The APWU National Convention was held in Orlando Florida from August 22-25. Rob Stahl, Carrie Wolff, Michelle Pokutecki and Anne Messina were in attendance. There were a variety of classes offered on Friday, and we were each allowed to attend two of them. Craft breakout sessions were held on Saturday and Sunday. Carrie and Michelle attended the clerk division, while Rob and I attended the Maintenance division session.
It was my first National Convention and I found it to be very interesting and informative. I learned so much in just a few days. There were 2100 delegates representing all 50 states along with Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
Each day started with a different motivational speaker. Each speaker had a message of solidarity and a promise to stand with us in our “Fight for Justice.”
We heard from many people from different unions, both National and International. The APWU vowed to stand by these people and support them.
We heard from employees of Nabisco who were laid off because of corporate greed. The CEO of Nabisco makes $120 million/year and she decided to move the Oreo division to Mexico so she could make more money!! This move cost 600 people their jobs. The APWU agreed to support these people by boycotting the purchase of Oreo cookies and other Nabisco products that are made in Mexico. Please join us by making a conscious effort to check the labels and not purchase Nabisco products that are made in Mexico.
The Dr. who exposed the Flint Michigan water crisis, Dr. Mona Hanna -Attish, also spoke at the convention. She told about the many children who came to her office exhibiting symptoms of lead poisoning. It was an alarming number and she knew that she had to look further into the cause. She found that a non-corrosive agent was not being added to the water in order to save money. This allowed corrosive and lead particles to infiltrate the water supply. Lead poisoning causes irreversible brain damage and developmental delays in children.
Before the decline of the auto industry, Flint had good union jobs, had the highest per capita wages in the country and had great schools and hospitals. Now Flint is equated with disaster.
The irony of the situation is that Michigan is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It has the most fresh water in the country, but the residents of Flint can’t get clean water.
Bottled water was sold at the convention for $1 per bottle, with the money being donated to the Flint water crisis. The APWU raised $10,000. A motion was made to take a collection from the delegates to support the cause. A very generous collective effort raised $12,600 !! The Mott Foundation, which is located in Flint, matched our donation and brought the total to $50,000. Dr. Hanna – Attish was deeply moved by this donation and it was voted unanimously that she be inducted as an honorary APWU member.
One of the hot topics was the return of Postal Banking. We take for granted the ability to have bank accounts and the choice of how we pay our bills, whether it’s on line or by check. We have this choice because we have the opportunity to utilize direct deposit. Many banks charge fees for not maintaining a minimum balance. Having direct deposit usually eliminates those fees. Many Americans do not have the ability to maintain a required balance and live pay check to pay check. Many people are forced to use check cashing “businesses” that charge a percentage of the check amount to cash it. This greed puts people in a deeper hole and forces them to take out pay-day l0ans with very high interest rates. This ultimately becomes a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
Postal banking would eliminate much of the greed and would give people freedom from ridiculously high fees, an escape from pay-day loan sharks, and would keep them from sinking deeper into debt. Lower income Americans would be able to achieve a sense of equality with Middle class Americans by being afforded the same opportunity to have bank accounts and a choice of how to pay their bills.
What I found to be most interesting at the convention, is seeing how our contract is negotiated. I was unaware of this procedure until I attended the convention. Proposals,(resolutions as they are referred to), are first brought to the Local level for approval. If the resolution passes at this level, it is brought to the State Convention and voted on there by the delegates. Once it passes at the State level, it is brought to the National Convention. There are many different committees that offer a recommendation that the resolution be concurred (passed) or non-concurred (failed) and they give their reason for their decision. It is then turned over to the delegates. The delegates may then voice their opinion, one person at a time, and why they agree or disagree with the committee’s recommendation. Changes to the resolution are allowed to be made. These changes are called amendments. These amendments could be anything from adding to or deleting words or phrases from the original resolution, and then the amendments are voted on by the delegates. If the resolution passes, it will be brought to the next contract negotiation session and presented to the USPS to be put on the bargaining table.
I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the National Convention.