APWU Leaders and Members on the Frontlines in 2020

November 17, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

From a solid new union contract to the tragic pandemic, from a new PMG and mail delays to actions in support of racial justice, through the most pivotal presidential election in modern history, 2020 proved to be one of the most eventful years in recent times.

As we did 50 years ago in the Great Postal Strike, postal workers, both active and retired, showed once again that we are up to any challenge. From our many efforts, the support of the people for the public Postal Service is at an all-time high.

January: APWU builds a coalition and delivers over 400,000 petition signatures to Postal Board of Governors for a PMG who supports the people’s Post Office

After Postmaster General Megan Brennan announced her retirement, the APWU and A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service immediately began a petition drive demanding that the Postal Board of Governors appoint a new Postmaster General who would uphold the mission of the public Postal Service.

Over 400,000 signatures were presented to USPS Headquarters on January 6, from the APWU and allies including Social Security Works, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, Alliance for Retired Americans, the Center for Community Change, Our Revolution and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

February: APWU Hard Work Leads to USPS Fairness Act’s Bipartisan Passage in the House of Representatives

The USPS Fairness Act (H.R 2382) called for a full repeal of the retiree health benefit prefunding mandate in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. This onerous mandate was responsible for 92 percent of the Postal Service’s financial losses since 2007.

On Feb. 5, it came up for a vote in the House of Representatives. As a result of the diligent, continued efforts by APWU active and retired members, and our sister postal unions and allies, the bill passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming, bipartisan support: 306 ‘yea,’ 106 ‘nay.’ A companion bill introduced in Senate with bipartisan support stalled due to COVID-19 legislative priorities.

March: New Union Contract

On March 10, following 20 months of preparation, member and local union input, the Fighting Today For a Better Tomorrow contract campaign, negotiations, mediation, and the interest arbitration hearings, Neutral Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg issued his binding decision on a new contract between the APWU and the USPS.

The APWU secured retroactive annual pay raises, full (and retroactive) COLA and protected the no lay-off provisions for career employees. We narrowed the gap between the lower and higher career pay scales, achieved the career conversions of thousands of PSEs and enhanced job security protections.

The favorable terms of the contract would not have been possible without the strong case prepared and presented by the APWU Industrial Relations Department and Clerk, Maintenance, and MVS Division Officers in interest arbitration, during which 32 APWU members also testified about their work.

March: APWU Immediately Takes Actions to Keep Members Safe during COVID-19 Pandemic. APWU's Successful Efforts Continue Throughout the Year

Immediately upon hearing about the likelihood of COVID-19 becoming a global crisis, National APWU leaders began meeting with USPS management to discuss the Postal Service’s response and plans to keep employees safe. The National APWU negotiated a series of Temporary Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) and secured COVID related liberal leave policy. The USPS began issuing Stand Up Talks to postal workers on the coronavirus.

By the middle of March, the APWU launched apwu.org/coronavirus and provided information and latest news on the virus for local officers and members. The APWU ensured that proper personal protective equipment (PPE) was supplied to postal workers and proper safety protocols were put in place by management.

When many schools and businesses closed or dramatically altered operations, APWU members continued serving their communities as essential, frontline workers. The public again saw postal worker heroes as a vital lifeline, bringing supplies and a sense of normalcy.

The APWU mourns the loss of all our fellow postal workers and union brothers and sisters who were victims of the pandemic. We extend our deep sympathy to their families and loved ones.

March: Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Great Postal Strike

Although the coronavirus forced the scheduled March commemoration event of the 1970 Great Postal Strike to be canceled, the union still released a series of materials commemorating the strike.

The APWU also produced and posted an inspirational video, telling the story of the strike from the strikers themselves. It can be viewed at apwu.org/video-library.

April: As the economy shut down, projected USPS financial situation became dire. APWU broadcasts need for emergency funding.

As the pandemic spread, the economy dived, putting the entire country into a deep recession. The loss of business advertisements and first-class mail revenue brought a projected financial crisis for the Postal Service, even while package volume was high. The Postal Service also had unforeseen expenses with the need for PPE, proper COVID-19 safety measures, and additional paid leave for those affected by COVID-19 and its impact.

On April 9, then-Postmaster General Brennan testified before Congress about the Postal Service’s COVID-19 financial crisis. The bipartisan Postal Board of Governors called on Congress for $75 billion dollars of needed emergency financial relief – $25 billion of the request was specifically for revenue lost because of the pandemic.

Postal workers were key in getting the message out about the critical need for an emergency appropriation for the USPS from Congress. Over many months, President Dimondstein appeared in multiple national news outlets – both newspapers, radio and television – reaching tens of millions of viewers and readers.

The APWU produced a video advertisement as well as radio announcements that aired across the country, encouraging the public to urge their Congressional representatives to support the USPS (view at apwu.org/video-library). Additionally, hundreds of APWU members wrote letters to the editor to their local papers, and wrote and called their representatives in Congress.

June: APWU Members Join the Struggle for Racial Justice Following Murder of George Floyd

On June 1, President Dimondstein, Executive Vice President Szeredy, and Secretary-Treasurer Powell issued a statement forcefully condemning George Floyd’s murder. “We encourage our members and locals to speak out, protest and demand justice for George Floyd’s family and community,” the statement read. Many members around the country joined protests for racial justice.

June: APWU Members Caravan for Racial and Economic Justice in National AFL-CIO Event

On June 17, the AFL-CIO held over 600 “Workers First” Caravans for Racial and Economic Justice, including a major car caravan in Washington, D.C. with more than 1,200 vehicles participating.

