Will You Get Involved This Year?
We Need Everyone to Be a Union Activist!
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Vice President Debby Szeredy
In 1970, members on the workroom floor walked off the job and took a stand to fight back, risking it all for a better career. Are workers today willing to walk off the job and to stand up and fight back?
We are heading into difficult times that call for strategic actions. How important is it to you to keep your wages, rights and benefits? Are you willing to forfeit all the gains previous postal workers fought for? We need to prepare now for the attacks various local, state and the federal government bodies are planning to launch on the working class.
Right to Work for Less
Before President Trump took office, our rights were under attack by state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. Right now, states are passing so called “Right-to-Work” (RTW) laws that will in reality cause workers in these states to work for less.
With the weakening of unions, workers in RTW states earn significantly less than workers in non-RTW states (over $1,500 a year, on average). The anti-worker legislation also weakens safety standards and job security. As wages remain low around us, it will be harder to negotiate raises in any union contract. All workers are together in this fight against the “race to the bottom.”
Most workers today do not have a contract. Others have a contract, but lost their pensions or health care benefits. Without a contract, non-union workers do not have a protected voice or rights in their workplace.
In our country, just 11 percent of jobs have any form of union representation. As unionized postal workers, we have a lot to be grateful for. APWU activists and leaders continue to work to maintain our benefits, but we need more members to become activists.
The struggle to keep good paying jobs with benefits and good services is still ongoing. Not only are we constantly fighting, but our postal sisters and brothers in the United Kingdom and Canada are as well. Postal workers in Britain were forced to go on strike during the 2016 Christmas Season in order to stand up and fight back.
Over the next four years, we need to empower our APWU members and build community movement to assist in the struggle to retain everything we have fought for and gain the improvements we still need to preserve our good union jobs.
Making a Difference on the Workroom Floor
Our locals can create a strategy to accomplish APWU’s goals to work with union members on the floor for a better work environment. Together, union workers will become a powerful machine to fight the attacks from rich corporations and politicians who want to privatize the USPS.
Union stewards and officers need all APWU members to participate. If you truly want to win more, you must be active in your local and state union.
Sometimes, it is hard for a member to really understand what “getting involved” means. When you look at the local union’s paper, under officers and stewards, you will see that there are often positions open in the local, some on the executive board and others out at stations and associate offices. Many times, interested members do not step up because they do not know what the vacant position does and whether they may be able to help.
Many members do not mind helping in small ways and would jump at the opportunity if asked, especially if they knew they will receive training for the position they are interested in. The majority of officers and stewards we have on board today were asked by a union officer in the local to step up.
Communication from local officers and stewards to members interested in getting involved must be one-on-one. That only happens when you set a strategy plan for your local to inspire volunteers in each section and/or office, to help educate and motivate members to take part in what goes on.
The APWU has been through many campaigns over the years. We must focus more on organizing our members on the workroom floor into a network of activists. It is up to all of us to reach out to other APWU sisters and brothers in order to build coalitions that give our community strength to save our national treasure.
In-plant and in-office direct actions by the workers will make a difference. It will build confidence that working together we can turn our workplace around. It happens with one small win at a time.
Answer the Call
The following are examples of important activities and actions APWU members can participate in with their union officers and stewards:
- Union worker committees in each section,
- Representing and educating each other about issues concerning workers and USPS customers,
- Filing 1767’s on safety violations instead of letting unsafe work environments continue,
- Meeting with the Manager of Distribution Operations (MDO) or the postmaster to work together against a discriminatory or hostile supervisor, end mandatory overtime and engage in activities to get more staffing,
- Fighting to keep plants open and reverse the first-class mail being worked in other locations,
- Backing up workers who are harassed and unfairly disciplined,
- Fighting retaliation against a sister or brother for union activity, participating in rallies, attending town-hall meetings, communicating with state and federal legislative members, protesting in front of elected officials’ offices and creating petitions.
This call is to all our members and their locals to work together on a strategy to build strength in their own local as well as in their community. It is time to empower APWU members and our communities to take ownership of the public Postal Service. It is time to support the union’s goals to protect our rights and enhance our services.
The APWU’s goals for 2017 include building strength in our local unions. We need to start utilizing deep internal and external organizing programs to build an activist network in every local. There are no shortcuts. We must start organizing. The 2017 Women’s March is just an example of what can be done when people organize.
If you are ready to get started, contact my office for assistance (202-842-4250). We are in this movement together.