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Short Staffed

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Union Workers Speak Out on the Staffing Crisis

All written in a personal capacity.

Postal Service

Tyler Vasseur, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 9.

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Great Resignation,” an aging workforce, cost-cutting measures from Postmaster General Dejoy’s disastrous 10-Year Plan, and poor working conditions have created a staffing crisis for the post office. 

In many areas, Letter Carriers are working forced overtime of 10, 12, and even 14 hours a day, and entire towns and communities are experiencing mail delays of up to a week or more. We’ve been told to file grievances against management in hopes the sheer amount of them will force federal arbitrators to intervene, but grievances filed in July have still not been processed!

National bargaining in our union started on February 22, and a lot is at stake. In 2022 NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) Branch 9 in Minneapolis formed an Organizing Committee. The purpose of this committee is to help build solidarity and support for other unions who are going on strike or for organizing campaigns, and to organize internally within our union and strengthen rank and file involvement. Organizing Committees like this should be formed in every NALC branch across the country.

We need clear demands to energize our membership. This includes abolishing the two-tier pay scale. Start new hires on Table 1, meaning an immediate raise for new hires from $19 to $32 an hour, raise max pay to $42 (similar to UPS), and end mandatory overtime. Clear demands like this should be linked to building public rallies across the country to mobilize public support behind the post office, an agency that polls show is viewed multiple times more favorable than Congress.


Public Transit

Adam Burch, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005

Metro Transit is down some 300 drivers from the normal 1,200 bus drivers. Transit workers were among the hardest hit during the pandemic. Politicians, mainly Democrats, have taken the opportunity to propose cuts to services. Now safety is a big issue, but more police isn’t the answer. Narrowly focusing on that doesn’t address the structural issues that put operators and riders at risk and make the job seem impossible. 

Transit workers’ wage increases have not kept up with inflation, which is why ATU 1005 is demanding a cost of living adjustment back in our contract this year, along with a series of proposals to expand transit, make it safe, and bring back ridership. 

Unfortunately, the ATU International President John Costa is pointing in the opposite direction and blaming reduced fares for the crisis, doubling down on a failed strategy scapegoating homeless people while cheerleading the same politicians who created this mess. 

Skilled social worker teams should be employed to rapidly respond to potentially dangerous situations to de-escalating conflict and offer state resources to those that need them. We need to reduce fares, end chronic short-staffing, and expand transit routes. Studies have shown that there is safety in numbers. Assaults are more likely to occur when there are fewer people on trains and buses.

We need to tax the rich, and fully fund housing, healthcare, and social services. There is a direct correlation between the chronic underfunding of healthcare, housing, and basic social services, and the increase in antisocial behavior. Without real answers to these structural issues, transit operators and riders are forced to the front lines of this social crisis.


Healthcare

Marty Harrison, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals

Healthcare workers and patients are in a desperate situation created by our profit-driven healthcare industry, then exacerbated by the profound crisis of the pandemic and its bitter public debate. Thousands of our co-workers left the field forever. Young workers have taken up the challenge, but there are too few seasoned, experienced workers to provide them with the on-the-job training they need to be competent.

Patients are suffering. They are acquiring infections and falling. Their meds are late, they are in pain. All because we are short-staffed. On-going supply chain disruptions mean that every day, some essential medication, supply, or piece of equipment is unavailable.

The massive pandemic-related stimulus to the hospitals and relaxation of Medicaid income limits for patients, which benefited so many, are winding down. This combination is setting up a perfect storm of budget cuts, hospital closures, and benefit denials which will further undermine public health and our ability to combat the next crisis.

Patients need improved Medicare for All with mental health care, dental care, and preventative care. Restoring public health will require real investment in treating underlying social crises which are manifesting through opioid and gun violence crises.

Millions of healthcare workers are not yet members of any union. Healthcare workers’ unions must launch a national organizing drive to bring these workers into the struggle for our patients and our livelihood. To win, our unions must take a fighting, class struggle approach and be prepared to strike, and shut our institutions down until the boss delivers what we need to provide safe, quality care at the bedside.


Education

Joe Sugrue, Northshore Education Association

In the last two years, public education lost about 7% of its educators. A survey done by the NEA last year found that an alarming 55% of teachers have made plans to leave before retirement. Teachers are fed up with comparatively low wages, increasing behavioral challenges, feeling disrespected and safety concerns, excessive paperwork and planning, and lack of administrative support. This is all leading to high levels of burnout and poor mental health.  

This is deeply unfortunate, both because of the necessity of a strong public school system, and because most teachers join the profession in the first place with a passion for educating others. Rank-and-file teachers need to become active and organized in their unions, and not buy into negotiating tactics such as “interest-based bargaining” which see the district and the workers as equal partners. Also, we should not view “the district” as the only enemy, because sometimes it is true that the district itself has no more money to give; that responsibility lies squarely with Democratic Party politicians who have been unwilling to tax the rich to fully fund education.

All educators need an immediate 25% raise, additional funds for classroom expenses, and tuition reimbursement for teacher preparation programs. Substitutes need to be paid an enticing wage. All of this can be paid for by taxing the rich. Educators need more control over curriculum, evaluation processes, and professional development to combat burnout. We need to fully fund public schools, not expand charter schools, many of which are non-union, for-profit, and ineffective. We need real solutions to the deep social crises our students face, including free breakfast and lunch, and common sense gun control. None of this will happen if our unions continue to support and give money to the same corporate Democrats who have caused this crisis educators face.

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