(from Detroit Workers' Voice #68, September 27, 2007)
. USPS management is carrying out a "National Reassessment" program which includes
measures to remove workers with work-related injuries from the postal service. And it has now
come to the Detroit area. Those targeted for removal include both "rehab" employees and
"limited-duty" employees. Here's how this vicious plot works. Management pretends that there's
not sufficient work available within the physical restrictions of the injured worker for them to get
eight hours work a day. They worker is then told to apply for Workers' Comp. (OWCP) benefits
to get paid for the hours where allegedly no work was available. This might sound good the
worker gets paid for these hours for not working. But it's a trap! After the worker is on the
OWCP payroll, postal management then wants the OWCP to place the worker in an OWCP
program in which the worker is removed from the postal service and forced to take a job with
Stealing your job, pension and benefits
. Once the former postal worker is placed in another business or government agency, they lose their health and life insurance benefits, and much of their defined-payment pension. As well, their Thrift Savings Program (TSP) retirement benefits get no further payments. That's not all. You no longer have the same sick leave and vacation leave (annual), but must accept whatever the new job offers. So you may end up paying a fortune for health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses.
. Worse yet, what happens if the new employer decides to fire you? Then you are jobless. And OWCP will not help you any further. Postal management's only obligation is to subsidize the difference in wages between your postal salary and that of your new job if your lucky enough not to be fired or laid off.
. This attack on injured workers applies not only to the tens of thousands of postal employees
who presently have work-related injuries. It will be used to destroy the livelihoods of the hordes
of workers who will be injured in the future. The constant drive of management to increase
workloads has led to countless injuries. Once injured, management harasses injured workers
constantly. The harassment aims to make injured workers return to work while injured or to drive
them into quitting. But if that doesn't work, management has a new plan. Force injured workers
Blatant violation of injured workers legal rights
. Many postal workers will no doubt be shocked by these new attacks on injured workers. Previously, if you had a work-related injury, postal management provided the worker they injured with other work within their restrictions. True, even then, there was a constant effort by management to deny that the injuries were work-related and to find other ways to escape their responsibilities to the injured. But now this harassment has been escalated into a war against the whole notion that injured postal workers should have the right to employment by the postal service in jobs within their physical restrictions.
. What has changed? Have the OWCP laws or the postal regulations obliging management to find
work for those with work-related injuries changed? No. Management has simply decided to
ignore their own regulations on a grand scale.
Management destroys workers to increase profits
. Why is this? USPS management, like any other greedy capitalist employer, seeks to make the
workers pay for every budget problem, real or imagined. Postal management also subsidizes
massive profits for the big capitalist mailers. That's why it constantly increases workloads, cuts
its health care payments, brings in underpaid temporary workers, etc. That's why it seeks to cut
the workforce. That's why its ridding itself of workers it has injured. Just listen to what Pat
Donahoe, presently deputy postmaster general, had to say about removing injured workers from
the USPS payroll a few years ago: "From a cost-avoidance perspective, it's a good thing for us to
do in the organization". In other words, management can bolster their profits by crushing rehab
and limited-duty employees.
Get organized to resist these attacks!
. How can we fight back against this management onslaught? Certainly grievances should be filed. But can we really rely on getting justice here? No. All to often arbitrators find in management's favor no matter how flimsy their case. What if management argues there's just no work available? Can we really count on some arbitrator, who constantly hangs out with other rich professional and managerial types, to see it our way? Moreover, we should not be content to get relief only on a case-to-case basis, but to get the entire policy of driving injured workers out of the postal service abolished.
. That's why we need to unite with our coworkers in a collective struggle. Injured and non-injured workers, no matter what craft, should get in touch with each other to discuss ways of resisting this and other attacks. We should circulate leaflets like this one around our workplaces. We must figure out ways to develop our own rank-and-file networks and hold protests of various kinds.
. We will not be able to count on the leadership of the national and local postal unions to do this however. They will file some grievances and tell us to go home and wait a year or two for the results. They have known that management was planning to assault the injured workers for a long time, yet have not lifted a finger to mobilize the rank and file in a collective manner. Indeed, they have saddled us with concession contracts and have let management's productivity drive run roughshod over the workers. So it's up to the rank-and-file to get organized independently, and not wait on the union officials to act.
. Let's not let management continue to get away with murder. Postal workers of all crafts! Let's
unite to defend our jobs, benefits and rights!
Last modified: September 28, 2007.