January 1st to 7th, 2023
It’s the start of a new year and our eyewear accounts were just topped up, we’re getting six personal days, and the pocket calendars still haven’t arrived at the local office.
Some things change, some things stay the same.
We just had a short week in the office, but members of the communications committee were in the office to work on some important information gathering and sharing that we hope will benefit members not just locally, but from around the country.
We had our regular calls from members and former vice president Cameron Fortier was showing new vice president Mahdia Hasan some of the functions of the office. Sister Hasan is coming to us at a time when there is a lot going on so there is a lot to learn in short order.
She is diving in head first.
Members of the 856 Communications Committee were in the office last week working on a variety of projects.
Sister Cynthia Wolfe-Nolin, and Brother Jeff Didham were working on scripts and plans for a series of videos for temporary workers who can be overwhelmed with all the new workplace rules, regulations, and procedures that come with work at the post office. Brother Randy Fyfe was in the office on Friday to make more improvements to the website and work on some continuing issues with the office phone system. Office stuff. Sigh. Sister Christina McVety, who couldn’t join us this week, still submitted material for this project that she wrote on her own time. Brother Preet Girin and I worked on a notice of motion that establishes some guidelines for hybrid meetings and make them part of the local officially if endorsed by members.
Overall, committee members are excited about moving forward with more information sharing in the new year. People have been talking about the website having a robust FAQ section for some time, so it’s nice to see some words being produced to create those posts.
Producing quality information for the membership is something union activists should strive to do. It’s only fair, really. Unions’ currency is information. We trade in it all day. People don’t call the local office looking to sell us something, they’re looking for information.
If you’re looking for union information, there are a variety of online resources available to you. The union’s national website always has all the latest bulletins, our collective agreements, and our constitution.
Urban CA: https://www.cupw.ca/en/collective-agreements/urban-postal-operations
RSMC CA: https://www.cupw.ca/en/collective-agreements/rural-and-suburban-mail-carriers
If this report landed in your inbox, that’s great. If you want to receive national reports in your inbox as well, sign up for the e-digest, a national newsletter that is published regularly here: https://www.cupw.ca/cupw-eDigest
If you change your address while you are a member of the union, make sure to update your address when you’re settled. The union doesn’t often have to mail you stuff, but when it does, you will want to receive it. The address update form is here: https://www.cupw.ca/en/member-contact-information-form
The local is old school. You have to call us when you move.
There are 208 CUPW locals across the country. Some have websites, some don’t. Some are better than others. We are always working on making Winnipeg’s website bigger, better, faster, more! Below are some links to other locals’ websites, just to illustrate some different styles.
Some locals forego a website and keep a local Facebook group active for communications. It depends on the local’s size, style, and what the current local executive inherited from the previous crew.
When it comes to the larger labour world, through official affiliation, the local supports the Winnipeg and District Labour Council, the Manitoba Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Labour Congress. I’ve written about these affiliations lately, but here are their websites if you’re interested in learning more.
Information is easy to find in this world. Finding good information is another thing. Typically, major news outlets are owned by large corporations which have agendas of their own. Some smaller organizations have a mandate to inform, and nothing else.
Canada has media conglomeration issues, but over the past few years, quality, independent outfits have been making their mark. They join some of the old stalwarts of the movement, and I have produced (I hope) a helpful list here.
Canadian Dimension is a long-running publication produced in Winnipeg: https://canadiandimension.com/
The Breach tells it like it is: https://breachmedia.ca/
The Tyee is a Vancouver-based online news site whose journalists win awards regularly: https://thetyee.ca/
Press Progress is a newer journal that consistently punches above its weight: https://pressprogress.ca/
A subscription to The Maple will get you a great story right to your inbox every morning, sometimes there is a lot of focus on Ontario: https://www.readthemaple.com/
Rank and File is a great resource for union activists: https://www.rankandfile.ca/
Fightback delivers practical news for working people: https://www.marxist.ca/
People’s Voice doesn’t have new content daily, but it’s worth checking in every once in a while: https://pvonline.ca/
Jacobin is a publication from the United States, but its international stories are pretty tight: https://jacobin.com/
Confession: I don’t listen to podcasts. People tell me about awesome podcasts all the time, but I don’t know if I don’t have the time or what but podcasts just aren’t a big part of my media diet. I definitely survive on printed communication. That being said, there are great podcasts out there.
Bran Hughes and Kevin Hitchings in Saskatoon have been running Overburdened for a couple of years now, and many posties already subscribe. Find them on Spotify, Audible, and the like. I do find time to listen to these podcasts sometimes and find them valuable even if I don’t finish listening to the whole episode.
