An Action-Packed Year
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Frederick Douglas, the renowned anti-slavery leader, declared, “Without struggle there can be no progress.”
Certainly during 2015 we engaged in lots of needed struggle in the fight for workers’ rights and in defense of our wonderful national treasure, the public Postal Service. And, indeed, we have made some real progress.
We began 2015 by establishing A Grand Alliance to Save the Public Postal Service, which now consists of over 80 national organizations! Toward the end of the year we launched a nationwide campaign to Stand Up for Safe Jobs!
Throughout 2015 the national APWU leadership largely focused on contract negotiations with the United States Postal Service and our campaign for Good Postal Service! Good Jobs! Good Contract! With your support, we refused to cave in to management’s demands for a new round of concessions on wages, benefits, and rights.
In February 2015, we initiated the Campaign for Postal Banking, calling on the Postal Service to offer low-cost financial services. The campaign is on the march and got a huge shot in the arm when Sen. Bernie Sanders injected the issue into the presidential campaign.
We turned up the heat in our efforts to stop the USPS dirty deal with Staples, which privatizes postal retail operations. And we have already won an important victory, as the USPS has admitted that – as a result of our efforts – they are now having problems finding other “retail partners” to embrace their privatization schemes. And – so far –the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has blocked Staples’ merger with Office Depot, thanks in large part to the APWU.
As a result of aggressive enforcement of the union contract and other agreements with the USPS, the APWU has been successful in winning more work and has secured the conversion of thousands of Postal Support Employees to career – a life-changing, union-won benefit.
Through a nationwide coordinated campaign to stop plant closings and consolidations, we helped win a one-year moratorium on further plant closings and consolidations. We were able to extend for at least three years the 50-mile limit on excessing, a huge relief to our members.
While we did not succeed in winning a return to overnight delivery standards through the Congressional appropriations process, we have built much support on Capitol Hill for the campaign to Stop Delaying America’s Mail.
And, for the first time in over a decade, our union actually grew.
Active, United, Strong
We began 2016 more active, more united, and stronger.
Now that we are a few months into the new year, it is already proving to be action-packed. Some highlights include:
The battle for a new union contract between the APWU and USPS is moving forward. We have now begun the process of “interest arbitration.” (See page 6.) The national APWU leadership is fully prepared to present the best possible case and defeat management’s concessionary demands for a new lower-paid career work force, the elimination of our cost-of-living adjustments, and weakening our protections against layoffs. Members will be keeping the heat on, demanding a decent Collective Bargaining Agreement that honors and respects the work we do.
The current moratorium on plant closings is only in effect until April. The struggle continues to halt management’s plans to shrink and disrupt the workforce and undermine postal services to the people.
One Person, One Vote
In August we will hold our union’s 23rd National Convention, the “grand union meeting” and the highest authority of the APWU. We look forward to considering the many constructive resolutions coming through your local unions, which will help set the direction of the APWU for the coming years. This is your union and everyone has a chance to have their view expressed through their elected local and state delegates.
Our national union election process will begin in May, culminating with the vote count in October. The National Election Committee is already hard at work. The APWU is truly a democratic union – one that still holds “one person, one vote” elections. I encourage every member to engage in the debate and participate in this important democratic process.
This is also a presidential election year. Despite the extensive corporate control of our elections and our government, and a rigged system that is stacked against working families, we should certainly engage in a political process that has large ramifications for the Postal Service. That is why the National Executive Board has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for President and encourages our members to get involved. We also will pay close attention to important 2016 Senate and House races.
And we urge APWU members to get more involved in issue-based “referenda politics” – from raising the minimum wage to protecting our cherished right to vote.
We are long overdue for legislative action to end the Postal Service’s manufactured financial crisis by terminating the outrageous requirement to pre-fund future retiree health care costs. Congress created the problem; Congress should fix it. We are working with the other postal unions, postal management and a number of mailers in continuing efforts to craft positive postal legislation.
These are some of the major issues of 2016, but they are certainly not our only important battles. From the local unions to national headquarters, we will enforce the contract and fight for every job. The call to Stand up for Safe Jobs is an all-year-round campaign. We will promote the Staples boycott with our friends, neighbors and co-workers until the company gets out of the postal business. We will continue to expand the Campaign for Postal Banking and build the Grand Alliance. We will work closely with the other postal unions, the labor movement and our community allies in our common efforts to defend the “public good” and public postal services, retirees’ rights and benefits, stop rotten trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), get corporate money out of politics, defend voting rights, and join hands in solidarity with all who are willing to engage in our common fight for workplace and community justice.
I encourage every member, active and retired, career and non-career, postal and private sector, to commit some of your talent and time to the union cause. The union is only as strong as we make it!