Fighting Together to Save America’s Postal Service
(This article first appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The fight to save America'ss Postal Service and protect postal jobs is a joint effort of the national union, state organizations, and locals — and it will require ongoing struggle at every level of our organization. We face unprecedented challenges, but with the active support of every APWU member, we can succeed.
Our efforts have already had a major impact on the debate in Congress about how to fix the USPS.
In recent months, the outstanding work of APWU local and state organizations motivated thousands of postal workers, businesspeople and concerned citizens to pack public meetings and demand an end to USPS plans to close facilities and cut service. These efforts have drawn widespread attention from the media and government officials.
APWU locals have done a terrific job organizing local activities, as well as the nationally-sponsored rallies and petition, to oppose the closing of post offices and plants, protect service, and build support for legislation that would address the USPS financial crisis.
The national union has prepared a wealth of material to assist locals in these efforts. Booklets containing sample flyers, press announcements, and letters to legislators have been mailed to every local facing consolidation. (Click here to view the booklet and other resource material.)
In addition to providing support for local efforts, the national APWU has waged an aggressive outreach campaign to members of Congress and the Obama administration; testifi ed at congressional hearings; organized a national media campaign, and more. Whether on the street or behind the scenes, every APWU national officer has been active in our efforts.
In the Media
Our media campaign has included an unprecedented effort to inform the American people, members of Congress and the press about the true nature of the Postal Service’s financial crisis — which management is using to try to justify unwarranted attacks on workers and on service. Since July 2011, the APWU has aired three television commercials, as well as radio and print ads.
The ads have played an important role in shaping the debate about the USPS crisis. The first ad helped dispel a pervasive myth — that the Postal Service is funded by the federal government. This is important because many politicians exploit this misconception to advance their own political agenda and thwart our efforts. They characterize any attempt to correct the mandate that requires the USPS to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees as a “bailout” — despite the fact that no other government agency or private company is required to make such payments. They make similar characterizations of efforts to allow the USPS access to billions of dollars in overpayments the agency made to federal pension accounts, despite the fact that the overpayments have come out of the pockets of postal customers, not taxpayers.
Once the ad began airing, media reports routinely pointed out that the Postal Service doesn’t rely on taxpayer funding — a fact that was rarely mentioned before the spot played.
In September, the union launched a second television ad, which explained — in just 30 seconds — the real cause of the Postal Service’s financial crisis. The second commercial assisted the unions’ drive to win support for legislation that would help resolve the Postal Service’s financial crisis.
In November, we ran a third ad, which exposed the negative effects of H.R. 2309, a bill that would force the Postal Service to close hundreds of mail processing facilities and thousands of post offices, and lay off workers, including tens of thousands of veterans.
The ads have instilled pride in our members and inspired them to participate in the struggle. Most importantly, they have helped educate the public, the media, and elected officials about the real cause of USPS financial difficulties.
In addition to the advertising campaign, national and local officers have been interviewed on numerous television and radio news programs discussing postal legislation and opposing USPS plans to close post offices and mail processing plants, and have given scores of newspaper interviews. We also have published numerous letters to the editor and op-ed columns for newspapers. Our media efforts are continuing.
On Capitol Hill
On the legislative front, we analyze developments on a daily basis and meet frequently with members of Congress and White House staff to express our views on how to solve the USPS crisis. APWU Legislative and Political Director Myke Reid remains in regular contact with legislators and staff, advocating on behalf of our members.
In the last year, I have testified on behalf of our members before congressional committees on four occasions, outlining our view on the causes and solutions to the USPS crisis, and opposing closures and cuts in service.
But we know that members of Congress are most receptive to input from voters in their own districts, and for that reason, we continually encourage locals, state organizations, and rank-and-file union members to get involved.
To make it easy for union members to take a stand, the national union has sent mailings to all APWU members, with sample letters to send to members of Congress.
On Sept. 27, 2011, we coordinated more than 500 rallies in congressional districts across the country that garnered unprecedented media coverage for our cause and won sponsors for legislation we support.
Locals throughout the nation have responded to the national union’s calls for action: Several locals have supplemented the national ad campaign, and many have won support for legislation supported by the APWU.
The union also plays an active role in proceedings before the Postal Regulatory Commission, which issues advisory opinions on these matters that can be influential in policy debates on Capitol Hill. We present witnesses that support our case, cross-examine management witnesses, submit briefs, and participate in every facet of PRC hearings.
Of course, despite our successes, the struggle is far from over. Our adversaries continue to promote legislation that would be extremely detrimental to postal workers and to the American people. We must continue to promote legislation that would resolve the USPS financial crisis; prevent unnecessary plant closures, and maintain service.