A shop steward in Calgary, Jim Samuelson, just started releasing The Silver Bullet Podcast this month. Jim tells me this is his contribution to the effort. I gave his first episode a listen, and it’s full of honest and earnest talk for workers. There are a few podcasts with the words silver and bullet in the title so a Google search gets dicey; Brother Samuelson’s podcast can be found on Spotify.
Local UofM Labour Studies prof, activist, and all-around good person David Camfield produces Victor’s Children for the world when he isn’t busy doing things like writing books about capitalism and the environment. Find Victor’s Children on Soundcloud and Future on Fire at McNally Robinson, other local sellers, or here: https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/future-on-fire
Also, Delivering Community Power. In short, it’s the union’s plan to green the post office and save the world. It’s our plan to get the employer to expand its services for Canadians and to become a world leader in sustainability. In DeCoPo, we’re calling for a just transition away from fossil fuels, and a healthier planet for everyone. Postal workers in Canada should familiarize themselves with the plan because it is a big part of our organization at the national level. Here’s the link: https://www.deliveringcommunitypower.ca/
When the letter carrier depot on Narin flooded in September, letter carriers were forced to drive to the St. James depot to pick up mail and then at the end of the day, to the depot on McDermot to drop off live mail.
The employer agreed to pay carriers for this extra driving time and local officers and corporate agents worked together to time these drives and determine new route values.
A letter carrier’s eight-hour work day is made up of minutes and fractions of minutes. Everything a letter carrier can do in a day is assigned a time value. There are values for gathering mail, for sorting mail, for opening gates, for stairs. This one is rare for Winnipeg, but there are time values for having to walk up and then down a driveway with a grade.
When we were asking for drive times to be added to the routes, the employer proposed that because people weren’t performing some functions, like sorting their mail, those values would have to come out while the extra driving time was being added in.
All of that work was done, and the local was presented with revised calculations for every route serviced out of the flooded building on Narin.
A lot of the data was good. The average drive time to St. James was 25.03 minutes. The average time to drop off live mail at the end of the day at McDermot was 18.41 minutes. When the sortation time was removed and this extra drive time was added, almost every route flew by the 480-minute mark. For those keeping score, 480 minutes is eight hours.
However, local officers had some issues with how these timings were applied to routes. If a carrier had to clear a street letter box, they got the drive time to McDermot. But, this time was not given to carriers who had to clear an outgoing mail compartment in a community mail box. Is that not live mail? Also, the drive times to the retail postal outlets were not added.
We are trying to get those times added for those carriers before we can reach an agreement on how everyone is to get paid. We have good commitments from the employer to pay people fairly, now we’re just working on the details.
We’re disappointed in the delay. We were hoping the carriers who put up with a lot because of the flood would be compensated either before or during the holidays. We’re still confident it will happen, but everyone who did that work needs to be paid for it.
LAST CALL FOR ORGANIZERS
Hey, you can do this. Just apply.
The union is looking for three passionate and dedicated individuals to become community organizers. The job description is a bit intimidating, but when it is broken down, everything is achievable. Don’t let it intimidate you. Those chosen to be community organizers will have a lot of support to achieve the goals.
You have to apply by Monday, January 9th. There are only three positions available, and it would be great for someone from our local to get one of these appointments.
Read about it here: https://www.cupw.ca/en/apply-now-be-community-organizer
There is a link to the application after the job description.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR BYPASSES
If you signed up for overtime and didn’t get any, it might have been because the employer isn’t running equal opportunity properly and hasn’t been for some time.
Equal opportunity is a bit of a funny system, but once it’s understood, it makes a lot of sense. It’s designed so that a few people don’t get all of the overtime that comes up.
Okay, so Preet, Carol, and Fred sign up for overtime on Monday, and they all have the same equal opportunity number, and it’s 33. There is only one piece of overtime available. Preet has the most seniority, and he takes the overtime. His number goes up to 34 and Carol and Fred stay at 33. On Tuesday, all three sign up again. There are two portions of overtime. Because Preet’s number is 34, he is not eligible to take the overtime even though he has more seniority. Carol and Fred are offered the overtime, and their numbers go up to 34. On Wednesday, Fred has a scheduled personal day, Preet and Carol sign up, and there are two portions of overtime. All three of their numbers increase to 35. When someone is off of work, their number increases if there is an overtime offer.
If overtime were offered by seniority only, those at the bottom of the list would never get an opportunity to work it. Equal opportunity, right?
