President Dimondstein and Northeast Region Coordinator Dirzius Visit Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
APWU Members Highlight Challenges after Catastrophic Hurricanes
President Mark Dimondstein and Northeast Region Coordinator John H. Dirzius recently visited Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to talk with APWU members affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The purpose of the trip was to hear first-hand what is on the minds of our members five months after the hurricanes devastated their homes, their lives and their work sites.
During a large meeting with the Puerto Rico Area Local and almost a dozen workplace visits, President Dimondstein and Coordinator Dirzius provided members with updates on current issues confronting the APWU, including the upcoming contract negotiations and issues surrounding the Postal Support Employee (PSE) conversion to career process.
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando and NALC National Business Agent Larry Cirelli were also in the Caribbean talking with their members. The unions came together whenever possible to jointly talk to all postal workers.
Members Kept Mail Service Going During Trying Times
The national officers recognized and thanked APWU members for their courage in keeping America’s public Postal Service open and functioning. Immediately after the hurricanes – when their homes were severely damaged, or in some cases destroyed, and many people had no electricity or water – most postal workers came back to work as soon as possible to get the mail out. Workers set up tents to sort mail so the public could go pick up needed supplies, checks, packages and letters from loved ones.
“It was so impressive to see that, despite the personal hardships of our members, postal workers continued to carry out their mission to service the Puerto Rican and Virgin Island people,” said President Dimondstein. “While much of what our members do is behind the scenes and we are often the ‘hidden heroes,’ our work was vital in bringing normalcy back to the devastated islands and their communities.”
Too many of our APWU members still remain without electricity - and some even without water. A generator is their sole source of power for their day-to-day living activities.
Met with San Juan Mayor
While in San Juan, the union met with the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, to thank her for her strong, public stance that the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico need full assistance and help from the federal government. The APWU also thanked Cruz for her strong support of unions and her public opposition to the privatization of the island’s electrical services.
Cruz warmly received the APWU’s leadership and had an outstanding sense of the value of the public Postal Service and how it affects her communities. She graciously accepted an invitation to be a speaker at the APWU’s 24th Biennial Convention in August.
Saluted Local Leaders
President Dimondstein and Coordinator Dirzius also saluted the Caribbean APWU local leaders – Puerto Rico Area Local President Juan Carlos González-Del Valle and Virgin Islands Area Local President Becky Simmonds – for their exceptional leadership during this difficult time.
González-Del Valle and Simmonds worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their members, going well beyond the duties of a local union president, to help their sisters and brothers. Not only did they assist their own members, but they went out of their way to check in on the families of APWU members in the states. These leaders were always available for joint daily conference calls with the national officers and postal management. On the calls, they had their agenda items ready to be discussed to help restore our jobs, our members’ standard of living, and our postal services.
“It is said that when times are tough, a leader’s true colors are revealed,” said Coordinator Dirzius. “Our local presidents are shining stars and their collective efforts are greatly appreciated by so many.”
APWU Locals Came Together to Assist Affected Sisters and Brothers
As reported in The American Postal Worker, across the United States, dozens of APWU locals and state organizations sent money and supplies to their sisters and brothers in the Caribbean.
“Throughout the APWU, many of our members, locals, and state organizations opened their hearts after the hurricanes,” President Dimondstein said. “Such generosity was clearly appreciated by the members of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”
There is still a great deal of work that must be done to restore normalcy back to the lives of our members. The APWU continues to play a major role in working to improve these conditions and to make certain that our collective bargaining agreement is enforced and honored.