Supporters at Virtual Rally Join the Fight for APWU – Our Contract, Our Union, Our Future as Negotiations Begin
On June 21, APWU members, allies, and postal supporters from around the country tuned in to a Virtual Kickoff Rally ahead of the Opening Day of negotiations for a new USPS/APWU collective bargaining agreement. The rally, emceed by Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth “Liz” Powell, built momentum and solidarity amongst the thousands of viewers heading into negotiations.
After a rousing opening video on the Great Postal Strike of 1970, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell linked the 2021 contract negotiations to the Great Postal Strike of 1970. “The unions [50 years ago] were tired of collective begging and took to the streets. There was a lot of support for postal workers then as there is now, and as evidenced here this evening where we find ourselves issuing a rally cry for a good contract,” said Secretary-Treasurer Powell.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke next, firing up viewers by declaring the 12 and a half million members of the AFL-CIO would stand together with APWU members for as long as it takes to win a good contract. “Nothing can stop APWU members,” Trumka said. “Not the blistering heat or the freezing cold, and not even a global pandemic or man-made threats like the corporate interests trying to deliberately slow down the mail and privatize your jobs…We’re going to beat back these attacks and we’re going to win a fair contract.”
Following President Trumka’s remarks, Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard introduced Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12), who praised APWU members for their commitment to serving the people of the country during the pandemic.
“During this pandemic, one of the things that every American could count on was the United States Postal Service. You made sure that 800 million more packages than normal arrived on your doorstep. You made sure that our veterans and seniors received their prescriptions. You delivered 65 million ballots to the voting booth,” Adams said. “In short, you had our back and so it’s time that we have yours.”
NALC President Fredric Rolando offered the full support of the letter carriers, praising the strong partnership between the APWU and NALC during both unions’ respective negotiations and campaigns. NPMHU President Paul Hogrogian also spoke, urging all postal unions to remain united in the fight against subcontracting and privatization.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14), former postal worker and one of our strongest allies in Congress, said “I want everyone who’s on this negotiating team to know you’re not just fighting for today…this is about the future of the Postal Service. This is about the workers and it’s about their families.”
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler linked the APWU’s negotiations to worker movements across the country, including United Mine Workers of America members in Alabama and opera stagehands in New York. “Workers all across the country are standing together and standing up for what we deserve,” Shuler said. “And we are with you.” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre also delivered a speech praising the APWU’s efforts in preserving our democracy during the 2020 election.
Bill Lucy, a founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and APWU Cleveland Area Local member, sent a strong message to the management bargaining team: “The Postal Service is not for sale. Neither are postal workers up for sale. Whoever comes to the table to bargain with you guys, they come with this knowledge. We are fighting for our union. We’re fighting for a decent contract. We’re fighting for our future and we are union strong all day long!”
In his remarks, Industrial Relations Director and chief spokesperson Vance Zimmerman reminded APWU members of their critical role in preserving democracy during the 2020 elections. “We’ve been around for 200-plus years in the Constitution, but this is the year that we saved democracy,” Industrial Relations Director Zimmerman said. “So don’t ever underestimate, even though it gets frustrating on the workroom floor for some of the things that go on, you saved democracy.”
Vice President Debby Szeredy reminded viewers about the importance of the negotiations in building towards the future. “It’s our whole future,” Vice President Szeredy said. “It’s for all of us, it’s for our community, it’s for the country.”
Rank and File Committee Chairperson Peggy Whitney, of the Minneapolis Area Local, urged fellow APWU members to Gear Up and show their union pride and on the work room floor on Opening Day.
United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts then inspired the rally with a crucial lesson from legendary labor organizer Mother Jones: “‘You must fight and win, you must fight and lose, but above all, brothers and sisters, you must fight.’ That’s what the labor movement is all about,” Roberts said. “We fight with you. We march with you. We rally with you.”
