What Does it Take?

Anna Smith

July 25, 2019

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

Most postal workers come to work, clock-in and do their fair day’s work. In return the Postal Service pays them for their efforts every other week. Many postal workers do have a pretty satisfying postal career, retire and move on to their golden years.

A vast majority of those postal workers spend their entire federal service belonging to their union – paying dues and, for the most part, being supportive. However, far too many do not know what the union is. Sadly, some see “the union” as a 3rd party kind of legal aid. What does it take to understand that the union is the workers banding together to stand up to their employer and demanding certain working conditions and a certain rate of pay?

What does it take to realize that this band of brothers and sisters, once formed, has legal standing under the federal labor laws of this country? The collectiveness of our joining together gives us legal recognition under the National Labor Relations Act to bargain – yes bargain and all of the word’s synonyms: barter, negotiate, haggle, deal, discuss terms, understanding, etc. – with our employer.

What does it take to comprehend that banding together and voluntarily paying a stipend, “dues,” allows us to face off against a $69 billion-dollar, nationwide government agency? Our measly $20+ given every two weeks allows us to collectively match the corporate bosses who claim to run the Postal Service.

What does it take to have everyone grasp that the vacation leave, sick leave, health care benefits, decent salary, step increases, life insurance, seniority protections, lay off protections, work hour guarantees, wash-up time and overtime are not given to us by a benevolent boss? All these are ours because together we bargained for them through the APWU!

What does it take to be our brothers’ and our sisters’ keeper? We, the union, have to look out for the future career employees currently called Postal Support Employees (PSEs). Remember we started our postal careers as part-timers, substitutes of sorts, transitional employees, maybe even casuals. Yes, there were some co-workers who walked into a Full Time Regular position but even then, all were newbies. Don’t fault the union when efforts are made to enhance the careers of PSEs – instead embrace these brothers and sisters of ours. And PSEs realize that your union brothers and sisters are truly looking out for you and one day when you are seniors you will need to look after those that follow in your steps.

What does it take to become fully aware that the union band of brothers and sisters is in constant need of help? We rely on volunteers to be stewards. It is not easy to be a steward and it takes a special kind of postal worker to be a good steward. Are you that special person? When we are attacked, we need to rally around our cause. We cannot rally if you don’t show up. We rely on volunteers to step up and become leaders of the union, be it on the work floor or in a union hall. We are all we have.

What does it take to become aware that when someone bad mouths the APWU they are bad mouthing you, and me, and everyone else in this band of ours? Bad mouthing does not build up strength – activism does. Yes, our union can always improve. We do this by communicating with one another, studying and applying our contract with the employer; standing up for each other, and yes, by full participation in all our union activities and events. WHAT DOES IT TAKE? It takes YOU and ME Brother, YOU and ME Sister – THAT is what it takes!

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