Stand Up for Your Rights

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(This article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Liz Powell, Secretary-Treasurer

The lyrics from the famous tune by Bob Marley sum it all up: Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your rights!

We must adopt these words as our marching orders if we are going to save the USPS from postal managers, members of Congress and the Wall Street privatizers who want to dismantle the Postal Service – and with it, our jobs.

Postal workers have plenty to stand up and fight for. We must fight back against those who care little or nothing about universal postal service for the American people. They also have little or no concern about the hundreds of thousands of postal employees who rely on USPS employment to provide for ourselves and our families.

Our fight is to save the Postal Service from those who outsource retail operations, offer crippling discounts to large mailers, and constantly advocate for a reduction in the number of delivery days. Over the last few years, this crowd has closed post offices, slashed rural office hours, sold historic buildings, consolidated mail processing plants, and eliminated thousands upon thousands of jobs.

‘Shrink to Survive’ Won’t Work

This “shrink to survive” philosophy won’t increase revenue and won’t allow the Postal Service to expand services so that the USPS can thrive in the digital age. The USPS cannot build its business or expand its customer base by directing our customers to Staples and other contract stations or by cutting back to five or fewer delivery days.

The enemies outside the Postal Service are the politicians who believe postal workers are overpaid and have too many negotiated benefits. These politicians have challenged our negotiated protection against layoffs, as well as our access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Many of these officials are fundamentally opposed to our status as a unionized workforce.

They serve the Wall Street privatizers who would love to get their hands on the Postal Service’s $67 billion of annual revenue.

Is the Deck Stacked?

We have a lot to stand up and fight for, but some of your co-workers will argue that the deck is stacked against us. They will say the anti-union forces have a stranglehold on the media and have millions – even billions – of dollars to fight us and all unions.

But we should remember that the strongest days for unions were when conditions for working people were much worse than they are today.

This is true even in our own union. The Great Postal Strike of 1970 took place when postal workers didn’t have the organized power, membership or resources that we can draw on now. Postal wages were so poor that many postal workers had to supplement their income with government assistance. In those days, we had to “beg” Congress for raises, we didn’t negotiate for them.

But those postal workers stood up and fought back to create the largest postal union in the world. And we must continue to fight back now.

What if we don’t stand up and fight back? It would mean that we accept the end of universal postal service to all Americans regardless of their economic status or where they live. It would mean that we accept management’s unending drive to contract out our work. It would allow those who say that our pay should be measured against low-wage jobs to have their way. Finally, it would mean that we accept the loss of our jobs. The consequences of inaction would be devastating.

All workers have basic needs. We want good wages, access to quality healthcare, a decent retirement, respect on the job and a safe place to work. But we have never been given what we want without standing up and fighting back.

We’ve Got What It Takes

We have the ability and resources to fight back.

  • First, we are organized and have more than 900 locals and state organizations representing postal employees in every large- and medium-sized city in the nation.
  • Second, we have an organizational structure in place that permits us to communicate with all of these locals.
  • Third, we have a history of democratic unionism that has nurtured activists from all around the nation.
  • Fourth, our work touches every person in this nation.

We can use these resources to stand up and fight back. We need every postal employee to take part.

Our Allies Are Fighting Back Too

Delegates to the 43rd National Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) unanimously passed three resolutions supporting our fight to strengthen the public Postal Service.

Resolution #21, Establishing a Postal Bank - Resolved: That the CBTU, along with its allies, embark on a campaign to educate the American people on the advantages of non-profit postal banking services.

Resolution #23, Join the Grand Alliance to Save Our National Public Postal Service - Resolved: That CBTU become a signatory to the Grand Alliance committed to saving our national public Postal Service.

Resolution #24, Support U.S. Postal Workers by Joining the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ Campaign - Resolved: That the ‘Don’t Buy Staples’ campaign be communicated immediately to members of CBTU, our members unions, and to our sister unions throughout the labor movement.


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