Action to save the post office
reports on plans for a day of action in defense of the post office.
"OCCUPY THE Post Office!" is the call from a newly formed national rank-and-file network of postal workers and allies.
In the absence of any substantial mobilization of their members by national postal unions, Community and Postal Workers United (CPWU) has called for a national day of action on April 17--the day when tax returns are due--to save America's postal service. The network is active in at least 12 cities across the country and includes activists from all the postal unions.
With Congress under pressure to act before a moratorium on closing post offices expires on May 15, the postmaster general is preparing a massive wave of shutdowns at distribution plant and post office.
The closures will cause huge disruptions to mail service, hurting the most vulnerable people, the poor, rural and elderly, as well as destroying tens of thousands of living wage, union jobs, and sabotaging businesses that rely on timely mail delivery. The damage to communities, whether rural or urban, in the disruption of family life and local economies, will be substantial.
Congress appears stuck. A bipartisan majority of representatives in the House is cosponsoring HR 1351, which would fix postal finances by allowing the agency access to its own overfunded pension and retiree health care funds. But the bill is languishing in committee. Postal workers have flooded Congress with a million petition signatures, to no avail.
Postal officials have already bowed to pressure twice, postponing the deadline for Congress to act before closures are imposed to May 15, and more recently pledging no closures between August 15 and January 2013.
As the CPWU states in its call for actions on April 17: "We need to turn up the heat and raise the level of pressure--on Congress for HR 3591 & S 1853 and the postmaster for postponements--or the postal service will be plunged into a death spiral." The network further calls on fellow postal workers and allies to "catch the energy and bold fightback of Wisconsin and the Occupy movement."
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UNFORTUNATELY, THE national postal unions--the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC, representing city letter carriers), the American Postal Workers Union (APWU, representing clerks, maintenance workers and truck drivers), National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU, representing mail handlers), the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association (NRLCA, representing rural letter carriers)--remain focused on polite lobbying and contributing to the campaigns of sympathetic lawmakers.
Six months ago, in response to rank-and-file pressure, a national day of rallies was organized, but there has been nothing since. A unanimous call by local presidents at both the NALC Committee of Presidents and the APWU Presidents Council for a national march on Washington and for the resignation of the postmaster general has been ignored by national union leaders.
Following the CPWU call to "Occupy the Post Office!" on Tax Day, the national APWU and NPMHU called their own April 17 action with the theme "America Depends on the Postal Service." While the CPWU is encouraging locals to organize militant actions and connect with local Occupy movements, the APWU and NPMHU wants members only to leaflet postal customers with a flyer that calls on senators to amend bad legislation.
The response of the national NALC leadership was to refuse to get behind the April 17 day of action, and instead call for lobbying senators on April 12. A NALC staffer told me that the union can't touch the "Occupy" slogan because...the union is trying to woo Republicans! The NRLCA is not joining either day of action.
Local CPWU organizing has been set back by the national union responses. Several APWU locals have chosen to use their union's national flyer rather than the bolder CPWU leaflet. The leadership of the NALC branch in Portland, Ore., rejected an offer by 30 Occupy Portland and postal retirees to sit in at the main post office following the unions' Tax Day rally. This despite an earlier NALC local letter of support for Occupy Portland and a unanimous membership vote to support the "Occupy the Post Office!" national day of action.
Undaunted by these setbacks, the Community and Postal Workers United network is determined to generate a national fightback as the May 15 deadline approaches.
Postal workers in Vermont have teamed up with the Occupy movement and the Vermont Workers Center to organize rallies against the closure of the White River Junction processing plant, with more to come on April 17, May Day and on the May 19 closure date. Baltimore is generating street heat to re-open the closed Frederick plant.
On March 17, the anniversary of the 1970 postal strike, New York City's Community-Labor United to Save Postal Jobs and Services staged a 500 person rally, the opening shot of Operation Zip Code, a campaign to stop the 1 percent plan to privatize the post office. In addition, activists in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, Des Moines, Omaha, Lincoln, Sioux City, Rapid City, Detroit, D.C. and Philadelphia have all said they are responding to the April 17 call.