In 2021, Have a Happy, Safe Workplace

Debby Szeredy

January 11, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

We are given a new chance to build a stronger local, state and national American Postal Workers Union in 2021. We need more members stepping up and accepting the call to be engaged, as well as officers engaging in programs and activities that can help members find their passion and continue to build the union power that can make change.

When we came to the Post Office, many people said to themselves, “I’m not going to do this job for the rest of my life.” I can tell you what I found out: bringing compassion to your work through volunteering with the local can help make the workplace better and your life better.

Making a happy workplace happens when workers are compassionate and stick together, finding strength in numbers that force management to make the changes that are needed. You may have dreams about the kind of work you want to explore, but unable to reach those dreams because of the way you have had to work shortstaffed, not able to take quality time off, and/or can not afford to explore the work you would love to do.

Engaging in union work could surprise you because the APWU needs help with work that is compassionate, and gives you responsibilities in helping others. This work is needed if your dream is working with finance, websites, social media, art, photography, planning events, helping those with disabilities, child care, music, safety and health, research, climate change, politics and legislation, law (stewards are similar to lawyers), organizing and strategy work. Some work is considered on the clock, some off the clock paid by the local, and some is volunteer.

The pandemic and the election led to people seeing postal workers as more essential and compassionate. We need that compassion on the workroom floor.

Take advantage of having a union in your workplace. The union can provide you access to rights you would not normally have at a non-union workplace. Do not overlook that power. Over the years, people have forgotten what you can win with a strong union that has active members. Unions are a perfect way to make change in your workplace. It’s not just asking, “what is the union doing for me,” because in truth, the union is you. Each local has a constitution that runs the local and if you want to make better changes you have the ability to do so by following procedures to make a change in the language, or add programs or activities you think are important.

Your participation at the union membership meetings and voting is how this democracy works. If you feel your officer or union steward isn’t doing a good job, don’t just stay quiet and feel there is nothing you can do. Meet with that steward or officer, give them ideas or suggestions on how you think something could be better. Be willing to help make a difference. Leaders are not born, they are made. We all have the ability to accept the calling to be more compassionate and to become engaged in the union.

We know from this last election how we must build the bridges between the two platforms. Compassion and social action are the answer of our times. People want and have an intense desire for unity. There is a real possibility that workers can help to bring about this unity, but it has to start at home in our workplace. Let’s leave a compassionate workplace for our children.

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