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America Deserves a Raise

(This article appears in the March-April 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Across the nation, workers are standing up and fighting back against economic exploitation. In recent months, fast food workers and Wal-Mart employees have picketed their workplaces demanding livable wages and rights at work. They’re demanding an end to economic policies that reward the wealthiest 1% at the expense of the 99%.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein brings solidarity greetings to members of the American Federation of Government Employees.

The fight for workers’ rights is currently focused on raising the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at just $7.25 an hour. An increase could help reverse the trend of rising income inequality. A bill sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) would raise it to $10.10 per hour, but anti-worker members of Congress are blocking the bill.

The movement for a living wage prompted President Barack Obama to issue an executive order increasing the minimum wage for the lowest-paid federal contractors, such as janitors and cafeteria workers, to $10.10 per hour. But because the order applies only to contractors, the demand for an increase in the minimum wage persists. [read more]

The International Postal Struggle
Canadian Workers Fight Job, Service Cuts

(03/01/14) North of the border, Canadian postal workers and community leaders are fighting a series of cost-cutting measures that will degrade service and jobs.

Canadian postal workers and supporters rally outside the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa, Jan. 26, 2014.

In December, Canada Post announced that it would begin phasing out door-to -door delivery nationwide, shifting service to community cluster boxes for more than 5 million homes. Canada Post also announced it would eliminate up to 8,000 jobs; “franchise” more postal outlets, and sharply increase stamp prices.

Critics charge the new policies will make Canada Post much smaller and less able serve the nation’s citizens and businesses.
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Fighting ALEC’s Secret Plans

(01/01/14) The APWU and a host of other labor and progressive organizations seized an opportunity to speak truth to power at a raucous protest outside a meeting of corpo­rate lobbyists and right-wing lawmakers in downtown Washington DC on Dec. 5.

The occasion was an annual “policy summit” of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful, secretive organization that hosts closed-door conclaves for conservative legislators, special interests and political operatives to pursue an anti-worker agenda.

Funded by billionaires such as Charles and David Koch and corporations such as Wal-Mart, UPS, AT&T and MacDonald’s, ALEC is at the forefront of a cabal of right-wing groups seeking to change state laws to privatize prisons, schools and other essential public services; cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals; roll back union bargaining rights, and make it harder for minorities, seniors, students and low-income citizens to vote. [read more]

In Solidary With
The Global Struggle Against Privatization

(01/01/14) While the APWU has its hands full battling to save the USPS as a public postal service, we must support our union brothers and sisters who are fighting postal privatization schemes overseas.

That’s the message APWU President Mark Dimondstein sent in a Nov. 20 letter to postal workers in Great Britain.

“I salute your determined struggles to fight the privatization of Royal Mail and to defend the standards of living of postal workers and the peoples’ right to public mail services,” he wrote to Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union. “Our fight is both a common one and an international one.”
[read more]

Issa Unleashes Attack on Postal Workers

(08/16/13) Despite fierce lobbying by the APWU and other postal unions, Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) Postal Reform Act of 2013 was approved by the House Oversight and Government Committee on July 24, in a party-line vote. According to Rep. Issa, the intent of H.R. 2748 was to restore financial solvency to the Postal Service and to ensure the efficient and affordable nationwide delivery of mail. In fact, it is a blueprint for dismantling the Postal Service. [read more]

The War on Unions Accelerates

(08/16/13) Right-wing politicians, big businesses and the wealthy have declared an outright war on unions. The old adage that “the rich get richer while the poor get poorer” lives on. Multi-national corporations benefit from tax breaks and record-breaking profits while the unemployment rate is astronomical. In the end, more and more middle-class Americans are slipping into poverty. This is the time when our country needs union representation most; instead, we hear rhetoric about why there is no longer a need for us. [read more]

Unions Call for Senate Action
On Labor Relations Board Appointments

(07/15/13) The APWU and the entire labor movement are demanding that a minority of senators stop blocking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from protecting workers’ rights on the job. “We can’t let Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans shut down the federal agency that protects the rights of American workers,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey. Standing in the way of action on pending nominations to the board is the ongoing abuse of the Senate’s filibuster rules, which in recent years have become “a weapon of partisan obstruction and unending delays,” Guffey and Legislative and Political Director Gary Kloepfer wrote in a letter to local presidents. [read more]

