August 18, 2022
APWU 26TH BIENNIAL CONVENTION. DAY 3
After a productive second day of convention, delegates continued on Wednesday to make significant progress on union business.
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Delegates continued to make progress on the important union business before the convention, considering, debating, amending and voting on several resolutions throughout the day. The Constitution Committee work led off the day’s debate, followed by the conclusion of the Labor-Management Committee report, with delegates beginning to hear from the Formal Resolutions Committee as the day’s proceedings came to a close.
Resolutions before the Constitution Committee, co-chaired by Keith Combs, Detroit District Area Local, and Kim Miller, Keystone Area Local, addressed issues pertaining to retired members, the work locations of national officers, and the procedures governing the election of officers, among other issues. Changes to the APWU Constitution require a two-thirds vote to pass.
Perhaps the most spirited discussion of the convention thus far was on the matter of retired members’ representation at convention. Delegates presented impassioned arguments on all sides of the issue before the final vote was called. With the support and encouragement of President Dimondstein, Retirees Director Nancy Olumekor, and other national officers, delegates settled upon a compromise resolution that both addressed the desire of retired members to be better represented at the convention, while recognizing the equity concerns raised by other delegates. Ultimately, the convention passed an amendment to Article 6 of the APWU Constitution, which entitles each local retirees chapter and each state retirees chapter one credentialed delegate to convention.
Olumekor thanked the convention for the spirited debate and the recognition of retired members’ contributions to the union. “This year, the APWU Retirees Department celebrates its 30th anniversary,” she said. “We thank you for your love and support.”
Another robust debate during the Constitutional Committee’s work was on the matter of restoring the second Clerk Craft National Business Agent position in the Wichita Region. The convention supported the resolution submitted by the Nebraska Postal Workers Union.
Convention also made a change to the Constitution regarding the succession of the Support Services Director in the event the position falls vacant. The resolution provides that the Division’s National Business Agent shall assume the Director’s position in the case of a vacancy.
The Labor-Management Committee concluded its report in the early afternoon, after delegates acted on resolutions addressing hazard pay, the USPS mystery shopper program, wage increase demands and other bargaining matters.
After guest speakers from organizing Amazon and Starbucks workers addressed the convention, the Formal Resolutions Committee came to the podium and began its report in the final half hour of the day’s session. The Formal Resolutions Committee, co-chaired by David Yao, Greater Seattle Area Local, and Teresa Oller, Portland Oregon Area Local, will continue its report early Thursday morning.
As they did on Tuesday, delegates engaged seriously with the resolutions before them, debated with a shared passion for improving the union and the lives of APWU members, and filled the hall with energy throughout the day’s proceedings. It was, once again, a tremendous display of trade union democracy in action!
YOUNG WORKERS, UNION POWER & CLIMATE JUSTICE
Young workers gathered Wednesday for a discussion on climate justice. APWU Portland Area Local and Young Worker Committee members Teresa Oller and Travis Epes sat on a panel with Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) President Joe Uehlein and Maria Brescia-Weiler, LNS Project Manager for the Just Transition Listening Project.
They discussed how to organize young workers on union power and climate justice. Teresa Oller welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers.
LNS President Uehlein, former Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department, explained how his experience in representing mine workers, steel workers and chemical plant workers inspired him to form LNS to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future.
He urged members to “take our core bedrock principle of worker solidarity, and elevate that into a principle of human solidarity.”
In the townhall format, Maria Brescia-Weiler explained the concept of Just Transition, a labor plan for climate protection that moves away from fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy, while also protecting the wellbeing of workers whose jobs may be affected. In her research, she realized that young workers’ voices weren’t being heard.
Teresa Oller expressed exasperation towards politicians who blamed labor for their lack of progress on addressing climate change. “Stop talking for us,” she exclaimed. “We want to work towards something that ensures, for the rest of our lives, we have work that allows us to live and feed our families.”
After providing tips on how to engage coworkers on these issues, Travis Epes opened the floor.
When asked about pushback from rural areas, Oller stated, “sustainability is still a dirty word. But the young people, they want to organize.” While some older workers may feel their livelihood is threatened, younger workers want to break the stigma and provide a sustainable future for their families.
Panelists passed out a climate survey for locals to identify the union’s needs on climate change.
STARBUCKS ORGANIZERS DESCRIBE RUNAWAY SUCCESS TO DELEGATES
On Wednesday afternoon, President Dimondstein introduced Starbucks Workers United organizers Jasmine Leli and Jaz Brisack, who spoke to delegates about their hard-fought organizing campaign, which is spreading like wildfire across the country.
