APWU National Convention: Delegates Make Progress on Convention Business

August 17, 2022

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APWU 26th Biennial Convention. Day 2 Highlights

After a productive first day of convention, delegates continued on Tuesday to make significant progress on union business.

After a productive first day of convention, delegates continued on Tuesday to make significant progress on union business. They debated and voted on many meaningful resolutions addressing bargaining demands as the Labor-Management Committee, co-chaired by Ken Fajardo, Albuquerque Local, and Wanda Harris, Miami Area Local, continued its report.

Among the adopted resolutions were several dealing with demands for additional types of paid leave. One such resolution, Resolution 30, calls on the APWU to bargain for a sick leave donation program similar to the system for donating annual leave. A pair of resolutions, 33 and 34, were adopted, calling on the union to bargain for paid maternity leave and paid parental leave for postal workers. 

Resolutions that dealt with postal workers’ clothing allowance, Resolutions 62 and 70, which were both adopted by the convention. Resolution 62 calls for the union to bargain for an increase in the clothing allowance for outdoor work in cold weather regions, whereas Resolution 70 calls for the APWU to bargain for a VMF cold weather clothing allowance consistent with NALC’s allowance. 

Another successful resolution, Resolution 43, called for the elimination of Article 12.1.A language regarding probation, and for the union to represent employees from day one in regard to separation from service.  Other successful resolutions addressed bereavement leave and ensuring union notification of the reason for separation of a PSE. 

The Labor-Management committee’s report will continue on Wednesday with several more important resolutions on tap. If Tuesday’s deliberations are any indication, delegates should anticipate another day of spirited debate as the convention displays trade union democracy at its finest. 

Loud and Clear: ‘Protect the right to vote!’

Delegates gathered Tuesday for a rally drawing attention to attacks on vote-by-mail and the nationwide wave of other voter suppression laws. 

Holding signs with messages such as “Vote by Mail Works!” and “Hands Off Voting Rights,” attendees enthusiastically listened as a number of speakers described attempts to subvert democracy through voter suppression and the critical importance of vote-by-mail.

APWU Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell opened the rally saying, “There is no power like postal worker’s power…Are you ready to fight for democracy and vote-by-mail?”
The Democracy Initiative’s Charly Carter called postal workers heroes, saying, “Because of you everyone had those votes counted, demonstrating that vote-by-mail works.”

Throughout the rally, speakers commended postal workers for the work they perform, especially during the pandemic.  AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond said, “You were the glue that kept us together during the worst health crisis we’ve seen in our country.” 

President of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement Yanira Merino talked about the forces at work who oppose democracy as well as worker rights. “We have to show we are united,” she said. “We have to show that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

Our Revolution’s Paco Fabian provided an antidote to voter suppression, saying we need to make sure working-class voters participate in our democracy and vote-by-mail is a key element.” 

APWU Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy encouraged APWU members to bring their activism back to their communities, saying “When you get home, form a committee to get out the vote so we can win in November.”

Rev. Graylan Hagler pumped up the rally, saying “Democracy is about access - access to vote, access to speak, access to stand up, access to be heard, access to make demands.  We don’t intend to do anything less.”

Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants President, expressed her support for vote-by-mail, emphasizing how it provides everyone access to the ballot box.

Marcus Batchelor from People for the American Way praised postal workers for their service. “We know that you not only help our country run, but in 2020 you demonstrated in a very real way how you help our democracy run, how you help some of the most isolated and marginalized people in our community.”

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is disappearing,” said APWU Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard. “They’re stealing our voting rights. And we’re going to stand up and fight back!” 

Concluding the rally, APWU President Mark Dimondstein said “We have a message for the people of our country. Postal workers have your back. We’ve got the back of the people in the country when it comes to exercising your right to vote.” 

Mail Handlers’ President Speaks up for Unity

National Postal Mail Handlers Union President, Paul Hogrogian, addressed the convention with a message of unity. 

“The relationship between our organizations is stronger now than it has been for some time. I was proud to sit with your delegation at the opening of your contract negotiations some time ago. It sends a message to the postal service management that we are united.”

NAACP’s Russell Makes Case for Partnership

Leon Russell, Chair of the NAACP Board of Directors spoke on Tuesday about how we must deepen the partnerships that we have built through the years, including A Grand Alliance and the Save Our Public Postal Service campaigns.

“That partnership, that grand alliance, is an effort joined by labor organizations and civil rights organizations. We understand that together we have the power to make a change in public policy, make the changes that we seek,” he said.

That alliance is vital because our communities are in danger, a danger that comes from “policy makers who encourage us to see ourselves in an “us versus them” context. Instead, he implored, we must seek solutions that benefit society as a whole.

