How Does a Union member Get Awakened?

Debby Szeredy

March 17, 2020

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

I don’t know a union member that doesn’t want to belong to a strong, successful APWU local. To do that, we need members to be awakened and participate.

I want to tell you the story of how I became awakened.

In 1978, I was a new PTF with almost a year in. Supervisors abused us. The building was filthy. I had to learn a difficult scheme. There was sexism, harassment, and racism. I never knew where I would be working or what hours. That first year I don’t remember any conversation about our union, or what a steward was.

I was in the swing room and saw a flyer on the table about the union president being fired for allegedly causing a slowdown. The union requested help making signs for a picket. Being curious, I showed up to make signs. There was a guest speaker from the New York Metro Postal Union: Moe Biller.

Moe gave a speech on why each member must get involved. He told the history of the union fighting management so workers could have a better future, and how members needed to make our union strong. Tears ran down my face. I knew I had to do my part in the struggle to make our union strong. On the picket line, Moe told me to start as a steward; he explained the job and that day I was signed on. I was 23 years old.

It feels good, and I am grateful for all the many victories we have won over the years. There weren’t many women activists. You had to educate yourself. I had union mentors and heroes & heroines in the union movement that inspired and helped me – like the postal workers that went on strike in 1970 so we could have a better life, a real contract. Like anything in life, we have the ability to make a difference when we get involved.

So where are we today? Members can find the excitement, the passion, when they participate. Members can support their union steward. We can help end problems of a harassing supervisor by getting involved.

Members can become a big part of making our workplace a safe, non-hostile work environment. The local can make it easy for you to step up and become an activist in our union.

Be a part of a planned strategy to awaken your coworkers. Take a leap of faith and know that union power is achievable. We need mentors to bring members to union meetings, sign them up to important committees and reach union goals.

This year I will be providing locals and states with a new booklet on ways to help members to step up, participate at meetings, committees, campaigns, and activities on the workroom floor. Be the change that builds union power at work and in our communities. We can protect our work and provide the best public services when we stand together.

This year, we’re celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 Strike.

Sign up with your local to help plan activity in your community, educating and celebrating the Great Postal Strike that helped provide communities with better wages, benefits, and continued public services for us all.

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