APWU members joined with union brothers and sisters across the country to demand the White House and Congress address the AFL-CIO’s five Economic Essentials for workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. These “essentials” include keeping frontline workers safe, protecting and expanding health insurance, job creation by rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, and emergency financial relief for local and state governments, public schools and the Postal Service.

June: Union and Allies Deliver Two Million Petition Signatures to Congress

On June 23, the union led the Day of Action centered on the APWU’s demand for $25 billion in emergency postal funding. It highlighted the public’s strong support for the Postal Service.

Following a car caravan through Washington, D.C., the APWU delivered over two million petition signatures to Congress calling for emergency postal funding. Signatures were collected by the APWU, Move-On and RuralOrganizing.org, the AFL-CIO, #Resistbot, Public Citizen, and others.

Throughout the day, APWU members across the country gained attention from local newspapers and television outlets. The event kicked off a summer of APWU action.

The union followed up with a nationwide “Call Congress” day, on July 23. Almost 30,000 calls to the Senate were made – averaging one call every three seconds. The U.S. Capitol switchboard had trouble keeping up with the volume.

June - August: President Dimondstein Testifies Before Congress on Voting by Mail

On June 11, President Dimondstein testified before the Congressional Committee on House Administration on Voting Rights and Election Administration, and on August 28 before the Committee on Homeland Security.

His testimony came as it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic would lead a record number of voters to choose to vote by mail. President Dimondstein’s testimony underscored that delivering mail ballots is part of the vital mission of postal workers, and is tried, tested, popular and virtually free of fraud.

Summer: International Solidarity

We stood in solidarity with 100,000 Brazilian Postal Workers who in August went on strike against the government’s efforts to privatize the Post Office. In June, we shared our common struggles in a “cross Atlantic” meeting with the leaders and members of the APWU and the Communication Workers Union of Great Britain. We addressed the September conference of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas on the situation facing postal workers in the United States and throughout the continent.

Like the pandemic, privatizers know no borders and postal workers must be united in the struggle to preserve union jobs and benefits, public services for the good of the people and help uplift workers the world over.

July - September: Regional Meetings Over Zoom

This pandemic caused every organization to alter the ways they do business and the APWU was up to the challenge.

After the APWU National Executive Board voted to postpone the 2020 APWU National Convention (to October 4-7, 2021), the Secretary-Treasurer’s department worked with the Regional Coordinators to schedule five separate Regional Zoom Meetings with local, state, retiree and auxiliary leaders and activists.

These meetings were part of the National’s continued efforts to communicate with the members and build the union in these trying and challenging times. In addition, many educational programs by the different APWU National departments are available virtually. You can go to apwu.org/events to see what educational programs are coming up.

August: APWU Members Rally the Community and Deliver the Message to Stop Delays and #SavethePostOffice

In July, shortly after his appointment as the 75th Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy began instituting a series of harmful policy changes that severely delayed mail processing and delivery. APWU National and local leaders sounded the alarm, pushing back against the changes. In hundreds of interviews for newspapers, television and radio, APWU leaders called for an immediate stop to the changes and for $25 billion in emergency postal funding. Building on this visibility and establishing the APWU as the leading truth tellers, the APWU’s social media channels gained nearly 200,000 new followers.

The momentum carried into August 25, when APWU members; labor, civil and human rights activists; community allies; and lawmakers joined together at post offices across the country in a Save the Post Office Day of Action. An estimated 300 events were held across the country, with thousands participating. The events earned hundreds of additional media stories in national outlets and local news.

Following massive public pressure led by the APWU, DeJoy announced he would suspend most of the negative changes until after the November election. In late September and early October, four federal courts issued temporary injunctions halting these changes until after the election. Facing a public outcry focused on potential delays of election mail, DeJoy signed off on a joint task force committee with USPS management and the postal unions, including hundreds of joint committees at the local level. Postal workers once again rose to the call of duty and delivered democracy.

July - November: APWU’s “Labor 2020” Effort Contributes to Biden/Harris Victory

With emergency postal funding, labor rights and the future of the public Postal Service on the line, the APWU’s Legislative and Political Department launched the “Labor 2020” program to mobilize voters. Following the launch of “Labor 2020” at the APWU’s Regional Meetings, the program set up apwu.org/labor-2020, a central location of resources for members to get involved. The site helped members check their voter registration, register to vote, and request their mail-in ballots.

The APWU’s efforts worked in tandem with the AFL-CIO’s “Labor 2020” program, to get out the vote by making phone calls and sending text messages into battleground states to encourage voter registration and help voters make a plan to vote.

The work of APWU members, along with that of many other union members across the country, was key in winning many close elections in swing states.


Throughout one of the most eventful and difficult years in recent history, APWU members consistently showed up time and time again to meet our historic challenges. We moved “heaven and earth” to keep the country connected during the pandemic, process a record number of mail-in ballots for the 2020 election on a non-partisan basis, and responded to the attacks on the Postal Service from the highest office in the land. Many of these challenges will continue into the new year.

Louis DeJoy is still Postmaster General, and the Postal Board of Governors, who enabled his policies that significantly delayed the mail, are still in place. Now that the election is over, DeJoy is likely moving forward with “cut and slash” policies that undermine our jobs and the public’s right to good postal services.

Congress needs to be compelled to act on emergency COVID-19 financial relief for the USPS as well as addressing so many of the needs of workers in this pandemic.

As the pandemic continues to rage, health and safety of postal workers must remain in the forefront. Our union contract expires in September 2021 as we build our unity for national negotiations that begin in June.

“The APWU will carry forward our activism of 2020 into the New Year as we face the serious challenges ahead,” said President Dimondstein. “If the APWU family stays focused on what unites us, gets more involved in our union, and stays united with our many allies and the people of this country, there is no battle we can’t win.”

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