We have discovered that people who were off of work for whatever reason in the plant last year weren’t having their equal opportunity number increased while they were off. When they returned to work, everyone else’s numbers had gone up and so when there was overtime in November and December, the members who had been off were offered overtime unequally.
I want to be clear that this is the employer’s mistake. The members who were off of work didn’t do anything wrong.
In the letter carrier depots, there are a few ways that overtime is handed out, and we’re finding an interesting patchwork of ideas on how equal opportunity should be run. If you signed up for overtime and you didn’t get any, be suspicious. There might not have been any. But also, equal opportunity might not be administered properly (*hard wink), and you should definitely ask some questions and potentially file a grievance to get paid for the overtime that you should have been offered.
The local has been and will be conducting a review of these lists and the investigation in the WMPP is going well. In the letter carrier world, we are gathering documents but following up on daily bypasses would be impossible. Carriers have to watch out for themselves and talk to stewards if the suspect they have been bypassed.
Equal opportunity is contractual. Look to Article 15 in the Urban contract to figure it all out.
There is a local general membership meeting on Saturday, January 7th at 10:00 a.m. in room 107 at the Union Centre, 275 Broadway Avenue in Winnipeg.
We will also be inviting members to join us online for that meeting. Members who wish to receive the Zoom link for this meeting are encouraged to register for the meeting here: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwrdeGpqD8iGND-sDDaWx3QtEvJBMh8CWZe
We aren’t sure how the hybrid meeting will go. It’s one thing to say that there should be a hybrid meeting option, and it’s another to run them effectively, giving all members the opportunity to participate.
We were not able to commit to running a hybrid meeting until now because we needed to visit the room we have booked and do some tests of equipment before we knew it was even possible. We also weren’t interested in troubleshooting issues at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday while there were people in the room, ready to have a meeting at 10:00.
We weren’t able to test and troubleshoot equipment until Thursday, January 5th, late in the afternoon. We are now confident the meeting can start at 10:00 without any delay.
The local has no obligation to host hybrid meetings, but the proposed changes to the bylaws being brought forward from the Communications Committee will change that and give us some guidelines on how those meetings can be.
We have also booked room 107 at the Union Centre for the February and March general membership meetings because it does have the technical pieces we need to make these meetings accessible and effective.
Also, we have a deaf brother from the WMPP interested in attending meetings and a letter carrier sister who knows ASL is willing to come in and do translation for him. If you know of anyone who has a hearing issue and knows ASL, we expect this interpretation to become a regular thing, so let them know it is now available at our meetings!
However you choose to participate, we’ll see you tomorrow!
SHOP STEWARD NOMINATIONS
Start talking to the people you think should be shop stewards in the coming year because they are nominated by you and elected by you, the members, the people shop stewards help. They are elected in February.
We have heard rumours that there will be a three-day education event in Edmonton in March and that there may be a shop steward training class scheduled. The Winnipeg Local needs shop stewards in the letter carrying world, so even if you’re not a trained steward, get yourself nominated. If you’re a steward without training, we will get you some!
The local is also making some moves to start hosting our own classes regularly, and if there is interest, providing a shop steward class will be a priority.
So, if you’re ready (maybe even if you’re not quite ready), consider getting involved as a steward. It’s a great way to start your activist career.
Big shout out to local RSMCs. Their contract is less than a year away from expiring and already they are organizing themselves to get what they need out of the next round of negotiations. Local RSMCs had a meeting at the local office on Wednesday night this week to talk about what they need to see in the next round of negotiations and how they’re going to go about getting it.
Honestly, it’s inspiring. We have a really solid and dedicated group of RSMCs in our local. At regional conference in Edmonton in November, members from our local were reaching out to all the other RSMCs in attendance, talking to them, finding out what their concerns are, and generally getting the team ready to start the season.
Urban members, you’re in the same position – your contract is expiring in a year as well. Look to the local RSMCs for an example of what you have to do to get what you need out of your contract.
The local will be hosting writing workshops and soliciting contract demand resolutions from you. Your ideas make the contracts what they are. Of course there is a corporation to contend with and we don’t get everything we’re asking for every negotiation, but we won’t get nothin’ if we don’t ask for it.
My sincere apologies to you all for not having a report to end the year last week. A three-day week at the office is just a five-day week with 16 fewer working hours in which to do everything that needs to be done. Sigh. This report is maybe a touch long because of the missed one.
If you made it this far, best wishes from me and my family to you and yours for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2023. I’m always impressed with the tenacity and passion of letter carriers and it’s an honour to be a president of a local of postal workers. I hope that 2023 is a good one for you personally, at work, and with your union.