Since March of this year, more than 400 Starbucks locations have either petitioned for or won union elections. In what Dimondstein said has led to “one of the fastest organizing campaigns in the country right now,” workers are seeking better safety provisions, pay, and health benefits.
While it hasn’t been an easy campaign, Brisack said, “We’d been going through four months of unbelievable union-busting from Starbucks corporate. The day after we filed our union petitions at the first three stores, all of Starbucks corporate got on a plane to Buffalo and stayed there for four months.”
Additionally, Brisack said that “Starbucks hired countless people that they thought were going to break the union that they sent into our stores, hoping that they would vote no, that they would, you know, fall victim to the support manager’s lies.”
In the case of Jasmine Leli, then a newly-hired worker at the soon-to-be second unionized Starbucks, this took the form of multiple managers descending on her store from corporate headquarters to constantly watch over partners. They offered a stream of criticism but no actual help on the work floor. “They would just sit and they would just watch us ... short-staffed, trying to keep everything together,” she said.
Brisack reiterated one of the major themes of the week – the importance of solidarity among working people: “It’s going to take pickets and a lot of community support to bring Starbucks to the bargaining table. We’re counting on you all,” she said.
STRIKING COAL MINERS “ONE DAY LONGER, ONE DAY STRONGER!”
Dedrick Gardner, a member of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and striking Warrior Met Coal worker, addressed delegates on Wednesday morning.
Warrior Met operates two mines in Central Alabama. When the mines’ previous owners were facing bankruptcy, Gardner and his fellow workers made numerous sacrifices to their pay and working conditions.
Gardner, whose father was a member of the APWU, is one of approximately 850 UMWA-represented employees who have been on strike in protest at the long hours, hostile environments, and deteriorating working conditions endured during the company’s financial woes.
The now-profitable company has refused to repay the workers’ sacrifice, refusing to pay a livable, dignified wage or address the numerous threats to the miners’ safety.
Gardner signaled the Warrior Met miners’ determination to hold the line until an agreement and dignified working conditions are met. “You must fight and you must stand strong,” he said. Gardner and his UMWA union family are in the 503rd day of their strike. “One day longer, one day stronger!”
AMAZON WORKERS FIRE UP DELEGATES AS APWU COMMITS TO MULTI-UNION ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN
The fight to organize a union at Amazon made a splash at the APWU convention, as workers from the retail giant’s plants in New York and Bessemer, AL joined the proceedings to tell their stories.
Jennifer Bates, who spearheaded the organizing drive at her facility in Alabama, spoke first, flanked by her co-workers Isaiah Thomas and Ken Carter.
She described her motivation for organizing as being for more than her, but for her co-workers and those beyond the walls of Amazon. “This is not just for me, we are paving the way for the ones coming behind us and we will not stop until we get it done.”
Amazon workers have faced a brutal union-busting campaign from management. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) threw out the first, tainted election, after the company went so far as to have the USPS install a mailbox in front of the facility to allow bosses to conduct surveillance as people cast their mail-in union ballots.
Despite similar high-pressure tactics from management in the re-run election, the outcome is so close that, five months on, the result has still not been certified.
The second Amazon story came from New York’s Christian Smalls, whose upstart Amazon Labor Union in the JFK8 plant on Staten Island, NY defied the odds to organize the plant’s approximately 7,500 workers into a union, the first Amazon organizing win in the U.S.
Smalls described how he worked day-by-day on the organizing campaign, flyering at the bus stop outside the plant while his fellow workers ignored him at first. “I got cursed out a couple of times,” he said, but the campaign built on the fiAPWU Convention Delegates Step into the Fightrst days of one or two signatures a day until he was gathering 200 signature a day.
Workers at the plant won their fight to form a union on April 1st of this year. He recounted that the compassion that the organizing Amazon workers showed each other was what brought about a famous victory. “People want to know how we defeated Amazon. It’s simple - we loved each other, and we showed our workers.”
APWU Convention Delegates Step into the Fight
APWU members, local and national officers have already provided support for the Amazon organizing efforts in Alabama, New York and beyond.
On concluding the Amazon worker speeches, David Yao, Greater Seattle Area Local, Formal Resolutions Committee Co-Chair, moved formal resolution 141 to commit the APWU to a “multi-union” campaign to spread the organizing efforts and victories at Amazon facilities and help provide support to the new ALU to win a first contract.
As presented by Co-Chairs Cindy Foster of the Charlotte Area Local and Lorraine Sawyer of the Massachusetts Postal Workers Union, the preliminary report for the APWU Credentials Committee for Wednesday, Aug. 17, is as follows:
The 26th Biennial Convention’s 2,030 delegates represent 297 locals, 33 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Also in attendance were 69 national officers and four Retiree National Convention Delegates.