As delegates arrived in Maryland’s National Harbor for the 26th Biennial National Convention, the Clerk, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle Services, and Support Services Divisions held their respective conferences, alongside the APWU Retirees conference.
At the Clerk Craft Division Conference, Director Lamont Brooks led members in discussion of how to continue to protect and expand craft jobs, remove the multi-tiered wage system, and how to be proactive against workplace harassment and safety issues.
Delegates heard about the creation of an RI-399 training manual, a “PSE conversion opportunities decision tree,” and the intent to mentor new national officers to help retain institutional knowledge and help future generations in their battles with management.
At the Maintenance Division Conference, led by Director Idowu Balogun, members discussed the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, upcoming resolutions, and updates since the last convention. Delegates from across the country raised the impact of management understaffing of maintenance jobs.
The lack of job vacancies, availability of training classes, testing procedures, workplace safety, and promotion possibilities within the craft were all debated. The MVS Division Conference, led by Director Mike Foster, focused on resolutions that addressed delays in job postings, conversions, and the need for training for workplace safety.
At the Support Services Division Conference, Director Steve Brooks and delegates discussed newly ratified contracts, how to go about negotiating a new contract, and the differences in negotiating in the private sector compared to bargaining with the USPS. The conference also included a Questions and Answers (Q&A) session on what it’s like working in each of their different bargaining units.
APWU MEMBERS PARTICIPATE IN PRE-CONVENTION WORKSHOPS
Over 1,000 members took part in twenty educational workshops and trainings on Friday, August 12. The workshops were organized by the Research and Education Department and its director, Joyce Robinson.
The workshops and trainings covered a wide range of issues, including contract enforcement, innovative organizing, fundamentals of labor law, communications for locals from the Postal Press Association, as well as social justice and racial equality. Members left the trainings with new tools and information to stand up for our members on the shop floor and in the streets.
Union Strong, All Day Long!
YOUNG MEMBERS: INSPIRING AND INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE
On Sunday, August 14, about 100 of the union’s young members (age 35 and under) met to discuss their involvement in the APWU and what can be done to serve young members’ needs. The meeting was addressed by national officers including President Mark Dimondstein, Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy, Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth "Liz" Powell, Regional Coordinators Tiffany Foster, and A.J. Jones. Chairing the meeting, Western Region Coordinator Omar Gonzalez posed the question, “What do you expect from our union?” Responses included a variety of answers, including addressing hostile work environments, better understanding of young workers, educational and mentorship opportunities, as well as maximizing camaraderie and solidarity within APWU and throughout social justice movements around the globe.
Young members, such as Jalisa Harris, Greater Cincinnati Area Local, emphasized the importance of training so that “we can fight for our members and do the good work, and be well-trained in the information we need to handle the issues that we, as APWU members, experience at post offices daily.” Che Magwood, New York Metro Area Local continued by speaking about the importance of solidarity among workers, saying, “that’s how we make the union better.”
Addressing the group, President Dimondstein said, “without young people, you couldn’t have Occupy Wall Street, a Bernie Sanders campaign, a Black Lives Matter movement, or an environmental movement.” He continued, “we should always welcome new activists and be willing to learn as well as to share, as you [young members] bring a certain perspective, a certain knowledge, a certain understanding that helps build this union.”
He also emphasized the importance of embracing new activism in our union.
President Dimondstein ended his remarks by affirming the intention to reactivate the Young Members Committee, the possibility of holding a Young Members’ Conference and establishing a Leadership Academy.
When polled, it became apparent that many participants of the caucus are attending their first ever APWU National Convention, affirming that the future leadership of the APWU is indeed in good hands.
PANEL DISCUSSION: THE THREAT TO DEMOCRACY AND HOW WE FIGHT BACK
On August 14, the Legislative & Political Department hosted an important panel discussion on voting rights and the January 6 insurrection. The panel, moderated by Katherine Isaac, Executive Director of the Debs Jones Douglass Institute, discussed what led to January 6, the voter suppression that has followed, and examined ways that workers and unions can fight to defend and expand democratic rights.
“It’s not an isolated movement, it’s not an isolated phenomenon, it’s an ongoing threat to our democracy and it is election sabotage,” said panelist Rob Weissman, President of Public Citizen, referencing the events leading up to the attempted coup in 2021.
The diverse group of panelists gave their own unique perspective on the ongoing attacks on democracy and increasing voter suppression. These include limits to vote-by-mail, voter intimidation, poll taxes, and gerrymandering, all of which attempt to influence elections by discouraging or preventing groups of people from engaging in the electoral process.
Both Mandla Deskins of the NAACP and Yanira Merino of LCLAA described how voter suppression initiatives disproportionally affect people of color and working-class communities. All of the panelists held up union membership and getting involved in unions as a key way to fight for democracy. They highlighted the importance of speaking to neighbors and friends about how civil rights are a workers’ issue, and encouraged vote-by-mail initiatives to counteract the restrictive measures.
In response to a question about voter suppression from a participant in attendance, panelist Diana Philip of the Democracy Initiative encouraged APWU members to contact our senators during the current recess and ask them what they are going to do to strengthen voting rights. Additionally, Philip reiterated the need for standardized voting laws to make sure everyone enjoys the same right and opportunity to vote. These laws should include wide access to vote-by-mail, she said.
Richard Koritz, NALC Activist and APWU Solidarity Representative spoke of the accomplishments of the Black-led Reconstruction era and the white supremacist violence that destroyed it. “Ignorance of Reconstruction and its tragic aftermath may doom us to repeat such bitter life experiences.”
Host Judy Beard, APWU Legislative & Political Director Moderator
Katherine Issac, Executive Director, Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute Panelists
Rob Weissman, President, Public Citizen
Mandla Deskins, Director of Advocacy, NAACP
Diana Philip, Chief of Staff, Democracy Initiative
Yanira Merino, President, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
Rich Koritz, Longtime NALC Activist & APWU Solidarity Representative