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IB Times

Postal Workers Screwed by Trump

Postal employees stripped of their political voices, will they fight back?

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jul 24, 2017

Whenever election season comes around, some union members take time off from work to volunteer for local, state and national campaigns.  Many unions write into their contracts that their members can take time off to work on these campaigns.  The time, called union leave time, is now under attack after a recent Office of Special Counsel (OSC) report claiming that postal workers should not have this benefit.

Federal Government workers are in a unique position when it comes to politics.  In an effort to create a “non-partisan” bureaucracy, anyone who works in the federal government is bound by the Hatch Act to not participate in politics. Usually this is interpreted to mean that Federal Government employees can’t participate in political actions during the work day or in their official role as a government employee, but may take part after hours and as a private citizen.

Like many other unions, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) used union time to allow their members to volunteer for political candidates.  Since the 1990’s the NALC would give the Postal Service a list of members who would take time off and work on political campaigns.  To ensure that there was no conflict, these members would not be paid by the postal service but instead by the NALC COPE funds while they worked for the AFL-CIO’s voter engagement campaign for their endorsed candidates nationwide.  For over 20 years there was no problem with this arrangement.  No one ever questioned whether this was a violation of the Hatch Act, until Trump, was elected.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, a Koch brother backed, Trump supporter from Wisconsin who defeated the labor supported Russ Feingold in 2016, demanded an investigation from the OSC into allegations that the Postal Service actively worked with the NALC to give time off to their members to work for Hillary Clinton. After a short dog and pony show investigation, the OSC found that union time for political purposes was systematic violation of the Hatch Act. They further ordered the United States Postal Service to stop recognizing political activity when deciding whether or not to grant an employee union time.

This decision is just another attack on organized labor from Trump and the Republicans in Congress. Right after Trump was elected, he announced an attack on union release time, which allows union leaders time to work on union business during the course of the workday. A policy that has lasted for decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations which is now facing a political witch hunt since they worked for Trump and Johnson’s opponents. Thanks to the OSC’s decision and the decision of the Postal Service to roll over and accept it, Federal government employees have effectively been stripped of their political voice. This all happens as Trump is encouraging active duty military service members to support the Republican agenda. While government contractors are free to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, this decision now inhibits those who are most effected by the election from having a political voice.

Imagine being a postal worker who voted for Trump. Imagine.

Knock, Knock.
Who's There?
Aren't ya.
Arent ya who?
Aren't you glad that you voted for Trump.

Editor’s Note: The NALC has sued multiple times to overturn the Hatch Act. Now is an opportune time to see some good old fashioned member to member organizing and political action, in addition to relying on judges and lawyers.

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