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Why a Union Member?

by Lee Simons

During the seventies, almost all Postal workers were Union members. The unpleasant memories of a militarized Postal Service were still fresh to many. But times and memories fade into the history books which, in turn, are forgotten and left on library shelves. While most will admit that unions were once beneficial, many today assert that unions should only be found in the history books. But new generations with their new explanations often overlook certain truths. Truths are eternal -- just as relevant tomorrow as they were yesterday. If you are questioning the wisdom of becoming a Union member, there are truths to consider.

First, recall the day you applied for a USPS position. Why did you put up with long lines, crowded test rooms, and the hassle of roster renewals? Was it not because the USPS is a great place to work with good pay, benefits and security? All the things you waited patiently for were fought for and won by the unions of our parents' generation. In essence, you were paid in advance with all the benefits, the fruits of our parents' labors, plus having an advocate and representative of your best interests, the day you signed on.

Be assured that neither the Congress nor the managers of the Postal Service have ever given workers anything out of kindness. Many naively place their trust in the bosses, failing to realize that the Postal Service is a business where the worker is viewed as an expensive item to be utilized to the fullest for turning a profit. Many have learned "the hard way" that bosses have their own agendas that do not necessarily include the interests of others.

Some Union winnings have already been "cast in stone." For example, we have won the 40 hour workweek, instead of the 60 plus hour workweek. We have won a decent standard of living, better than most of the world's. You can indeed come to work expecting a safe environment, and respectful treatment. But "the struggle continues" with job security, where the eroding forces of mismanagement, technological advances, profiteering by privatization, and Congressional "reformation" are ever-present foes.

It requires talent, and money to hire the talent, to combat Congressional craziness. It also requires money to hire the lawyers to protect your rights and to secure decent contracts. If you withhold your dues payments, the rest of us face dues increases to pay your share. Do you think this is right? "Divided we fall" is just as true as "United we stand." If you have left us, you have weakened us.

Concerning contract negotiations, you may have noticed that we had a tough time getting a new one. Management has fought us "tooth and nail" with regard to worker salaries. They whine, declaring bankruptcy and economic downturns. (Of course, they still continue to take care of their managers with huge EVA bonuses.) Can you visualize yourself approaching any manager where you work to ask for a modest raise to keep up with inflation?

The APWU is a clean union. There are no picket lines to worry about crossing. We do not go around on long violent strikes, breaking windows, and overturning cars. You still have a good job to come to during the negotiations. When negotiations break down, everything is settled by binding arbitration. We live by the laws.

Some refuse to join the Union arguing that "Hitler and his henchmen" have taken over and are doing crazy things. This argument holds as much weight as "I don't go to church because hypocrites are there." If, for the sake of argument, Hitler indeed took over, you do him a favor by taking your voice out. Further, your leaving makes it harder for the rest of us to vote him out! Some argue the Union is against their religious principles but overlook the fact that the APWU is founded on the greatest of religious principles -- for we are concerned only with the fair and just treatment of fellow human beings -- a fundamental tenant of most religions.

But I defy anyone who claims "religion" to show where it is right to freeload from others, i.e., getting the same representation and reaping the same benefits as those who must pay dues for them. There is another principle difficult to see except by those who are sincere in religion. It involves the gift at the altar. "If your brother has ought against thee, leave thy gift at the altar and first be reconciled to thy brother."

Those who refuse to pay dues are mostly viewed as hypocritical and deceitful freeloaders. Whether right or wrong, is this how you like to be thought of? Is this a good reflection on your faith or religion? Are you setting a good example? If you are sincerely a conscientious objector about joining with us, then the right and consistent thing to do would be to give back to the USPS all the benefits we have won for you, and to deal with Postal bosses on your own.

There is nothing more incongruous (and disgusting) than for a non-member to ask members about contract issues. It is a form of deceit to try to talk to Union members about contract issues in such a way as to present oneself as a concerned member. If you choose to separate yourself from us, then let your separation be total and complete!

Union dues are around $8.50 a week. You spend at least three times that for health insurance. When you consider the benefits won, and the contracts negotiated, this is a very small fee for the returns you have received, and continually receive. Consider job security. When you have a bad day, or a "run in" with a proud supervisor, we are there to stand with you. The APWU is your insurance policy for not only bad supervisors, but for protection against job erosion by advances in technology, economic failures, or poor management. You can never be laid off work for Management's mistakes. Can you not see that your membership in the APWU is good insurance?

If you have no qualms about buying health insurance, why be squeamish about buying good job insurance? Please help to preserve the hard-won gains of our parents -- that our children may also know dignity and respect! United we stand!

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