We Are Stronger With Our Allies
(This article first appeared in the July-August 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By By Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) has begun bargaining with the United States Postal Service (USPS) for a new contract, and members know this is our bread and butter. This is one of the primary reasons why we signed up to join our union. We are focused on getting the best deal possible for our members and their families while securing the future of the postal service.
Because our members have been united, in the past we’ve been successful. If we stay united, with a broad vision of social justice, I believe we will be successful now and into the future.
Let’s not forget that unions like the APWU achieve success when we unite with others to fight for social and economic justice. Union members win – along with all working people – when we take on concerns like racial discrimination, public education, voting rights, women’s issues, child labor, minimum wage, Social Security, unemployment insurance and more. These are issues that affect all of us – our members, our families and our neighbors.
Workers do not live in a vacuum, we live in communities. When services are cut, roads and bridges start to crumble and schools lack sufficient funding, postal workers suffer the consequences.
There have been times, however, when our union – and our labor movement – didn’t get fully involved in social issues. Some members think we should only be involved in bread-and-butter issues on the job, restricting our efforts to fighting for workers in the workplace.
When you say we shouldn’t take a position on an issue of social justice or human rights because it’s “controversial” or “not our fight,” you actually are taking a position. When you ignore or evade injustice, you are making a decision to allow injustice to continue.
We Have to Get Involved
Some union members are content because they feel fortunate to have a union job, believing they can isolate themselves from problems affecting the rest of society. But we can’t just concentrate on our own interests and hope some benefits will trickle down to other workers.
We have to join with teachers across the country demanding money for education, and better pay. We have to raise our voices against the violations of human rights at our borders, when our own government is seizing children and breaking up families. We have to join the fight for a living wage – a higher floor that eventually will raise us all up. We have to fight for equal pay, against discrimination and against exploitation of working people and their families.
Three years ago, I called for a new model of unionism that goes beyond the “service model” – simply filing grievances and fighting over workplace issues. I argued we should move toward “social movement unionism,” working with our allies jointly on social and economic justice issues. In the current environment, the need to create a broad, inclusive alliance of working people inside and outside our union is greater than ever.
We Can’t Go It Alone
With postal workers under attack like never before, and a new threat by the White House to privatize the Postal Service, we need allies. We will find them – and we are finding them – when we join broad coalitions fighting for social and economic justice, united against those who perpetrate and perpetuate injustice.
A united campaign for economic inequality leads directly to issues that concern us as postal workers. Working people everywhere – union and non-union – have a common interest in preserving a strong public Postal Service, which is a benefit to every community in our nation. Our allies will be eager to help us, especially if we stand beside them in their fights.
The old model of just concentrating on our internal issues will not save the people’s postal service and protect the jobs, wages and economic security of our members. We have to change if we expect to win this fight. We must broaden our efforts and include natural allies who will strengthen our hand. Truly, we are stronger together