A Fundamental Truth
Is Lost on Many Employers

(07/01/13) In a recent article I wrote that Henry Ford, a staunch anti-union employer, understood a fundamental principal: The workers who make products must be able to afford to buy them. It’s obvious that this fundamental truth is lost on many of today’s business leaders. The middle class is the engine that drives our economy, but the middle class is being wiped out. The 99 percent of Americans who work for a living are being pushed down with wage cuts or pay stagnation, job loss, and attempts by those who have a disproportionate amount of wealth to grab even more. From 1979 to 2007, the inflation-adjusted average annual income of the highest-income 1 percent of households grew by 224 percent. In contrast, the income of the bottom 90 percent grew just 5 percent — and that growth occurred by 2000; income declined between 2000 and 2007.[read more]

Fewer Union Members
Means Lower Pay for All

(04/16/13) In the decades after World War II, the labor movement greatly improved pay, benefits and working conditions not just for unionized workplaces, but for the nation’s entire workforce. The better pay and benefits that unions helped establish for blue- and white-collar workers in every industry helped build the great American middle class. But in recent years that trend has been reversing: Union membership has been declining, and the American Dream — home ownership, good jobs, and retirement security — has become elusive for millions of working families. The statistics on declining union membership paint a bleak picture. [read more]

GOP Power Grab
Right-Wing Politicians Seek to Rig Outcome of Elections

(03/01/12) Alarming developments in several state capitals indicate that right-wing, anti-labor politicians intend to fulfill their agenda at any cost — even if it means rigging the outcome of state and national elections. Republican lawmakers in several “battleground states” have been attempting to change elections rules so that even if more people vote for Democrats, Republicans could still control state legislatures, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the White House.The latest election scheme, fostered by extremists in the right wing of the GOP, is to “change the rules to make it easier for them to win,” the Associated Press reported in January. [read more]

Right-to-Work? – Wrong!

Right-to-work” sure sounds good. But “right-to-work” laws, which are being promoted and passed in many states around the country, are wrong for workers and wrong for America. These laws make it optional for workers covered by union contracts to help pay for the expenses unions incur protecting workers’ rights. [read more]

War on Workers Moves to Michigan

(12/12/12) The war on workers moved to Michigan this week when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed two laws that will significantly weaken unions.  More than 13,000 union members staged a raucous protest at the state capitol as the House voted, filling the rotunda area.  “These laws are bad news for workers,” said APWU Executive Vice President Greg Bell. “They deprive unions of the leverage and financing needed to effectively represent workers. And that’s the point of the legislation.” [read more]

From Heroes to Villains?
Union Workers and 9-11

(09/01/12) Following the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation paid tribute to the workers who faced unimaginable danger when they responded to the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Three hundred fortythree firefighters and 72 police officers were among those who lost their lives, and many other rescue workers were injured. Although it received little notice at the time, most of the workers who were celebrated in the media and honored by politicians were union members — and many were unionized government employees. Today, however, public-sector employees are vilified by antilabor politicians and pundits... [read more]

GOP Votes Pay Cut
For Postal, Federal Workers

(05/11/12) The House of Representatives voted for a 5 percent cut in postal and federal workers’ pay on May 10 by approving an increase in employees' pension contributions. Republican members of the House provided all 218 votes in favor of the measure, while 183 Democrats and 16 Republicans opposed it. [read more]

Whose Side Are They On?
The GOP’s Continuing War
On Government Workers

(This article first appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

It didn’t take long for anti-worker politicians who took control of several state governments in the 2010 elections to unveil their agenda for public employees: By early 2011, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states demanded pay cuts and benefit reductions from teachers, nurses and firefighters, as well as restrictions on their bargaining rights — even as they cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

50,000 citizens and union members rallied to “Reclaim Wisconsin” at the state capitol in Madison on March 12, 2012. The protest marked one year since Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature passed a bill stripping public employees’ bargaining rights.

The assault on state and local government workers proved to be just the opening salvo in what has become a struggle to determine whether the powerful one percent of Americans will continue to prosper at the expense of the other 99 percent.

