Retroactive Back Pay and COLA Awarded for USPS in New Union Contract

A major new union contract that covers 200,000 postal workers represented by the APWU is effective now. The U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers came to a provisional understanding on a 44-month national labor agreement. The agreement came after months of multiple bargaining sessions, with a three-member panel chaired by Arbitrator Dennis Nolan via online video call attempting resolution, but ultimately ending in temporary suspension until a ratification vote takes place. With the Nolan proceeding suspended, Neutral Arbitrator and Interest Arbitration Panel Chair Stephen Goldberg issued his final decision on the terms of the new union contract. 

The contract was 20 months in the making, with local union input, negotiations, mediation, a strong contract campaign and a well-prepared and presented arbitration case. Dozens testified about their work. Experts and Officers also testified for the union, and a team of economists presented a strong case and rebuked management’s attempts for union concessions. 

“No interest arbitration is ever totally in favor of one side or the other,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “But we have achieved a number of our major goals including retroactive annual pay raises, maintaining of full (and retroactive) COLA, narrowing the gap between the lower and higher career pay scales, the career conversions of thousands of PSEs and maintaining tremendous job security. We should all be proud to be union!” 

“We also succeeded in stopping management’s deeply concessionary demands to end no-lay protections, increase percentages of non-career employees and create a new lower third tier of career employees,” shared Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman. “I want to thank the many officers, witnesses, staff, attorneys, specialists and the members for their many efforts in this long battle that helped bring it to a strong conclusion.” 

The tentative agreement provides four annual general wage increases and seven cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). Additionally, effective Nov. 19, 2022, a new top step (Step P) (which is $444 annually greater than Step O) will be added to the career letter carrier pay scales. The agreement also provides for the automatic conversion of city carrier assistants (CCAs) to career status no later than after 24 months of relative standing, providing full fringe benefits to non-career carriers.  

It also keeps in place the existing protections against subcontracting and layoffs. NALC President Fredric Rolando issued this statement after the NALC Executive Council unanimously recommended approval of the tentative settlement: “I’d like to thank all the officers and staff—as well as our counterparts in postal management—who worked so hard to reach this tentative National Agreement. As I have reported repeatedly over the past several months, NALC followed a dual-track approach to achieve a new contract with both ongoing negotiations and the presentation of the best possible case for our proposals in interest arbitration. That we have done. I am proud of the case and the evidence we amassed in the interest arbitration proceeding up to this point, but I am even more pleased that letter carriers will get to decide whether or not to accept this tentative agreement in a ratification vote, following the procedure outlined in the NALC Constitution. The Executive Council unanimously recommends ratification of this contract.”  

The major components of the new contract are listed below: 


  • Article 38 
  • 3-Year Contract 
  • May 2018-May 2021 
  • Article 9.1.A. General Wage Increases 
  • 1.3% November 24, 2018-retroactively applied 
  • 1.1% November 23, 2019 
  • 1.0% November 21, 2020 
  • 0.8% Additional increase November 21, 2020 
  • 4.2% Total Compensation Increase term of the Agreement 
  • Includes RCAs and ARCs 
  • Article 9.1.E. COLA 
  • Retain COLA, same formula and frequency 
  • July 2018-retroactive 
  • Jan 2019-retroactive 
  • July 2019 
  • Jan 2020 
  • July 2020 
  • Jan 2021 
  • Article 9.1.F and 9.1.I. All RCAs and ARCs 
  • Tables 3 and 4 receive additional 1% wage increase each year in lieu of COLA 
  • Goes into effect with GWI increases-retroactive 
  • Article 9.1.D. Top Step of Table Two raised to match top step of Table One 
  • 2 additional steps added to table 2 
  • Proportional COLA applied to lower steps in Table Two going forward 
  • Article 21.1.B. Beginning 2020 employer contribution to FEHB plan premiums changes from 73% to 72% 
  • MOU Non-Career Health Plan for RCAs 
  • Will be available to all RCAs from date of hire 
  • USPS continues to pay $125 per pay period toward Self Only premium 
  • USPS to pay 65% of Family or Self Plus One premiums during first year of employment 
  • USPS to pay 75% of Family or Self Plus One premiums after one year of employment 
  • Special Open Season will be offered as soon as administratively possible 
  • Article 9.2.C.3.a.1 and 2. Mail Counts 
  • Parties agree to discuss interim method for evaluating routes in lieu of national mail counts 
  • USPS retains right to call for a National Count in September 
  • All special count provisions remain in effect 
  • Traditional mail counts not necessary if RRECS is implemented 
  • Article 30.2.D.4. Utilization of RCAs 
  • RCAs from another office within local commuting distance may be used before regular carriers not on the RDWL 
  • Mileage over normal commute will be compensated 
  • MOU Task Force to address RCA hiring and retention 
  • MOU Rural Joint Workplace Improvement Process 
  • MOU Implementation of RRECS 
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