On Aug. 19 and 20, APWU craft divisions – Clerk, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle Service, Support Services – and retirees held conferences. The ongoing contract negotiations was a topic on everyone’s mind.
Each craft conference had a common theme, contract preservation and job protection. They opened with reports from their respective directors and assistant directors on the union’s past two years.
National Business Agents presented their remarks on recent grievance cases affecting their jurisdictional areas. Resolutions were then presented for consideration by conference attendees.
Over 1,000 Members Participated in Pre-Convention Workshops
Over 1,000 members took part in workshops and trainings held on Friday, Aug. 17. Twenty-nine different classes, organized by the Research and Education Department and its director, Joyce Robinson.
This year’s workshops included contract administration, veterans’ benefits, labor law, retirementplanning, union communications, family and medical leave, labor history and empowering young workers.
Members left their workshops with new tools to strengthen the union – from the shop floor to the streets – and left participants Fired Up and Ready to Go.
Young Members Are Fired Up and Ready to Go!
On Aug. 18, the Young Members Committee (YMC) held their first official convention caucus.
“We, as millennials, have a unique set of economic issues that we are being impacted by and our union has recognized that, which is why the committee was formed after the resolution passed at the last convention,” said Courtney “C.J.” Jenkins member of the Baltimore “Stu Filbey” Area Local and a representative of the Young Members Committee. “It’s a good thing to see that this type of program, this type of committee started with the American Postal Workers Union…We are setting a pace here.”
President Dimondstein’s remarks described how intimidating his first convention was in 1984 and encouraged young members, regardless of their fear, to stand at the microphone and speak up. “If you’ve got something to say, it needs to be heard.” He explained that new ideas and new activism is the futureof the labor movement.
Representatives from each region addressed the caucus. Sabrina Larsen presented the introduction of the YMC report. Joshua Gray gave an account on youth activism in today’s society, from environmental fights to gun violence and the difficult legislative battles ahead for a vibrant public post office. Courtney Agee provided remarks on how to get young members involved in union activities. Luis Ramos concluded with statistics and data on mobilizing, organizing and growing activists on postal issues, labor issues and issues impacting the 99%.
The Young Members Meeting closed with a motion by Bindu Sancho, Cleveland Area Local Event Coordinator, to name the meeting, “The William Burrus Young Members Committee Meeting,” which received several seconds and rousing approval and applause.
Parade of States: Solidarity in Action
Delegates display their state pride as they proudly march into the convention hall for the traditional Parade of States.
This long-standing event brings delegates from the 50 states and U.S. territories together in an impressive display of solidarity.
Panel Explores Development of A Workers’ Agenda
On Aug. 19, the Legislative & Political Department hosted a first-of-its-kind panel, Political Strategies to Win a Progressive Agenda. The panel discussed how to build a broad movement toward a worker political agenda.
“What happens to us in our communities, to our friends and to our neighbors has an impact on all of us,” explained President Dimondstein.
“We have to fight back,” said Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard. She went on to explain capitalists, “are taking back everything that we have fought for and won over the years.”
Panelists Jan Simpson, Richard Koritz, Ajamu Dillahunt, Bill Thompson, Angieliz Coloncres, and Chuck Zlatkin each gave testimony on their experience fighting for better communities, better jobs, an enriched society and an economy that works for all people, not just big business oligarchs.
“We’re going to stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder” said speaker Jan Simpson, First National Vice President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). “We are going to be there for you because we know when we needed you, you were there for us.”
“Whether you are black or brown, immigrant or native-born, gay, straight or transgender; all workers deserve a living wage… and a voice on the job,” stated panelist Bill Thompson, fast-food worker and Fight for $15 activist.
Ajamu Dillahunt, Raleigh Area Local labor educator and activist, invoked the contributions of labor and social justice leader Tony Mazzocchi. He explained that “safety and security of human kind is a working-class issue,” and urged that we must all, “join the fight for a better world!”
Angieliz Coloncres, Puerto Rico Area Local member and activist, spoke about the disenfranchisement of Puerto Rico. “We are talking about poverty, quality of life. We should be respected. We have to use our voice. We have to use our vote. But Puerto Rico doesn’t have it.” The labor movement and workers united, have to stand together and fight together.
Chuck Zlatkin, Director of Communications for New York Metro Area Local, spoke on joint local and community engagement, enhancing the cause of postal banking.
Richard Koritz, APWU Solidarity Representative and retired letter carrier, spoke about the Memphis Sanitation Strike and its effect on history. The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike marked a moment when black workers, stood up and demanded power. “Each panelist understands that workers need power,” Koritz explained. “To have power, we need allies and this is what this panel discussion is about.”
Do Not Miss – ‘I AM A MAN’ Exhibit
Delegates and guests should be sure to spend some time with the impressive exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, known for the iconic slogan of the striking workers declaring their humanity – “I AM A MAN.”
The exhibit, which was originally created for the Walter P. Reuther Library, traces the origins of the sanitation workers’ struggle, the marches and police violence which marked the strike, Dr. King’s tragic assassination, and ultimately the workers’ victory and union recognition.
The exhibit includes more than 20 placards commemorating the strike. It can be found outside Hall A, of the main convention area.