By TIM ROWDEN
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU), joined by Labor and political allies, pushed back against the Trump administration’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service – a blatant attempt to slow delivering of mail-in ballots heading into the November election – with a nationwide day of action Aug. 25 to Save the U.S. Post Office.
In St. Louis, APWU St. Louis Gateway District 8, joined by St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Missouri Jobs with Justice, Service Employees (SEIU) Local 1, Democratic 1st Congressional nominee Cori Bush, State Senator Karla May (D-St. Louis), St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones and activists with STL Not For Sale rallied outside the Main Post Office downtown to demand Senate approval of the $25 billion for critical service and protections for the Postal Service included in the House-passed Delivering for America Act.
Those protections include a stop to the mail slowdown instituted by Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and a reversal of the harmful policies he enacted – including restrictions on overtime, removal of sorting machines and other policies that have resulted in a slowdown of mail delivery.
“The U.S. Postal Service is a bedrock institution for every American,” said District 8 President Becky Livingston. “Our elected leaders must support $25 billion in funding to make sure the Post Office can run effectively, and Postmaster DeJoy must reverse his harmful slowdown policies immediately.”
Postal workers have been on the front line in the COVID-19 pandemic trying to get the mail delivered, Livingston said, long before Postmaster DeJoy came in and told them how to do it.
“We call it the people’s post office,” Livingston said. “It’s everybody’s post office. So we need to all stand together and show them we’re not going anywhere. The ballots will get counted; the people’s voices will be heard. We’re going to treat it like first class mail. We always have, we always will. We’re going to make sure this mail gets out.”
DeJoy agreed to roll back some – but not all – of his policy changes until after the election, after being called to testify before Congress on Aug. 21, but Livingston noted the changes will be reinstituted in November, right as the heavy Christmas delivery season starts.
“He plans on making these rules and these changes,” Livingston said. “We don’t want these changes. We want to make sure our standards are in place for many years to come.”
ON THE FRONT LINE
John Zamudio, president, APWU Missouri Postal Workers Union, noted postal workers have paid a price for being on that front line.
The APWU Mid-America District, which covers Kansas City, southwest Missouri, southeast Missouri and parts of Kansas, confirmed 15 positives of COVID-19 last week, including five confirmed in one post office in Fredericksburg, Mo., and four in Kansas City.
“We are on the frontline,” Zamudio said. “Postal workers have been there since the very beginning of this virus, including in this office behind us. Our brothers and sisters have been dedicated to moving this mail. Unfortunately, and sad to say, our President doesn’t even acknowledge that we exist. We’ve even had deaths of postal employees moving this mail. It’s a horrible thing. And Postmaster General DeJoy would not even commit to putting the damn sorting machines back in these postal facilities. I’ve got no good words for him today.”
GATEWAY TO THE MIDDLE CLASS
Lew Moye, president emeritus of the CBTU St. Louis Chapter, said the Post Office has long served as a gateway to the middle class, for Black and white workers alike.
“In our increasingly divided country, the Post Office unites us all. No matter where we live or where we come from, all of us are connected through this centuries old, solid as a rock institution,” Moye said.
“The Post Office is an important fixture for employment for Black communities throughout our nation. By creating good union jobs, the Post Office has offered thousands of Black folks the stability and good pay they need to join the middle class,” Moye said. “When Trump and his wealthy donors attack the Post Office, it is an insult to all of us in our communities.”
When President Trump first ran for election in 2016, he said he was going to “drain the swamp” in Washington, St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White said.
“He’s done nothing but fill it with crocodiles,” White said.
“DeJoy, the guy that’s in charge of the Postal Service, he was one of his biggest donors. He was also on the finance committee for the Republican National Convention.”
White noted the convention, which took place last week, was done non-union, for the first time in modern history, despite union stagehands and other entertainment industry workers being among the hardest hit from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The first speaker at the RNC, Rebecca Friedrich, one of the architects of the Janus decision inflicting “right-to-work” conditions on millions of public sector unions, attacked the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and made clear that unions will remain under constant attack by Republicans and the Trump administration.
“The head of our Post Office, the people’s Post Office, is as anti-union as they come,” White said. “We need to bring this to the attention of everybody.”
WE SAY ‘NO!’
Cori Bush, Democratic nominee for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, called out the obviously suspect changes in postal policies.
“If these changes needed to be made, why weren’t they made a year ago, two years ago, six years ago? Why weren’t they made then?” Bush said. “But now, all of a sudden, we have a president who wants to be lifetime president, and this is part of that work. And so we say ‘NO!’”
GET OUT AND VOTE
Sen. Karla May (D-St. Louis), a longtime member of CWA Local 6300 and a member of the CBTU St. Louis executive board, urged union members and their allies to get out and vote.
“If we want to keep Organized Labor and the Post Office, which is not for sale, we need to get ready and vote like we’ve never voted before,” May said. “This has never happened in the history of any election in our country. We must be mindful of these tactics and we must not tolerate them. And anybody that’s supporting such hypocrisy needs to be removed from office.
“The economy is suffering because of this pandemic. This is exacerbating the situation. This is causing stress for the workers at the Post Office. This is causing stress for our constituents who can’t receive their medication on time. So what we need to do is vote like we’ve never voted before. Get ready Missouri, your life depends on it, your livelihood depends on it. These jobs at the Post Office depend on it. They are an intricate part of a stable economy and they are under attack.”
MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIVES
“You have to be a special kind of bold to try to steal an election from in front of us in broad daylight,” St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones said.
“You have to be a special kind of bold to think that we wouldn’t pay attention when all of a sudden the mail started slowing down on delivery. You have to be a special kind of bold to go before Congress and lie about what you’re doing and not doing. We watched the hearings. We know that he is just out and out lying about the services that are changing at the Post Office.
“It is important now more than ever that we pay attention to everything that this administration is doing. That we tell our children, our nieces, our nephews, all of our family members, that this election is the most important election of their lives,” Jones said. “If we don’t get it right this time, then heaven help us.”