Despite workers’ protests in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota and despite the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that spread across the nation last year, anti-worker politicians in the House of Representatives and Senate remain committed to an agenda that will weaken the middle-class and undermine the American Dream for workers: [read more]

The Organized Attack on Public Employees:
What Does It Mean for Postal Workers?

(This article was first published in the July/August 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Millions of teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public employees across the nation are facing devastating attacks on their right to engage in collective bargaining. And anti-worker politicians have set their sights on postal workers as well. Powerful lawmakers claim that labor costs are to blame for the Postal Service’s financial deficit, and are proposing legislation that would weaken postal unions.

APWU President Cliff Guffey testifies on behalf of the union at an April 5 congressional hearing.

APWU President Cliff Guffey testifies on behalf of the union at an April 5 congressional hearing.

On April 5, President Cliff Guffey stood up for postal workers and the APWU-USPS contract at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — but the inquiry into the Collective Bargaining Agreement — just days before the ratification vote got underway — set a troubling precedent.

The hearing, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), was called to examine the “affordability of the postal workforce, in light of the USPS’s looming insolvency and poor financial outlook.” Contract renewals present the best chance for the Postal Service to find savings, Issa said, but the new contract “falls short of that goal.”

The hearing marked the first time the union and management have been called before Congress to justify a negotiated contract, and the message was clear: The committee’s inquiry marked an attempt to undermine the process that has served the Postal Service — and the nation — well for 40 years. [read more]

Attacks on Public Employees
Target Pay, Benefits, Bargaining Rights

(This article was first published in the April-June 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

As APWU members consider the merits of the tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Postal Service, thousands of public employees across the nation are facing devastating attacks on their right to engage in contract negotiations. At stake is not just a decent standard for living for millions of Americans — teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public employees — but the rights of workers in any industry. Anti-labor legislators have launched an all-out war to deny workers effective union representation, passing bills that would strip collective bargaining rights, enacting so called “right to work,” and “paycheck protection” legislation, and threatening union members and community activists who protest against these measures.

The anti-union campaigns target both public employees and private sector workers, and they are taking place in state capitols across the country where radical politicians took power in the 2010 elections. Nowhere has the assault on workers been more pivotal than in Wisconsin. [read more]

April 4 ‘Day of Solidarity’
APWU Members Rally In Support of Workers’ Rights

(04/04/11) APWU members across the country joined a national “Call to Action” on April 4 to support embattled state and local government workers in states where anti-labor legislators are threatening employees’ rights to collectively bargain and have a voice at work.

Labor unions, activists, and other allies organized more than 1,000 solidarity events across the country as part of the AFL-CIO’s “We Are One” campaign. The primary “Day of Solidarity” takes place on the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968 while in Memphis, TN, to support the city’s sanitation workers demanding the right to bargain collectively for a better life. [read more]

Guffey: Governor’s Attack on Wisconsin Workers
Must Serve as a Wake-Up Call

APWU Web News Article 026-2011, March 10, 2011

“When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and 18 Republican state senators rammed through a bill in the dead of night that strips public workers of their right to collective bargaining, they sent a clear message,” said union President Cliff Guffey. “I hope it serves as a wake-up call for APWU members and all working people.

“They are determined to destroy the right of nurses, teachers and librarians to have a voice at work,” the union president said, “and they have dealt a major blow to democracy. The action of the governor and state senators was an abuse of power and an affront to all working Americans,” he said.

Late on Wednesday, March 9, the governor and Republican state senators passed a bill that attacks middle-class families in Wisconsin by stripping public workers of their right to a voice at work, with a vote of 18-1; no Democratic senators were present.

The bill effectively destroys collective bargaining for state workers, Guffey said. “The bill’s passage jeopardizes the fundamental American values of freedom, fairness, and the right to negotiate for a better life.”

It also poses a threat to other public workers — including APWU members. As the union continues talks with the Postal Service in an attempt to reach agreement on a new contract, Guffey said other states will follow Wisconsin’s lead — “and our right to negotiate may not be far behind,” he warned.

“These anti-labor actions are not unique to one state or sector of the working class,” Guffey said.

