|Today 8/30/12 a service talk was held at my station. The speaker was the station manager and he was discussing a recent communication from the PMG. He talked about the increase in parcel delivery and decrease in first and second-class mail. Generally he explained the percent of expected change making employees aware of future volume projections.
All right, we've heard this before; management projecting the postal future is not unusual and sometimes they can even get it right.
However he then began to explain how the P0 would be going from 6-day delivery to 5-day delivery. He used words that began to sound like this was a done deal. He said that around November, 2012 several stations may be closed and that during 2013 or early 2014 the PO would change to a 5-day delivery. I intervened and told him that the NALC's position was strongly against any move to change to a 5-day delivery and that to imply there is an agreement would be misleading.
Ok, for me that was normal, management and craft discussing issues with different points of view, I get that; it's how things work, right? But what I really didn't get was the reaction of my fellow carriers; many actually applauded the idea of changing to a 5-day delivery. So I brought up the loss of jobs, service reduction and other issues related to such a change but I had a feeling that many of my coworkers were not at all concerned and this really bothered me.
Then the manager addressed my statement by stating the following:
Don't concern yourself because the changes are inevitable.
Management will offer an Early Out for carriers who would lose their own assignments.
Parcel Post will remain at 6-day and may increase to 7-day.
No one will be hurt by the changes.
I really wasn't surprised by what he said but I was surprised by the reaction of my fellow workers. Many (not all) took the bait: hook, line, and sinker and that is my concern.
I wonder why after so many years of management's indecisive and ineffective ideas would so many rejoice in these hollow words. Can we be so easily fooled?
I can't spend a lot of time trying to figure it out but I will say this to my fellow Letter Carriers, friends, and co-workers. Please do your homework. Read President Rolando's editorials. Go to the NALC's website (NALC.org), become an e-activist. Fully understand what a 5-day delivery will do before you support it. Don't fall for the sweet talk they're giving us just because it is what you want to hear. We have come too far to fall for the oldest trick in the book. Educate yourself, stay active; it's your bread and butter. You don't want to figure it OUT when you're OUT of a JOB.
|Forty years ago, the rank-and-file members of Branch 36 took a stand that changed the course of history. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that the gains that letter carriers and other postal employees have made in the past four decades are a direct result of the courage and solidarity the rank-and-file members of Branch 36 displayed in March 1970 when they embarked on the country's first and only nationwide postal strike. Without the strike, the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which brought true collective bargaining to postal employees would probably not have been enacted. As a result, literally millions of workers employed by the Postal Service during the past 40 years have been the beneficiaries of wages, benefits and working conditions far superior to what they otherwise would have been.
The strike itself was one of those rarities in American labor history -- an actual uprising of rank-and-file workers who forged what was a true revolutionary act and who acted with courage and conviction despite the resistance of their elected leaders. This revolution sprang from the despair felt by carriers in New York and in many other parts of the country who could not support their families. In fact, for those current members of Branch 36 who were not carrying the mail in 1969 and 1970, words cannot truly convey the suffering of letter carriers and their families at that time. Because of the high cost of living in New York City, many carriers were forced to work two jobs or go on welfare, if not both. Ironically, it was only the federally-sponsored "War on Poverty" of the 1960s which enabled the families of some letter carriers in New York to survive.
Every revolution has its triggering events, and for the 1970 postal strike it was the courageous actions of a small group of Bronx letter carriers that began the process of converting frustration and despair into citywide collective action. On July 1, 1969, in reaction to a meager pay increase issued by President Richard Nixon, almost all of the letter carriers and postal clerks at the Kingsbridge Station in the Bronx called in sick. Then, when on the very next day, the Postmaster suspended all 56 letter carriers and 16 clerks at Kingsbridge, 16 of the 36 letter carriers in the Throggs Neck Branch in the Bronx also called in sick.
Significantly, the rank-and-file members of Branch 36 were not frightened by the Post Office Department's investigations and suspensions because for the first time in years, they had gained a sense of control and pride. The actions of the Bronx carriers had instilled a sense of euphoria among many New York carriers, for it became clear that if thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of postal employees could only show the same sense of euphoria among many New York carriers, for it became clear that if thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of postal employees could only show the same sense of courage and solidarity that the Bronx carriers had demonstrated, then throughout the country true power would rest in the hands of postal employees.
