APWU National Convention: Dimondstein Delivers State of the Union

August 16, 2022

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Day 1: Convention Highlights

On Monday, APWU President Mark Dimondstein delivered the ‘State of the Union.’ He highlighted our successes and struggles and gave an outlook for a bright, while challenging, future. 

On Monday, APWU President Mark Dimondstein delivered the ‘State of the Union.’ He highlighted our successes and struggles and gave an outlook for a bright, while challenging, future. 

Reflecting on the moment, Dimondstein said, “the pandemic has made it crystal clear what we always knew – it is we, the workers, who make the world go around.” 

Dimondstein condemned the current wave of voter suppression and the former U.S. president’s attempt to hold onto power in a coup. He said “we must never accept as normal the rising white supremacist torrent of race hatred and bigotry that divides workers and led to the despicable racist massacres in Charleston, Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo – all reflecting a dangerous drive toward fascism.”

On the condition of the APWU, Dimondstein said, “together we are marching forward and building an activist, winning union. I submit to you that the state of our union is indeed ‘Union Strong, All Day Long!’”

Dimondstein applauded the success of the ‘U.S. Mail, Not for Sale’ campaign and the defeat of the 2018 Presidential Task Force recommendations, which attacked collective bargaining rights.

This year, members ratified a new main union contract with a 94 percent “yes” vote. “The new contract secured annual wage increases, full COLAs, new work guarantees for PTFs, new career conversion opportunities for PSEs, restored Level 8 to the high career pay scale, limits on subcontracting of existing PVS driver work, maintained and enhanced job security no lay-off provisions and generally uplifted postal workers of all crafts,” Dimondstein said. It also maintains the Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA). The new contract’s second COLA amounts to $1.18/hr; it follows the $0.63/hr COLA in January.

In Congress, after 16 years of organizing, the Postal Service Reform Act was passed. Among other provisions, this law eliminates the prefunding retiree health benefit mandate of 2006.

Other accomplishments included winning liberal leave and COVID safety memos; securing $10 billion in postal COVID aid; 100,000 PSE conversions; 10,000 new clerk jobs in mail processing; improved member communications; joining struggles for racial and social justice.

Dimondstein also lauded the recent organizing campaign, which brought on 5,000 new members, as well as private-sector organizing wins.

“Our approach to sticking to the issues and never shying away from a fight has served our members well,” Dimondstein said. “A solid new contract, historical postal legislation, improved staffing, a better path to career status and an openness to new and enhanced postal products. However, we must and will remain ever vigilant.”

He stressed that, while the privatizers have been kept at bay, “Wall Street is still Wall Street” and the threat of privatization continues to rear its ugly head. 

“Yes, the dangers are great but so are the opportunities,” he said. “The weather will be stormy at times. But we have the good and sturdy ship called the APWU built with many hands over generations of struggle.”

Doctor’s Orders: Medicare for All!

Dr. Claudia Fegan, the Chief Medical Officer of Cook County Health and the national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, addressed the convention on Monday with a message about the urgent need for a single payer health care system in the U.S. 

Dr. Fegan debunked myths about the affordability of a national health program, noting that the United States already spends more than $4 trillion a year on health care. “The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee universal access to health care,” she said. “We already spend enough money to guarantee access to everyone. Yet medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy.”

Introducing Dr. Fegan, Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy noted with pride that the APWU is a longtime supporter of Medicare for All. 

“When we start putting profits before patients, we all suffer,” Fegan noted. “When our government starts to support corporate greed over personal freedom, we all suffer. We have to fight back.”
Dr. Fegan concluded, “No country has ever won universal health care without the support of labor. This is your fight! This is your fight!”

Delegates Adopt Convention Rules, Finance Committee Report Presented, Labor Management Resolutions

Delegates to the 26th Biennial Convention went right to work on the convention’s first day. 

After adoption of the convention rules, the delegates moved on to other business. The Finance Committee, introduced by Secretary Treasurer Powell, presented a report on the union’s finances over the last four years, finding all relevant financial documents to be in order and the current revenues and assets of the union to be in great condition.

Attendees also began work on resolutions presented by the Labor-Management Committee that primarily focused on proposals for future contract negotiations. 

