators agreed to a 6 percent wage increase retroactive to 1969, and an additional 8 percent contingent on enactment of the Postal Reorganization Act. The bill had been languishing in Congress, but by April 16, 1970, agreement was reached. It not only provided the 8 percent pay raise, but also allowed postal workers to reach the top of the pay scale in only 8 years — in contrast to the 21 years previously in effect. After the first contract, pay for the newest worker had surpassed what a 21-year veteran had made 3 years earlier. Although the agreement directed the large increase towards high-cost areas like New York, where the strike began, it was effective across the nation, even in low-cost areas where compensation had been ample. The practice of uniform wages continues today at the Postal Service; even though the federal pay system introduced locality pay in 1990. The binding arbitration feature of the Act could also be traced to the strike. According to a union history, binding arbitration was included in the bill “in lieu of the right to strike,” though of course no federal employee has ever had such a right. This feature of the law has meant that the Postal Service has never been able to exert control over its labor costs. Unions also insisted that the Postal Service would not be called a government corporation, to guard against any implication that workers would lose the security of their federal jobs. The strike also set in motion lasting changes in the postal labor movement. Union heads that had tried to control the strike, and were willing to compromise with government leadership, lost credibility. A city carrier, Vincent Sombrotto, was in the forefront of rank and file members in New York insisting on the strike. After the strike, he led a movement to open up union elections and eventually headed the National Association of Letter Carriers for 24 years. Coincidentally with the formation of the Postal Service, five distinct unions of postal clerks, mail processors, maintenance, and motor vehicle workers merged into a new American Postal Workers Union, which provided a more unified voice for labor in political and collective bargaining negotiations. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

21 Comments

That was a different time, a different era. If you look at the film clips and photos, you can see that there were mountains of mail to be worked. It was pre-automation, pre mechanization for the most part. The workers had skills. They had scheme knowledge that was required to get the mail out. No one coming in off the street cold could do the job. That isn't how it is now. The mail is sorted by computer program, on machines that even a supervisor can operate when no one's looking. (And they do, constantly)

If we were to go on strike today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference in the plants. They could bring in the National Guard, or the illegal Mexicans standing down by the Home Depot, and get the work done. Anyone can do what is done there now, with just a few exceptions. We are dumbed down, skill-less, and not worth the salary we are getting anymore. And that's why the USPS is going to get rid of people, and change as many jobs to part time as possible.

That's just the cold hard truth. We are dinosaurs, we are easily replaceable with cheaper labor, and the unions have no real leverage to keep the people, the wages, the benefits, and the working conditions. And believe me, with 16 more years to go, I don't feel good making this comment. I know how replaceable I am. I don't feel secure.

This ain't 1970. Postal employees recieve very good pay. What is interesting is Obama's non-delivery to the Postal Unions.

"Postal Service has never been able to exert control over it's labor costs". Binding arbitration was the most importent bill as a result from the strike. It has effectively assured a living wage for craft employees. There is no doubt that our pay level would be much less without arbitration.
In Solidarity.

The OIG's agenda becomes clear when reading their slanted history of the strike. It would like to institute locality pay and eliminate binding arbitration to lower postal labor costs.

Just the usual propaganda put out by the Inspector General Office.

Again, the OIG delving into issues they should have no business even commenting on. Do you people see what is going on here? This is the enforcement arm of Potter singing the praises of a POSTAL STRIKE? If you remember, dear reader, Potter wanted to give the unions the ability to strike, if he could have the power of "lockout". Which essentially means you are fired and will not be let back into the facility you work in. HE WANTS US TO STRIKE! He knows anti-union sentiment is running very high and NO ONE would sympathize with a postal strike. It would enable him to shut down more facilities and rid the service of more leeches (as he sees the rank and file). Once again the USPS OIG demonstrates that it is not only "the enforcer" but also the propaganda ministry.

I was one of the strikers in 1970. I was a ZMT clerk since changed to an LSM CLERK. It is true we were not disciplined. We continued to be good workers some rose to the management ranks and union ranks. I was in management prior to my retirement three years ago. At the current rate the postal Service will demise by 2013. I would also like to know why has management grown 34%. I have been on several management teams and surveys. Some implementation was warranted and most were not good implementations. I guess some managers have that Nixon theory of Phases to get the job done instead of concrete decisions with the proper vision. Potter has no vision. Please remove him similar to what President Obama did to the General Motors chairman. GET BUSY BOARD OF DIRECTORS!!!!!!

