08/21/2018 - On Tuesday afternoon, the highest governing body of the American Postal Workers Union hit the streets to protest against the possible sale of the U.S. Postal Service.
“This White House, the Heritage Foundation, and their billionaire backers, the Wall Street investors, they want their greedy hands on the public till and the public good – but they’ve started something that they’re not going to be able to stop,” said President Dimondstein. “They think this is their time…We’re going to show them this is truly our time.”
Vance Zimmerman, Director of Industrial Relations, rallied the crowd stating, “They picked on the wrong family, the APWU Family!... And after we save the Post Office, we are taking this country back for working people!”
Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard led a chant of Whose Post Office? / The People’s Post Office. “That’s the message we are going to send across the United States of America and the U.S. territories,” she continued. “They will not sell our Post Office!”
“The Postal Service is the most popular agency of the United States government, by far. I can tell you, people love you guys,” said Congressman Conor Lamb (D-PA-18). “The seniors in my district, they need you to get their medication on time. The young people who are trying to start businesses [across my district], they need you.”
“This is one of the most electrifying crowds I’ve ever been a part of,” remarked Summer Lee, candidate for Pennsylvania State Assembly from Pittsburgh.
“We must oppose a corporate takeover of the Postal Service,” said Nina Turner, Our Revolution President. “It’s not just selling you out…but they are selling out our grandmothers and our grandfathers and our children.”
True union solidarity was at the forefront, with leaders and members from several unions, both public and private sector.
Bobby McAuliffe, United Steelworkers District 10 Director said to the crowd, “I’m here to tell you that our union is proud to stand with the American Postal Workers…so you can continue to deliver those efficient and reliable services to the American people.”
Philip Glover, National Vice-President, AFGE District 3, thanked APWU for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the AFGE. “318,000 members of American Federation of Government Employees stand with you against privatization!”
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America General President Peter Knowlton livened up the crowd with a new chant, “Who are we? UE! Who are You? APWU!”
Paul Rizzo, from the Pennsylvania State Association of Letter Carriers, NALC affirmed that the “union works best when union stands together and the letter carriers stand with APWU!”
Guillermo Perez, President of the Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) said, “Your fight is all of organized labor’s fight.”
Union leaders who previously addressed the delegation during the convention – Sara Nelson (AFA-CWA), Paul Hogrogian (NPMHU), Cornelia Broos (UNI), and Mike Palecek (CUPW) – also spoke in the rally.
Delegates Act on Constitutional, Labor-Management Resolutions
Delegates spent much of the convention’s second day considering resolutions submitted to the Constitution Committee, chaired by Minneapolis Area Local President Peggy Whitney.
Two changes to the union’s constitution were approved: an adjustment in the Support Services Director’s salary to make it equal to the compensation received by other craft directors and strengthening language preventing Executive and Administrative Schedule (EAS) non-supervisory employees from running for union office.
During often passionate debate, delegates considered seven resolutions involving retirees: including retiree dues, representation at conventions and voting in national union elections. All failed to achieve the two-thirds vote required for adoption.
In other convention business, delegates continued their work on consideration of Labor-Management resolutions. The convention adopted resolutions concerning work hours, Postal Support Employee (PSE) and Non-Traditional Full-Time (NTFT) conversions, overtime and seniority.
Facing the Battles Ahead Through Postal Union Solidarity
National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) President Paul Hogrogian addressed the vital importance of postal union solidarity and a united effort in facing the battles ahead.
He reminded the delegation that postal unions must put our differences aside and lead the fight to save the USPS and fight for union-friendly legislators.
Hogrogian continued to speak about how together the postal unions must all fight, “to enactmeaningful postal legislation that is fair for all postal workers, fair for the Postal Service and fair for the American public.”
He said that working together, the postal unions can ensure, “that worker-friendly, union-friendly, postal-friendly candidates, regardless of political affiliation, are elected to Congress,” and can also, “elect a worker-friendly, union-friendly candidate to the White House.”
Lessons Learned From the Canadian Door Delivery Fight
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) President, Mike Palecek, made fiery remarks illuminating the CUPW’s strategy to fight against parasitic privatizers in Canada and discussed how it can be applied to the APWU’s fight.
“Like you, we were facing a manufactured crisis that could be solved in an instant, but they have an interest in destroying the services we provide. They needed that crisis to justify their agenda,” he said.
Through a strong organization, mobilization and action, the CUPW was successful in restoring door-to-door delivery. He explained that they built a “tent of allies,” mobilizing anyone with a stake in public postal services for door delivery: including the elderly, those with disabilities, and people in rural communities. Their allies joined them in solidarity to fight back cuts that would hurt their community.
“I believe in the power of the APWU,” he exclaimed. “I know that you can mobilize this country to defend this Postal Service!”
Struggles in the ‘Friendly Skies’ and Beyond
Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, was the first speaker on day two of the convention. She began her remarks by addressing the fact that attacks on federal workers and our unions are really about making services not work. “We’ve got work to do, APWU. You have clear objectives...stop the White House plan to sell the USPS to the highest bidder.”
Nelson went on to talk about a fight waged in 2005 to save the pensions of flight attendants at United Airlines, which had filed for bankruptcy. The union fought in the courts, streets and the halls of Congress. They lost the battle to save their pensions, but because they fought, the amount United was willing to pay for a pension replacement plan was doubled and health care for retirees was saved.
Channeling Mother Jones, President Nelson said, “We will fight and win, we will fight and lose, but above all we must fight!”
“Sometimes we fight by rallying, sometimes we fight by marching, sometimes we fight by voting, sometimes we fight by singing, sometimes we fight by striking,” she declared. “But above all when we fight, we fight together.”
“Corporate executives don’t turn on us with guns, clubs and bombs today. They let their supporters in Congress and the state houses across the country do their dirty work,” she continued. “They use their lawyers to try to strip us of our rights, and as long as we believe that our issues are unique and that social issues are not economic issues, they will get away with it. Pitting people against each other is the specialty of people with money.”
She shared how the power of solidarity can win struggles. “Solidarity is everything. It is unconditional power, hope, family and it can break through every struggle. It is a force stronger than gravity and solidarity will win.”
“Tell everyone you know that you love your union. Tell them to join unions, start unions, and become leaders of unions. Share your story. Tell others what our unions do so that we can continue the fight.”
In a dazzling display of silver and blue, the APWU Committee On Political Action (COPA) Night afforded an evening of respite away from the convention debate.
The COPA Divas entertained attendees with their biennial dance routine. This year, APWU’s female leaders wore shirts reminding attendees that come November, we all have to flex our APWU STRONG VOTE!