APWU members across the country have rallied in support of embattled state and local government employees. [more photos]

While the Wisconsin Senate requires a quorum to vote on any issues that involve spending, Republican lawmakers extracted proposals from Walker’s bill that targeted workers’ right to bargain. A special conference committee — which included only one Democratic House member — approved the revised bill late Wednesday night with no advance notice.

“This is a slap in the face to the middle class, and a major attack on the rights we won over years of struggle,” Guffey said. “Wisconsin lawmakers abused their power, and have denied hard-working people their basic rights in the workplace.

“It is now apparent that legislators never intended to fix a phony budget crisis. They planned to destroy collective bargaining from day one,” the union president said.

Despite this setback, Guffey urges APWU members to continue to show solidarity with embattled workers in Wisconsin and other states where similar actions are being introduced.

“It is more important than ever that we show solidarity,” Guffey said. “We must protect unions — they are our best defense against the assault on working Americans.”

Click here for the latest information about what's happening in the states. Please send high-resolution photos or video clips from local demonstrations to Sally Davidow, APWU Communications Department Senior Manager, at sdavidow@apwu.org.

The Battle in Wisconsin: ‘Are We Next?’
An Urgent Video Message
From APWU President Cliff Guffey

Guffey: Wisconsin battle is over the “fundamental right" of workers to have a voice at work.

(02/25/11) “I want to make sure that every APWU member understands the importance of what is happening in Wisconsin,” says union President Cliff Guffey in a video message. The nurses, teachers, firefighters and police of Wisconsin are fighting for the fundamental right to have a voice at work…“for the American values of freedom, fairness, and the right to speak, organize, and negotiate for a better life.”

“If Gov. Walker succeeds in taking away the rights of middle-class working people, other states will follow his lead — and attacks on our right to negotiate will not be far behind,” Guffey says.

He asks: “If we fail in Wisconsin, who’s next? Are we next?”

APWU members across the country are showing solidarity with embattled public workers in Wisconsin, attending rallies and declaring, “Stop the War on Workers.” Members are encouraged to attend events in their area.

Click here for information about rallies on Feb. 26. Click here for a list of rallies on subsequent days. Please send high-resolution photos or video clips from local demonstrations to Sally Davidow, APWU Communications Department Senior Manager, at sdavidow@apwu.org.

APWU Stands in Solidarity with Embattled Workers

(02/18/11) As embattled state and local workers in Wisconsin protest legislation that would attack public employees’ rights to bargain collectively, the APWU urges members to stand in solidarity with those who would be affected by the bill.

APWU members show Solidarity with Wisconsin public workers at the state capital in Madison.

“We know if they succeed in Wisconsin, we and other workers will be next,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey. “We must stand in solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin.”

On Feb. 12, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) introduced legislation that is being called an “attack on basic rights” by labor leaders across the country. Walker’s legislation would destroy collective bargaining for state workers, undermine middle-class jobs by lowering wages, shrinking benefits, and weakening unions.

Among other assaults on the working class, Walker’s bill would block academic staff and faculty from being represented by a union in collective bargaining, and state employee unions would only be allowed to negotiate over wages. This would take away employees’ ability to file grievances and bargain over benefits such as health care, job security, and workplace protections.

Walker’s proposals sparked a massive uprising in the state capital of Madison starting on Feb. 14. Tens of thousands of employees and labor activists have flooded the Capitol in a demonstration of solidarity against the governor’s attack on public workers. Activists accuse Walker of using a phony budget crisis as an excuse to weaken unions and the middle class.

Similar legislation that would jeopardize collective bargaining for public employees has been introduced in other states, including Ohio, Tennessee, and Indiana.

On Feb. 18, 14 Democratic representatives from Wisconsin departed the Capitol to deny the state Senate a quorum so action on the legislation could not go forward until public hearings are held.

The APWU has joined the AFL-CIO and other labor unions across the country in pledging solidarity with state employees in Wisconsin and Ohio in the “We Are One” campaign. Click here to visit the AFL-CIO’s campaign page and to add a “We Are One” graphic to your Facebook or Twitter account.

“We need to ask ourselves what would happen if Walker’s attacks were successful and unions did not exist,” Guffey said. “Unions are our best defense to stop the assault on the middle class and protect workers.”

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