Delivering During A Crisis

Postal union chief is taking the reigns at a tough time

William Burrus picked a tough time to step up to the plate. The new president of the largest postal union in the United States, installed on November 10 for a three-year term, has to contend with the anthrax scare and other terrorist threats, as well as what he describes as a “labor unfriendly” chief executive in the White House.

Despite that, Burrus feels confident he can make a positive impact on the American Postal Workers Union, which represents some 380,000 employees. “I know the process; I know the players; and I know the issues,” he says.

One of those issues is to investigate technologies that provide a secure environment for postal workers in the wake of the anthrax attacks that killed two postal workers hospitalized and left nine others hospitalized. “We’re exploring a number of technologies that will sanitize the mail before it gets to employees,” he says. “But as the post office handles some 680 million letters a day, it’s going to take some time before those measures are in place.”

Another challenge will be the ongoing labor negotiations with the U.S. Postal Service–a relationship the union president describes as “adversarial.” Burrus recently accused the Post Service of using unscrupulous measures to achieve cost savings. “They had the audacity to use the anthrax attacks as an excuse to reduce pay and cut benefits because postal volume is down 10% versus the same time last year,” he explains.

Burrus is also highly critical of the Bush administration. “The supporters of the republicans, particularly those who cling to right-wing ideology are opposed to organized labor,” he says.

Though he has a lot on his plate, Burrus says he can rise to the occasion. “Every generation has its challenges. This just happens to be mine,” he says.

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