UNI Congress in Cape Town: 'Ubuntu'

March 1, 2015

Share this article

(This article first appeared in the March-April 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Two APWU officers – Retirees Director Judy Beard and Research & Education Director Joyce Robinson – attended UNI Global Union’s Fourth Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, in early December, which focused on the welfare of workers worldwide.
While learning about the struggles of workers around the globe, Beard and Robinson discussed the Stop Staples campaign and asked participants to boycott the more than 25 Staples locations outside of the U.S. They also discussed postal banking.

“Anytime and anywhere we can learn something to help us save jobs, improve service, and exchange information to build workers’ power, that’s a good thing” Beard said.


The Rich are Getting Richer’

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an organization dedicated to the trade unions of South Africa, welcomed the Congress.

“You represent and fight for millions of the most exploited and vulnerable workers in a vast range of jobs,” he said, as he thanked attendees for helping to end apartheid in South Africa.

Although apartheid has ended, “the working class majority continues to face the very same old problems – poverty, job insecurity, discrimination, racism, and health and safety dangers – at the same time our employers are getting bigger and bigger, and richer and richer, and inequality between the rich and poor is growing,” Vavi said.

Congress participants pledged to dedicate themselves to the fight for justice for all workers, asserting that they “are all one people and this is our fight.”

“The only way to have our fair share of the wealth is for workers of the world to continue to exchange ideas, educate our members, and support each other,” Beard said.

UNI Women’s Conference

Beard and Robinson also attended the UNI World Women’s Conference, which took place two days prior to the World Congress. The delegation pledged to stand up for fair and just societies, equal pay, and working lives that are free from fear.

Beard noted that American women make 77 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Women at the conference sympathized with many of the stories they heard from their sisters around the world.

Robinson, who sits on UNI’s World Board, said the organization is committed to fighting for equal pay for work of equal value.

“The last 10 years have seen no meaningful progress in closing gender pay disparities at the world level. UNI has launched a Campaign to Eradicate the Gender Pay Gap, which will begin on Oct. 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty,” she pointed out.

Remembering Nelson Mandela

This was Beard’s second time visiting South Africa as an APWU representative in 20 years. She said it was a “humbling experience,” since the convention was in Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison as a result of fighting apartheid.

“Mandela’s selfless leadership and commitment to the labor movement cannot be underestimated at a time when the world is struggling against record levels of economic injustice,” said UNI Global Union Secretary Philip Jennings.

“This was my first visit to South Africa,” Robinson noted. “Many were forced to live in with as many as 12 people in two rooms – with no running water, dirt floors, and borrowed electricity. But they showed no bitterness. We must work to improve conditions for workers worldwide.”

Throughout the Congress, participants often repeated the word “Ubuntu,” which is an ancient African word that means “including you.”

Let’s work together, APWU brothers and sisters, Ubuntu!

Stay in touch with your union

Subscribe to receive important information from your union.