But the Kingsbridge and Throggs Neck incidents were important for another reason: The branch leadership's reaction to the suspensions created a growing split between Branch 36's leadership. Frightened by the possibility of an illegal strike, the increasingly militant rank-and-file were willing to take whatever steps were necessary to shatter the chains of economic slavery. The key issue dividing the two groups was whether the branch would compensate the suspended carriers for the wages they had lost during their two-week suspensions. Vincent R. Sombrotto, then a rank and-file carrier who did not hold an office in the branch, first raised the issue at a special meeting of the branch, but the branch's leadership opposed Sombrotto's proposal and, in fact, criticized the Bronx carriers for what the leaders called precipitous and rash action. At first, Branch 36's officers prevailed, but Sombrotto and his growing army of allies persisted meeting after meeting until, at the Branch's January 1970 meeting, they were successful in signing the two-thirds vote necessary to pass the proposal providing compensation for the suspended carriers.
The issue of paying the suspended carriers was far from the only issue dividing Branch 36's rank-and-file carriers from their leaders. At the branch's January meeting, the members also rejected the branch leadership's endorsement of a December 18th agreement between President Richard Nixon and NALC National President James Rademacher. This agreement coupled Nixon's endorsement of a pay increase with Rademacher's backing of an independent "postal authority" to replace the cabinet level Post Office Department an idea the NALC had previously opposed. The members at the January meeting were incensed at the Nixon-Rademacher pay increase an increase they deemed grossly inadequate. Instead, they demanded substantial improvements in pay and benefits and angrily voiced their willingness to strike if necessary.
Branch 36's leadership tried to stem the rising tide of militancy. Working through the branch's station stewards-then called station delegates-the branch conducted a "strike survey" which asked members whether they would go on strike alone if the national union did not substitute the provisions approved by the branch's January meeting for the Rademacher-Nixon agreement, whether the members would strike only if a strike was called by the national union, or whether they would strike under any circumstance.
It soon became clear that the survey was not designed to determine the true feelings of branch members. At the February branch meeting, rank-and-file members asked for the results, but the branch officers said the returns were still being analyzed and the figures would be released at the branch's March meeting which, in the end, they never did. To this day, the results of that survey are not known.
It was at the March 12th branch meeting at Riverside Plaza Terrace that the ferment among New York carriers finally boiled over when they learned that a House of Representatives committee had, on the same day, approved a bill reflecting the Nixon- Rademacher compromise. In response to the congressional action and to the unwillingness of the branch officers to release the results of the strike survey, carriers attending the March membership meeting stormed the podium and angrily demanded a strike vote.
The long-delayed was finally taken on March 17,1970 at jampacked Manhattan Center on West 34th Street. At approximately 11 p.m., the results were announced to the members: 1,555, yes, 1,055, no. Immediately, President Jack Leventhal of Brooklyn's Branch 41, announced that he had the authorization of his members to support Branch 36. Moe Biller, President of the Manhattan-Bronx Postal Union - the union representing clerks and drivers in Manhattan and the Bronx said he could not take a position until he determined the feelings of his membership.
At 12:0l a.m., March 18, members of Branch 36 set up picket lines outside post offices throughout Manhattan and the Bronx. The strike was finally on. Although not all the members had voted for the strike, almost every letter carrier in Branch 36 stayed out. Immediately, the rank-and-file members of the Manhattan-Bronx Postal Union honored the picket lines. And later that day, Branch 41 and branches in Long Island and Northern New Jersey joined the strike. And then the strike spread to large and small communities alike from coast to coast as letter carriers and postal clerks walked off their jobs and dug in for the duration. Not until March 21 did the Manhattan-Bronx Postal Union actually join the strike, and by March 23rd, the strikers numbered almost 250,000.
Although many letter carriers and other postal workers throughout the country began to return to work following Nixon's decision to use Army troops to process mail in New York, New York's letter carriers remained steadfast. It was only when the leaders of Branch 36 assured their striking members that an agreement had been reached with the Administration-even though no such agreement existed that New York's carriers and clerks put down their picket signs and went back to work on March 25. First to go out and last to go back in, Branch 36's letter carriers had shown resolve and courage that would never be forgotten.
Congressional leaders and national postal union officials spent the next several months resolving the twin issues of pay increases and postal reform, and it was not until August 12, 1970, that the Postal Reorganization Act became law. Carriers and other postal workers had, at long last, achieved full collective bargaining rights. Although the members of Branch 36 had not achieved all they had struck for, the years of what some deemed "collective begging" were over, and the strikers had been vindicated. The long struggle of letter carriers for dignity and justice had taken a giant step forward.
The strike of March 1970 was a true revolution-a revolution the rank-and-file letter carriers of Branch 36 ignited. It was not a strike called by the National Union or by the leadership of Branch 36-and can even be viewed in part as a strike against the incumbent leadership. In essence, the 1970 postal strike sprang from the collective anguish and despair of thousands of ordinary New York letter carriers who would not be denied. It was their courage and their willingness to take unparalleled risks that will put every man and woman who ever carries mail forever in their debt.