Former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen and chairperson of “Our Revolution” reminded viewers of the importance of these contract negotiations in improving the lives of not only postal workers, but those in the community who rely on postal services each and every day. “We’re going to defend our hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, but we’re also, as the postal workers union has led, we’re bargaining for the public good,” Cohen said. “We’re bargaining to expand postal services. We’re bargaining so that unbanked workers who have no bank accounts can go to the postal office and cash a check instead of paying two or three or more percent of that hard-earned check just to get it cashed.”
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Emeritus and Community Change Chair Arlene Holt-Baker echoed this message. “Your contract will impact our relationship with how we deal with the postal services, and our community’s future. If your demands are not heard, respected, and met, we are going to have a problem,” Holt-Baker said. “We know clearly that a union contract is the only guarantee that a worker has to power and voice.”
Retail, Warehouse and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Appelbaum spoke next, thanking APWU members for standing in solidarity with Amazon workers in Bessemer, AL, and committing the RWDSU’s support to the APWU during negotiations.
Following speeches of support from A. Philip Randolph Institute President Clayola Brown and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer Powell introduced Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson.
In her remarks, Nelson spoke about the importance of the APWU contract to the larger labor movement. “We don’t just stand with you out of solidarity, we need to stand with you because our own lives depend on your success,” Nelson said. “Flight attendants stand with you. This entire labor movement stands with you. Our movement for economic and social justice stands with you. And we together are going to succeed!”
“It is good to just see this melting pot of power, of commitment and leadership all across the screen that has stood strong,” said National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President and CEO Melanie Campbell. “You know I’m there for you. We ready to fight.”
New York State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and CBTU president Terry Melvin and Union Veterans Council President Will Attig spoke next, followed by actor and activist Danny Glover, who urged APWU members to take inspiration from the past in building towards the future.
“We’re taking this moment in our time, in our lifetime to follow in the footsteps of those who compete, who’ve negotiated, who fought, who found themselves in the center of the Civil Rights Movement and found themselves in the center of Workers’ Rights Movement,” Glover said. “That is where we are. This is what this moment represents.”
Coalition of Labor Union Women President Elise Bryant then roused viewers with a song and chant, before President Dimondstein gave the final remarks heading into contract negotiations. He capped off the evening by reminding viewers the importance of unity and solidarity. “Management has to listen to us because we have power and leverage starting with the members of our union,” said President Dimondstein. “Building our solidarity starting with each other on the workroom floor, no matter what craft we’re in, no matter what our category is, whether we’re non-career, whether we’re career, whether we’re part-time flexible PSE or full-time regular, we have to be unified.
“Solidarity is the way forward for workers, for postal workers…Solidarity is not a one-way street, it’s a two and three- and four-way street. And I’m proud that the APWU has a history of solidarity,” President Dimondstein continued. “So, brothers and sisters, as we enter collective bargaining, it’s important to realize that we’re not alone.”
Clips and video of the full rally are available to watch on apwu.org and youtube.com/apwucommunications.
APWU NEGOTIATING TEAM DELIVERS REMARKS ON OPENING DAY
On June 22, contract negotiations began with opening statements from Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Powell, Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman and President Dimondstein. Postmaster General DeJoy also delivered remarks during the session.
In his remarks, Industrial Relations Director Zimmerman stressed that the APWU’s priority is delivering a good contract that rewards APWU members for their hard work on the front lines of a global pandemic.
“We want to see the employees we represent rewarded for their hard work, dedication and sacrifices to their home, health, and their families,” Industrial Relations Director Zimmerman said. “Postmaster General DeJoy and the USPS, you can do that by sitting down with us and negotiating a good contract for the American heroes we represent.”
Vice President Szeredy then introduced Clerk Craft Director Lamont Brooks, Maintenance Craft Director Idowu Balogun and MVS Craft Director Michael Foster. Secretary-Treasurer Powell read statements from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, and actor and activist Danny Glover.
President Dimondstein then delivered his opening day remarks, outlining the APWU’s goals in negotiations and reinforcing the negotiating team’s commitment to APWU – Our Contract, Our Union, Our Future.