(This article first appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine)
By President Mark Dimondstein
The Three Musketeers must have belonged to the “Musketeers Union” with their rallying cry “All for one and one for all!” That captures the essence of union solidarity.
So does the recent APWU-led informational picket in Barre, Vermont.
Barre is a rural Vermont town of some 9,000 people, with a deep union history rooted in the struggle of immigrant granite workers in the once-thriving granite industry of New England.
As with so many towns and neighborhoods, the Barre post office is an integral part of the community. The office consists of eight clerks and one maintenance employee, as well as city and rural letter carriers. As with postal employees around the country, they are skilled, well-trained and perform their jobs with dedication and pride. They are union-strong with 90 percent of the employees organized.
So why were 100 APWU activists (including yours truly), letter carriers, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) members, the Vermont Workers Center, the state and local AFL-CIO and faith-based community allies out in force?
Because “Workers Deserve Respect!” – whether we are working in the largest or smallest postal facility. This slogan has multiple meanings: Workers deserve to make living wages for the wealth we create and the services we provide. Workers deserve to have decent health care coverage. Workers deserve quality time-off with family and friends. Workers deserve a dignified retirement.
And yes, workers deserve and demand safe and decent working conditions, free from management abuse and harassment. The postal workers of Barre have not been afforded these basic rights. Workers are berated by management in front of customers. Union rights are ignored and union representatives belittled. Management snubs their noses at grievance settlements. Poor staffing by management adds stress to the employees and undermines service to the customers.
Northeast Regional Coordinator John Dirzius and APWU National Business Agents have attempted to address this problem for over two years, with no positive results from higher-level management.
Enough is enough! Tyrannical management has got to go!
A large percentage of our clerk members work in small towns like Barre, from sea to shining sea, from the northern border to the southern border of our vast country. There are many post offices staffed by a handful of employees. Without the strength in numbers of larger facilities, it is harder for workers to resist and stand strong. Barre Local President Nancy Rowland and the other postal workers are doing just that. I commend their resolve and fighting spirit.
In my many years in the post office, I saw many good supervisors and managers who cared about our service to the people and treated workers with respect. I also witnessed far too many abusive managers. More frustrating is that we, as well as the other postal unions, have rarely found a way to force upper management to hold their managers accountable.
Unfortunately, the abusive atmosphere in Barre, Vermont, is not an isolated incident. However, the APWU just sent a powerful message – No postal worker represented by the APWU is alone. An injury to one is an injury to all. We demand that abusive managers be removed and postal workers be able to perform our work and mission free of intimidation, harassment and abuse.
The Barre action underscores that we will take to the streets when necessary. (Hats off to Brother Dirzius for leading the charge.) Solidarity is what won the Stop Staples fight. Solidarity is what produces strong union contracts. Solidarity – “All for one and one for all!” – is the path forward to hold management accountable. Solidarity forever!