Credentials Commitee, August 15, 2022

As presented by Co-Chair Lorraine Sawyer of the Massachusetts Postal Workers Union, the preliminary report for the APWU Credentials Committee for Monday, August 15, is as follows:

The 26th Biennial Convention’s 
2,017 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.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses APWU Convention Delegates

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) addressed APWU delegates on Monday morning, highlighting the contribution of postal union members. “I can tell you, they are all out there, on the ground, putting in the work.”
The congresswoman thanked postal workers for the many contributions during the pandemic. “You saved our elections by processing millions of mail-in ballots in 2020, through today, despite impossibly hostile conditions. You did that. You saved our elections. You saved countless lives and livelihoods during a global pandemic with your work,” she remarked.

While many people, she noted,  especially those in Congress, claim that progress is impossible, she pointed out that “what other people call impossible is another day on the job” for APWU members!

With  growing support for labor unions, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said, “What was impossible a year or two ago is now possible today, and it is important that we recognize that, because far too many people use the word impossible to signify what is really just a lack of political will and political imagination.”

That is why we must continue to grow the movement. Winding up her speech, AOC urged us all to “Talk to your kids about why you’re in a union. It’s really incredibly important because there is power in a union. We all also are in the work of protecting our democracy. You all and your support for the For the People Act has been incredibly important in making sure that we build momentum in combating gerrymandering, ending the filibuster and expanding the right to vote.”

Dena Briscoe Welcomes Delegates & Color Guard

Nation’s Capital Southern Maryland Area Local President, Dena Briscoe, opened the 26th Biennial National Convention with a welcome to APWU delegates from across the country. The morning’s ceremonies were kicked off with a presentation of colors by the United States Air Force Honor Guard, Air Force District of Washington. Fazia Deen of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center gave the invocation and the pledge of allegiance was led by Pam Richardson, Clerk Division National Business Agent.

Post Office Women for Equal Rights (POWER) Caucus

Research & Education Director Joyce Robinson held a caucus to highlight POWER sisters. After an inspiring speech by CLUW President Elise Bryant, defending democracy and women’s rights.

An awards ceremony was held for notable POWER Delegates. Joyce Robinson received a COPA Award for POWER’s participation, presented by President Mark Dimondstein and Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard. Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell, reminding all, “you don’t have to dim another’s light for yours to shine.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen Welcomes Delegates to the Old Line State

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) welcomed delegates to National Harbor, MD. In a rousing speech, he highlighted our recent wins, including preventing the privatization of the USPS, promoting vote-by-mail, and in the passage of the Postal Service Reform Act. 

“It really is because of all of you and your persistence and determination and advocacy over time,” Van Hollen said. “You never gave up, and you got that across the finish line.” 
The senator supports key legislation, such as the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset, which affects Social Security benefits for certain workers and the restoration of the 2012 service standards. 

The Maryland senator also encouraged members to hold our elected officials accountable and push for pro-postal legislation. He warned that, to get much of this passed, “We may also ultimately require getting rid of or amending the undemocratic [senate] filibuster, which has been an impediment to important progress in our country.” 

AFL-CIO President Shuler: Postal Workers on the Front Lines of Democracy

In a speech to convention delegates, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler praised the role that postal workers have played in preserving democracy and serving the American public. “You have taken on a growing role in our elections, truly serving on the front lines of democracy,” she said. “You are not only making sure that people get their ballots but also their letters, paychecks and subscription medications.”
Shuler talked about the importance of continuing to elect leaders who will fight for working people. Recent examples of beneficial legislation include passage of the Postal Service Reform Act strengthening the Postal Service and the Inflation Reduction Act that will help the middle class, protect the environment and reduce the cost of prescription costs and health care premiums.

The AFL-CIO president also emphasized the organizing power that unions can have when they join forces and work together, especially now with the increasing number of workers seeking union representation. To facilitate the effort of organizing, the AFL-CIO recently announced the formation of the Center for Transformational Organizing (CTO). “We need to rise up and capture the energy of this moment that is leading people to organize in all kinds of companies and in all kinds of industries,” she said. “There is so much opportunity for organizing around us.”
Among the reasons fueling the desire to organize is the fact that CEO pay continues to skyrocket while worker pay remains stagnant. According to the latest AFL-CIO pay watch study, CEO pay at the top 500 S & P companies is 324 times more than that of the average worker.

Concluding her remarks, Shuler said, “In this moment when we are facing so many challenges in our jobs, to our economy, to our democracy, to our freedoms, we have to face them together as a movement.”


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