APWU State and Local Presidents Advocate on Capitol Hill for Postal Workers' Rights

June 3, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

On March 12, APWU State and Local Presidents attending the National Presidents Conference (NPC) in Washington, D.C. spent a full day on Capitol Hill advocating for postal workers’ rights.

Members of Congress Address Local Leaders

Before many of the NPC attendees went off to meet with their legislators, they had an opportunity to attend a speaking event organized by Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard. She arranged for three U.S. Representatives from both sides of the aisle – Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV-01), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14) – to speak to the current problems the Postal Services faces and the importance of creating a sustainable USPS.

Rep. McKinley explained his involvement in the fight against postal closures and how privatization would devastate many rural communities, including those he represents in West Virginia. For the past three sessions of Congress, he has introduced resolutions on the need to restore service standards to 2012 levels. These resolutions obtained overwhelming, bipartisan support in the House.

APWU State and Local Presidents Posta l Workers’ Providing the motivation for drafting these resolutions, he described seeing a list of 607 postal facilities that were being considered for closure. “I didn’t see one post office in New York, or in St. Louis, or Miami. [The closures] were all in rural America… I thought this is wrong – this is fundamentally wrong.”

“[The Postal Service] is a public service with a constitutional and civic mandate that is central to American business,” Rep. McKinley continued. “It’s our society and civic culture.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Subcommittee for Government Operations, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service, expressed his frustrations that many of his fellow members of Congress do not understand the Postal Service, nor the prefunding mandate they made in 2006 that is crippling the Postal Service. “We have hurdles ahead. We have to make sure we are working both sides of the aisle and educating members,” Rep. Connolly said. “[Members of Congress] don’t know much about the problems we are facing.”

He said he was speaking with a very senior Senator “who should know better” about postal reform, when Rep. Connolly told him they must fix the prefunding mandate, the Senator stated that they were not in favor of a “bailout.”

Rep. Connolly was shocked by the reply, and told the Senator, “It’s their money. We’re not talking about tax payer money. We are talking about [the Postal Service]. It’s their money that Congress requires that they prepay. And nobody on the planet is required to meet the prepayment requirement of the 2006 legislation.”

Those in attendance were excited to hear from Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a former postal employee herself. During the 115th Congress she continuously pressed the Office of Management and Budget on why the Postal Service was targeted for privatization, asking “how in the world did you get from saying that ‘we want to be economically feasible’ to ‘selling it to the highest bidder,’ and to privatize it?” She continued by stating, “you looked at other countries but you did not talk to the organization you are talking about privatizing… something seems wrong with that.” Rep. Lawrence spoke to the group on the important work postal employees do on a daily basis, and the need Presidents Advocate on Capitol Hill for Workers’ Rights to ensure the Postal Service remains a public entity so that every American can benefit from it.

On the Hill

APWU State and Local Presidents then headed to Capitol Hill to educate their Congressional Representatives and advocate for postal reform that ensures a vibrant Postal Service.

Attendees finished the day storming the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing on the President’s Postal Task Force at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. They packed the room so tightly that security was called to enforce a “one in, one out” policy (See page 13 for more about the hearing).

Take Action

APWU members continued lobbying throughout the day, but more action is needed. Advocating for a vibrant, public postal service is vitally important, as postal workers’ careers are literally on the line.

Within the 116th Congress, APWU has allies on both sides of the aisle, but we should take the lead in educating legislators and supporting legislation that will protect and benefit postal workers as well as preserving the People’s Post Office.

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