Maybe if we strike tody the oig will have some work to do instead of talking about something they could'nt handle dealing with anyway. Thank you to all who striked!!!!

If the OIG performed a audit on management practices', e.g., purchasing million dollar homes, awards they give themselves, the layer upon layer of management all performing the same task, the real estate deals which I am positive someone at headquarters receives a kickback, we are paying $10,000 a month for a empty wharehouse. But alas, the OIG turns their report over to the same people who committ these crimes. Come on OIG, audit management practices', become heroes to the workers and the American public. Turn your findings over to Congress, expose the gross incompetence we call postal management.

I got hired in 1977 ... and left last October. It was a good ride, but the 70's were a different era, Union was the way to go. Today, no one wants to be involved. The only reason you make what you do today is the Union activists like myself who preceded you. The Labor Movement in America is dead because of apathy, and mis-information by the non-union workers who wish they had your job. Get involved now, or see your future fade away.

Archer is correct. While I was a steward doing grievance research, one refrain from the management side and the right wing think tanks kept coming up.

"The craft employees of the USPS are the highest paid semi skilled workers in the world." This iteration was used again and again to justify the implementation of automation in order to destroy the ability of postal labor to stop the mail by withholding their labor,

Do not ever be fooled. The elite who run things in this nation have a long memory and are seeking to return us to the conditions we enjoyed in the 1890's.

We are becoming the Brazil of the North.

why doesn't the OIG look into the 34 percent increase in managemnt ranks????

What was the purpose of this article??

Oh, wait....I know....

I worked for the Postal Service and am now retired from this outfit. Most postal employees are over paid and need to be run off, the unions protect all the deadwood. Had one clerk that spent 20 years in the same office and still had to be told what to due every 1/2 hour. Most are deadwood !!!!!!!!I belong to the union until they started giving all their funds to the DemocRATS !!!~! Heads of Unions are nothing but thieves just like the current administration !!!!!!

Are you controlling the vote on the polls? It says I already had voted, maybe you didn't like the results????

The OIG blog allows only one vote per computer, which it tracks by IP address. So if someone has already voted on this poll using the same computer, the blog will not allow another user to vote. You can still vote by using a different computer. And thank you for voting. We really appreciate your input.

Hire a Consultant to strike for you. Then you'll get
the benefit of continuing to collect your pay, and
maybe you can take a vacation for a while too.

Meanwhile, you won't be accountable for your actions.

That's what the PRC wants to do, again, about Saturday delivery.

And that's what the Executive Offices did, and the Board of Governors, and the Postal Reform Committee, and the OMB, and the GAO have been doing for years.

Think of it!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can't lose...

"We didn't vote to strike", "Our consultant did!!
We simply followed their recommendations."

"They came highly recommended by OMB."

Remember, your getting what you paid for.

You (US) benefits from the actuarial attributable gains.

However, (US) you must pay, and suffer from the actuarial losses....

Go for it! If think you've got the salt?...

I think there a many-many-many ideas out there, and
I think if postal people come together with compromise, you'll survive with limitations.
But, it's going to take subsidy to stand up a new
2050 post office.
Are you ready to fight? Or are you ready conquer the challenges like those before us?

yeah, thtat's the problems...

While it is extremely unsettling that a group of people have the power to bring a huge aspect of our society to a grinding halt, I think the same can be said for several other unions which exist.

When people witness a grave injustice, the can and should stand up for what is right. The ability to strike keeps the decision makers in check and is an integral part of the freedom we enjoy in this great country of ours.

Well I hafta tell ya, Ive been involved in strike action before.. Its very stressfull.. Families depending on the breadwinner suddenly have grave fears for their future.
My advice.. take a Golden handshake.. and set your self up in some little cottage industry business.. Dont buy into Franchises.. they rip you off EVERY time.. be brave.. and start off doing something for yourself ..its easy actually.. I have started 3 business from scratch.. Carpet cleaning Roller shutters and Garage door sales.. all great.. try working on Commission.. if you have some $$ behind you.. you can take your time and get some sales happening quick.. Right now Solar power is BIG..
JUST DO IT..

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labor relation failure has waste postal monies by the millios with total impunity.

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