We’re Not a Fee-for-Service Organization

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(This article appears in the March-April 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Sue Carney, Director Human Relations Dept.

There seems to be a misconception that labor unions are fee-for-service organizations. This notion is likely fostered by the fact that union dues fund activities that serve union members. Dues enable unions to negotiate and enforce contracts, identify problems, determine solutions, and advocate for policies and legislation.

Our workforce receives better pay and benefits, has safer working conditions, and enjoys more job security than non-represented employees because of union deeds that are financed by dues-paying members. Rightfully, members expect and deserve strong representation. But that doesn’t mean unions are fee-for-service organizations. And paying dues doesn’t eliminate a member’s obligation to be involved.

At the core, labor unions (we) are working men and women, unified as one force. Despite any personal differences that may exist between us, we have banded together to protect and improve the lives of workers. We rise up together for the greater good. We defend one another like family. Our strength is not determined by our size – our power is based on the number of members who actually get involved.

Small Acts Cause Big Change

Members don’t need to dedicate exhaustive hours, nor do they need the fortitude of a steward to be active. Getting familiar with the contract makes it easier to recognize violations. Alert your shop steward to hold management accountable. Remember, the more we overlook, the more management will take. Don’t be party to “sweetheart” deals – those special privileges undermine the rights of others. Stand united with your co-workers. We are a union family – we must have each other’s back.

Make an effort to stay informed about policy changes that affect the Postal Service. We are all busy, but take a few minutes to read union emails, newsletters, and website posts to keep up-to-date. Attend union meetings. They are usually scheduled on a monthly or quarterly basis and only last a couple of hours. Bring along members who don’t normally attend and get acquainted with someone new.

Share your expertise, talent and ideas. They don’t have to be grand, but all can be useful. Help plan a membership activity to promote camaraderie. Involve the local in new community activities. They are rewarding and create opportunities to raise awareness about the APWU. Take part when we rally.

Members don’t need to hold union office to organize. Sign up non-members in your office. Don’t accept excuses. They are riding on your dime. Be persistent. Recruit others to assist you.

Give to COPA, the union’s Committee on Political Action, and encourage co-workers who haven’t contributed to donate. It’s doubtful anyone will miss a few bucks each pay period, but everyone will miss their jobs if they’re gone. Write or call your legislator, especially when called upon. Vote, and do so with the interests of your job in mind.

It’s mindboggling how many members abandon their own cause to vote for anti-worker, anti-union candidates like Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Governors Scott Walker (R-NJ) and Chris Christie (R- NJ). Personal interests won’t matter much if we end up standing in the soup line.

Communicate with co-workers. Don’t assume they realize what’s happening or know what they are needed to do. Reach out to others. Inform parents and teachers, coaches, neighbors, parishioners and city officials in your area about what’s going on. Talk to family, friends and other groups and organizations you belong to. Explain how the Postmaster General, private mailers and legislators are trying to dismantle the Postal Service and what it will mean to us if they succeed. Urge them to get involved.

Don’t leave it to the other guy. It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us. Take pride in being a member of the American Postal Workers Union. It’s contagious.

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