02/19/2015 – Contract negotiations between the American Postal Workers Union and the U.S. Postal Service got underway on Feb. 19 with a dramatic break with tradition. Joining the APWU at the opening session were actor-activist Danny Glover and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who made brief remarks following a statement by APWU President Mark Dimondstein. National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando joined APWU negotiators at the bargaining table as well..
Their presence was designed to send a message: The U.S. Postal Service belongs to the people, and the people have a stake in the union’s fight to protect and strengthen a great national treasure.
Also observing the session were Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC); Jim Hightower commentator and editor of the Hightower Lowdown; Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America; J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees; Matt Myers representing AFSCME President Lee Saunders; Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Rev. Terry Melvin, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
“The APWU is passionate in our support for the crucial mission of the public Postal Service, which is outlined in the 1971 Postal Reorganization Act. But today, and it’s no secret, we believe that this mission is in jeopardy,” Dimondstein said. “It’s threatened by a congressionally-manufactured financial crisis, by those on Wall Street that would like to get their hands on the Postal Service’s $65 billion in annual revenue, and by ideologues who oppose the very concept of the public good.. [Click here for video]
“While we truly and sincerely welcome the appointment of Postmaster General Megan Brennan and the opportunity for change, it must be said from our side that the policies and practices of the Board of Governors and too many postal executives over the last few years have led to severely degraded services, delaying of the mail, too much subcontracting, and partial privatization,” he added.
“I am here today as a relatively new president of the APWU because our members are deeply dissatisfied with the current state of affairs and they are looking for and expect change,” Dimondstein said. “Our members want an end of what we call a three-tiered structure that pays workers significantly different amounts for performing the same work.
“We want an end to the situation where new hires can barely make a living wage and where full-time career workers are replaced. We strive for dignity and respect on the job,” he stated. “We believe that postal workers should be justly compensated for our service and our work be provided a safe workplace and after our careers have concluded, enjoy a dignified retirement.”
“We look at these negotiations as not only an opportunity to not only justly reward postal workers but an opportunity to promote a vision of a postal service vibrant for generations to come. We will be putting forth proposals for maintaining overnight delivery standards, halting plant closings, expanding hours of service and staffing for better customer convenience and service and financial services and postal banking.”
Glover – the son of postal workers – said that he has lived in the same zip code since he was 11 and that these negotiations would have an impact on his community. [Click here for video]
“I am here on behalf of all the workers that provide an extraordinary service to the community, extraordinary leadership in the community and are redefining and enhancing the whole idea of community. This is an unfamiliar state, but an important state for me,” Glover said.
“But I hope, with all due respect for these workers and all due respect to this public institution, that we sit here and honor this moment,” he added. “We owe it not only in our relationships to the customers, but to the citizens of this great country.”
Trumka stated that he was at the bargaining table at “an unusual capacity,” speaking on behalf of 12.5 million workers. [Click here for video]
“These bargaining sessions and negotiations are important to the United States and to working families everywhere,” he said. “For decades the USPS has been a source of good jobs and reliable service. Postal Services have been a cornerstone for all the communities in our great nation. That’s what the flag means. That’s what the emblem on the side of post offices and on delivery trucks everywhere means.”
“The income gap between wealthiest and the rest of us is wider than any time in the last century and this brutal fact threatens to drag down our entire national economy,” Trumka remarked. “Yet, right here, workers are sitting across the table from the management in a process that can truly reverse that devastating tale. What happens right here will send a message and a powerful signal – your work together can show America that the way toward raising wages, point toward progress with mutual respect and collective action.
“The eyes of American workers are focused on these negotiations and we are anxious to see if you can climb back up the economic ladder to the middle class or lead a slide further down the economy,” he concluded. “Only time and these negotiations will tell. I am here to lend full support. In the end, we all want success for the Postal Service.”