When delegates arrived in Maryland’s National Harbor for the 26th Biennial National Convention, the Clerk’s, Maintenance, Motor Vehicle Services, and Support Services divisions held their respective conferences, alongside the retiree conference of the APWU.
At the Clerk Crafts Division Conference, Director Lamont Brooks led members in a discussion on how to continue to protect and grow craftsman jobs, end the tiered wage system and to be proactive against harassment and workplace safety issues.
Delegates heard about the creation of an RI-399 training manual, a “PSE Conversion Opportunity Decision Tree” and plans to mentor new National Officers to help retain knowledge institutions and help future generations in their battles with management.
At the Maintenance Division conference, led by Director Idowu Balogun, members discussed the new collective agreement, upcoming resolutions and updates since the last convention. Delegates from across the country raised the impact of the lack of management personnel for maintenance jobs.
The lack of vacancies, the availability of training courses, testing procedures, workplace safety and opportunities for promotion within the trade were all discussed. The MVS Division conference, led by Director Mike Foster, focused on resolutions that addressed job posting delays, conversions and the need for workplace safety training.
At the Support Services Division conference, Director Steve Brooks and delegates discussed newly ratified contracts, how to negotiate a new contract, and the differences of bargaining in the private sector vs. ‘USPS. The conference also included a question and answer (Q&A) session on what it is like to work in each of their different bargaining units.
APWU members participate in pre-congress workshops
More than 1,000 members took part in some twenty educational workshops and training sessions on Friday August 12. The workshops were organized by the Department of Research and Education 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 residents of the Postal Press Association, as well as social justice and racial equality. Members left the trainings with new tools and information to defend our members in the workshops and on the streets.
Strong union, all day!
Young members: inspiring and investing in our future
On Sunday August 14, around 100 young union members (35 and under) met to discuss their involvement in the APWU and what can be done to meet the needs of young members. National leaders including President Mark Dimondstein, Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy, Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth “Liz” Powell, Regional Coordinators Tiffany Foster and AJ Jones addressed the meeting. Chairing the meeting, Western Region Coordinator Omar Gonzalez posed the question, “What do you want from our union? Responses included a variety of responses, including tackling hostile work environments, better understanding of young workers, education and mentorship opportunities, as well as maximizing camaraderie and solidarity within APWU and in social justice movements around the world.
Young members, such as Jalisa Harris of the Greater Cincinnati Area Local, stressed the importance of training so that “we can fight for our members and do a good job, and be well trained in information we need to deal with the problems that we, as members of the APWU, experience daily in post offices. Che Magwood, from the New York Metro Area Local, went on to talk about the importance of solidarity among workers, saying “this is how we make the union better”.
Addressing the group, Chairman 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 must always welcome new activists and be ready to learn as well as to share, like you [young members] bring some perspective, some knowledge, some understanding that helps build that union.
He also stressed the importance of embracing a new militancy 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.
In a poll, it became apparent that many caucus attendees are attending their first-ever APWU National Convention, saying 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 and Policy Department hosted a major panel discussion on suffrage 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 followed, and examined ways in which workers and unions can fight to defend and extend democratic rights.
“This is not an isolated movement, this is not an isolated phenomenon, this is an ongoing threat to our democracy and this is election sabotage,” said panelist Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen, making reference to the events leading up to the coup attempt in 2021.
The diverse group of panelists provided their own unique perspective on the ongoing attacks on democracy and growing voter suppression. These include limits on mail-in voting, 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.
NAACP’s Mandla Deskins and LCLAA’s Yanira Merino described how voter suppression initiatives disproportionately affect people of color and working-class communities. All panelists presented union membership and involvement in unions as a key way to fight for democracy. They stressed the importance of talking to neighbors and friends about how civil rights are a workers’ issue and encouraged mail-in ballot initiatives to counter restrictive measures.
In response to a question about voter suppression from an attendee, Democracy Initiative panelist Diana Philip encouraged APWU members to contact our senators during the current recess and ask them what they are going to do to strengthen the right to vote. Additionally, Philip reiterated the need for standardized election laws to ensure that everyone has the same right and opportunity to vote. These laws should include broad access to mail-in voting, she said.
Richard Koritz, NALC activist and APWU Solidarity Representative, spoke about the accomplishments of the black-led Reconstruction era and the white supremacist violence that destroyed it. “Ignorance of reconstruction and its tragic consequences can doom us to repeat such bitter life experiences.”
- Host Judy Beard, APWU Legislative and Policy 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 the Advancement of Latin America (LCLAA)
- Rich Koritz, longtime NALC activist and APWU Solidarity Representative