LABOR’S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE (Below are excerpts of the keynote speech by President Mark Dimondstein on August 23, to the 23rd biennial convention of the American Postal Workers Union.) We are working, living and struggling in a time where there is an all-out war on workers, our families, our communities, our standards of living, our rights, our organizations. Make no mistake about it: It is Them vs. Us, Wall Street vs. Main Street. Capital vs. Labor.
Our precious right to vote is under severe attack and elections are increasingly and openly bought and sold. By design, we have a ‘winner takes all’ election system that perpetuates the choice between the ‘lesser of two evils’ and stacks the deck against the development of a needed union-based political party.
CEOs of fast food chains make $9,000, not a month, not a week, not a day, but an hour – while they resist workers’ demands for $15 per hour. Public libraries, parks, hospitals, schools, utilities, transportation and, yes, public postal services, are under extreme attack aimed at privatization.
But since the people trust the post office and postal workers, outright privatization is not so easy. Instead privatizers seek to degrade service as a means to their end: Keep the lines long, hours short, delay mail, and deliver late. This is the aim of the recent bipartisan rollback of postal rates and the bi-partisan 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which created the congressionally-manufactured financial crisis being used to choke the Postal Service.
All this is part of our reality. But there is another truth as well: Workers are standing up and fighting back – a message powerfully delivered by the uprising of hundreds of thousands of courageous Wisconsin workers who sparked a new period of labor activism. Fast food and retail workers are leading the charge for living wages, and making real gains. Unionized auto workers stood firm in recent contract negotiations and largely eliminated the divisive two-tier wage systems at the “big three” auto companies.
Forty-thousand unionized workers took on the behemoth Verizon Corporation in a 46-day strike, and won. The entire labor movement stands united against the Trans Pacific Partnership – the TPP – and other rotten trade deals that enrich multinationals at the expense of workers everywhere.
And the APWU is actively in the midst of this good fight.
As part of the general fight for justice, we participate in the Democracy Initiative to drive corporate money out of politics and defend our right to vote. We stand with the people of Flint and Ferguson in the fight for civil rights and social justice. We have been in the streets and the halls of Congress opposing the TPP. We unite with workers Fighting for $15 per hour and a union. We joined in solidarity with 39,000 CWA and IBEW unionists during their victorious strike against Verizon. The APWU is part of the AFL-CIO “house of labor” and internationally affiliated with Union Network International (UNI).
Let me share a few comments on the 2016 U.S. election: I believe the 2016 presidential primary season was truly historic as millions, particularly young people, proclaimed they were dissatisfied with our country’s rigged political system. Millions responded to Senator Sanders’ call for a political revolution with its bold, proworking-class message of living wages, free college tuition, Medicare for All, defending the ‘public good’ and taking on Wall Street greed. Even many of the votes for the anti-union, anti-worker, race- and religionbaiting Donald Trump, reflect legitimate disgust with business as usual.
In light of the results of the presidential primary, and given the stark choices, the National Executive Board has now endorsed the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton. It will now be up to this convention to decide the best way forward in this 2016 election.
Remember, elections come and go. But the struggle continues. Whoever sits in the White House, the main challenge going forward will be to build a powerful movement for social and economic justice.
Yes, we have powerful and organized adversaries. But there are far more of us than them. When we learn to better unite and fight, when we defeat the divide-andconquer schemes of corporate America that divide white from black, native born from immigrant, men from women, private from public sector, active from retired, career from non-career, workers at home from workers abroad, we will realize our power and we can and will win.
From our workplaces to the streets, from our neighborhoods to the halls of Congress, it is time to ever more seriously educate, organize, mobilize and galvanize. We will have to fight our way out with a movement of millions and using all the tools at our disposal.
We must be part of a crusade to save our unions! We must be part of a crusade for social and economic justice. Let’s continue to stand up and fight back, hand-in-hand with each other, all postal unions, all labor, the public and our many community allies. The last two years have shown us this truth. Mobilized and united in action, ‘Fighting for Justice,’ we made great progress. We can forge ahead, build our power, and win! Carry On and Solidarity Forever.