(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By President Mark Dimondstein
Our labor anthem is “Solidarity Forever.” I sign letters “in union solidarity.”
But what is solidarity?
The dictionary definition is: “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.”
There are many examples of real-life solidarity:
- Writing a statement for a co-worker who has been wronged, not allowing career and non-careers to be divided, fighting together for safe workplaces, and standing up when we see co-workers sexually, or otherwise, harassed by management.
- Teacher and education workers rising up from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Oakland and Chicago -- in defense of public education, smaller classroom sizes and needs of the students.
- The Oklahoma Postal Workers Union distributing food and beverages to the teachers marching from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, the Greater Los Angeles Area Local joining picket lines during the recent teachers strike, Bay Area retirees joining with striking Marriot workers demanding “One Job Should Be Enough,” the Lehigh Valley Area Local gathering food for the federal workers locked out during the government shutdown.
- The Association of Flight Attendants producing a video for their members opposing postal privatization.
- Respecting the union-called boycott of Oreo cookies in defense of unionized Chicago workers facing the export of their jobs.
- The October 8th National Day of Action that The U.S Mail is Not for Sale! campaign coordinated with the other postal unions.
- Support for striking Canadian postal workers as they strive for a decent new contract.
- Standing with fast food workers fighting for $15/hour and a union.
- Teacher and other unions backing the Stop Staples boycott and helping to bring about the victorious conclusion.
- APWU local and state unions sending supplies and money to support brothers and sisters devastated by hurricanes, fires and floods.
- Building A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service and uniting with the public to defend and expand public Postal Services as the White House seeks to sell our national treasure to private corporations.
- All 56 AFL-CIO unions united in opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) rotten trade deal.
- Ten air traffic controllers, too exhausted and sick to come to work, disrupting air traffic, thus forcing an end to the outrageous 35-day government shutdown (lock-out) of 800,000 federal workers.
With solidarity we win. When Charleston, SC dockworkers were forced on strike in 2000 by a shipping company trying to break the union, Danish, Swedish and Spanish dockworkers stood in international solidarity and refused to handle “scab” cargo in their respective countries. This proved instrumental in winning that fight.
Without solidarity, we lose. The Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) went on strike in 1981 and the Reagan administration set out to break the strike and union. The AFL-CIO refused to stand in solidarity, and other unionized airline workers crossed picket lines. The union was broken and all workers were injured, for the defeat opened the floodgates of striker replacement, union busting and concessionary contracts.
Solidarity leads workers to a better life. Our union was built in the solidarity of the unlawful Great Postal Strike of 1970. It should remain part of our very being, part of our “DNA.” We are now heading into the challenging process of interest arbitration to win a new, decent union contract that respects postal workers’ hard work and contributions. We must be united to successfully win our demands and resist management’s regressive proposals (see next page). Solidarity with each other on the workroom floor, among all crafts, between local and national leaders and with our community allies must be stronger than ever as we are Fighting Today for a Better Tomorrow!