“So I invite you to join us as we organize our communities to save this democracy,” said Russell. With a civic program active in 22 states, the NAACP is looking for 270,000 volunteers across the country. “We’re not telling anybody how to vote, but are telling them that if they recognize their power, if they use their power, if they use their vote, they can make a difference.”

As he finished his remarks, the NAACP Board Chair reiterated that we are stronger together. “Power to the American Postal Workers Union. Power to the people. Thank you. And remember. Partnership. Partnership. Partnership.”

POWER Awards Outstanding Women of APWU 

At the Post Office Women for Equal Rights (POWER) Caucus held August 15, the following awards were presented by Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell to notable women:

Elizabeth “Liz” Powell Executive Award – Tiffany Foster
Joyce B. Robinson Leadership Award – Lynn Pallas-Barber
Nilda Chock Pioneer Award – Bettye Maddox

“I’ve got your back” says Sara Nelson

In an impassioned speech, Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, commended APWU members, stating that “...this union gives me so much hope…this union knows how to fight the union busters.” She referenced the important role that postal workers play in maintaining a universal Postal Service to retain our democracy and standing up to those who would destroy it.

She continued by highlighting the APWU’s resolve in never giving up the fight to overturn 2006 legislation designed to destroy the USPS financially and cited the wildcat strike of 1970, stating “there are no illegal strikes, only unsuccessful ones.”

Nelson spoke about the billionaire-class’s attacks on freedom, equality and democracy, addressing their divisive attacks on women and people of color. 

Nelson went on to say that, in a time when women and people of color are under attack, we must recognize that capitalists are responsible and she emphasized that these actions have nothing to do with morality: “It has to do with whether or not we are going to recognize each other as equal so that we can bargain with the power of that equality together.” 

She continued by saying “until all of us are free, none of us are free… We have to love our country, love our families, love our communities, love our neighbors by loving our union.” She finished with a rallying cry: “I’ve got your back!”

Credentials Commitee

As presented by Co-Chair Cindy Foster of the Charlotte Area Local, the preliminary report for the APWU Credentials Committee for Tuesday, Aug. 16, is as follows:

The 26th Biennial Convention’s 2,026 delegates represent 297 locals, 43 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Also in attendance 69 national officers and four Retiree National Convention Delegates.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence ‘We Kept it Moving’ 

After a warm welcome from Legislative & Political Director and fellow Michigander Judy Beard, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence brought the convention to its feet with a stirring address. Rep. Lawrence reflected on her 30-year postal career and how it prepared her for work in Congress. “I was trained as a public servant in the United States Postal Service,” she said. “And I know how to fight.”

Lawrence applauded postal workers for their service to the people of the country, particularly during the pandemic. “During COVID, the Postal Service showed the world how important and critical we were when it came to our democracy, when it came to our health, prescription drugs, the COVID test kits,” she said. “When it came to ensuring that we were moving the economy when everybody else at home, we kept it moving.”
Following her address, the convention showed their appreciation of the congresswoman in a special way. A delegate from Michigan, noting that the Congresswoman began her postal career as an APWU member, moved that the convention name her an honorary member of the APWU. The hall burst into applause as the motion carried and the union gained yet another member. 

CLUW President: Elise Bryant Sings of Power

Sister Elise Bryant, President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, rounded out the day’s proceedings with an uplifting address. “There is no other force in the United States of America,” said Bryant, “that tells capital how to spend its money except the union movement.” 

“I don’t have to preach to you, you are the choir,” Bryant fittingly added as she, in her inimitable style, led the convention in song throughout her remarks. She sent delegates forth to the voting rights rally with a stirring rendition of our labor anthem “Solidarity Forever.”

Biden to postal workers: You are Essential

President Joe Biden sent a video greeting to delegates. The 46th US President lauded our history and our work as essential to the country.

“It’s simple,” he said, “They believe in you. The American people believe in you. The congress believes in you. The women and men of our postal service are essential to our health, our economy and our democracy.”

COPA Night Goes West

Tuesday, the APWU COPA (Committee on Political Action) Night party was hosted by Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard. Members who contributed $200 or more to COPA since July 2020 put on their best Western gear to celebrate their achievements. 

President Dimondstein, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell and Legislative Director Beard presented awards to the three highest COPA contributors during the 2020-2022 COPA cycle. They were: 

Shirley Taylor, NBA San Francisco (Burlingame)
Ricardo Barreto, Sacramento Area Local
Hector Baez, NBA Denver (Mesa)

A special award, the 2022 COPA Leadership Award, was presented to Diane Erlanger (New York Metro) for signing up the most APWU members to COPA. 

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