A Culture of Solidarity
(This article first appeared in the July-August 2018 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)
By Clerk Craft Directors
The owners of large corporations and their allies are behind the push to degrade and dismantle the Postal Service. Their money largely controls Congress, the media, and the USPS. However, we outnumber the corporate interests 99 to one. We outnumber management 25 to one and to be successful we need to use our advantage in numbers. The national APWU has been assisting our locals to inform the public and utilize collective actions so we can fight back and build a movement. But the question is: how do we get from here to there? How do we create successful collective actions?
Knowing Who We Are
Part of the answer is knowing who we are. Mass participation in strikes, boycotts, and other collective actions is the proven recipe for success that has given postal workers and other working people all that is decent in our lives. This history is not told in the corporate media because it does not benefit business owners to do so. Our bold actions are often not taught in our classrooms except by brave teachers who go outside the pages of corporate textbooks. It is up to us to know who we are in the context of history and carry on the struggle.
Friendship and Community
Part of the answer is to build friendships and community amongst ourselves. At all levels of the union, the gatherings where we participate in discussion, eat and socialize together all serve to increase our love for each other and our ability to act in a collective manner.
Many locals rightly include social activities as part of our movement. Dances, sports, music, picnics, and parties all bring us together and build community. The best local organizing includes whole families so that our children and grandchildren are involved and our culture of union values is passed on to the next generations of fighters.
A Culture of Solidarity
When I started at the Postal Service, my elders in the union set a good tone by being very welcoming to new employees. Although not all stewards or officers, their smiles and advice to the new people helped maintain a culture of solidarity on the work floor. Because we cared for one another, we took the union slogan of “an injury to one is an injury to all” to heart.
This culture of solidarity was partly a result of the fact that many of the workers in my local were veterans of the Vietnam War and some from the Korean War and even World War II. Many of them lived through active combat and had harsh words for what the government did to them and others. For many, protecting their brothers next to them in battle was their motivation during the war. Many brought their ethic and brotherhood from military service to the United States Postal Service and continued caring for each other in the workplace. Both veterans and everyone else worked to make the Post Office a place where our most vulnerable were loved and protected.
Small Actions to Big Actions
When a group of friends participate in small group actions they learn from that experience and utilize that education for the next action, leading to better actions in the future. Small actions like signing a petition, wearing t-shirts on the same day, addressing the supervisor at the same time and informational pickets are experiences that can lead to larger successful collective actions necessary to create positive change.
To achieve a better world, working people will need to engage in mass collective actions such as strikes and boycotts to counter the corporate interests keeping us down. Learning who we are, building friendships and community, creating a culture of solidarity and engaging in small collective actions that develop into something bigger is one way to get from here to there.