Postal Workers extend bargaining, plan mass action Oct. 8
APWU President Mark Dimondstein speaks at an anti-privatization rally. | Joe Piette/Flickr

WASHINGTON – The Postal Workers (APWU) and Postal Service management agreed Sept. 20 to extend bargaining for a month after the old contract expired that day, union President Mark Dimondstein announced.

And in the middle of the talks, APWU, the Letter Carriers – each of whom have at least 200,000 members – the Mail Handlers, which is a Laborers sector, and the Rural Letter Carriers will take to the streets on Oct. 8 for a national day of action against the GOP Trump administration’s postal privatization plans.

APWU started bargaining over a new pact with USPS on June 26, with frequent sessions leading a 10-day round-the-clock sprint as the old contract’s deadline approached.

Those last talks “identified important issues that the union believes deserve more time to discuss and explore before declaring an impasse and ending negotiations for a voluntary agreement,” APWU said.

“Our goal is to reach a negotiated settlement that can be voted on by the members” said Dimondstein, the lead bargainer. “National negotiations are always challenging. At this point in time it is in the best interest of the members to stay at the bargaining table rather than declare a hard and fast impasse.”

The union’s goals of “fighting today for a better tomorrow” include: Fair pay hikes, retaining cost of living increases, job security and continued no lay-off protections, closing the gaps of what APWU calls a “divisive three-tier wage structure,” addressing hostile work environments, expanded postal services and “seeking better career and full-time opportunities” for part-timers.

“Negotiations are never easy. Especially in the current political environment, they will be extremely challenging. The APWU’s success will depend on how much power and leverage can be mustered with member involvement and support from the public,” Dimondstein warned.

But hanging over the bargainers’ heads is the Trump administration plan to privatize the Postal Service, a scheme first laid out in the president’s budget and due to be amplified by a report from a special committee he appointed earlier this year.

The panel, which includes various top Trump administration officials – but no workers – had an original August 30 reporting deadline, but the White House decided to push the divisive issue back until after the mid-term elections.

That will send the workers out into the streets under the theme: “The U.S. Mail – Not for Sale!!”

“Privatizers – those who want to sell the public postal service to private corporations – are hard at work. Together we can stop them in their tracks. Get ready to hit the streets with our sister postal unions, family, friends, and community allies to Save Our Service. Rallies will take place at many congressional offices throughout the country. Check with your local and state leaders for more details and for the exact time and location in your area,” the unions said in a joint statement.

Dimondstein warned his convention delegates, meeting in August in Pittsburgh, of that coming conflict. At least one prior report says privatization might also include an end to USPS’ exclusive franchise to carry first-class mail.

“This White House, the Heritage Foundation, and their billionaire backers, the Wall Street investors, they want their greedy hands on the public till and the public good – but they’ve started something that they’re not going to be able to stop. They think this is their time…We’re going to show them this is truly our time,” Dimondstein said.

The unions are already gathering congressional support against privatization, the Letter Carriers reported.

Led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., 28 senators introduced a non-binding anti-privatization resolution, SRes 623, on September 20. The solons include both independents – Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a longtime postal workers supporter – and five Republicans: Jerry Moran of Kansas, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Several backers of the anti-privatization resolution are in tough races this fall: McCaskill, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. – the top target of a radical right “dark money” spending spree – and Tina Smith, DFL-Minn.  An identical House anti-privatization measure, HRes 993, was introduced on July 16.

“NALC is proud to see such a strong bipartisan defense in both the House and Senate against what amounts to an attack not simply on Letter Carriers and other postal employees, but the American people as well,” union President Fredric Rolando said.

“Privatization of the U.S. Postal Service would hurt both low-income and rural Americans especially who live in areas where it might not be profitable to deliver to them.” He’s urging workers to contact lawmakers to get them to sign on as cosponsors.

The union “hopes Congress progresses with sensible postal reform” to improve Postal Service “finances instead of resorting to hack-and-burn privatization policies.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.