When it comes to political guts within the Hatched (as in Hatch Act) fed family, postal unions tend to be bolder than their sister unions representing white collar civil servants and blue collar workers. And bigger.
How else to explain the executive board of the American Postal Workers Union. It voted last week to give the union’s considerable support to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. While the APWU (and most other unions) regularly endorse Democratic candidates, Sanders is an independent-socialist, who lately became a Democrat. And he’s a very long-shot both for the nomination, and to actually become POTUS.
But the APWU endorsement is a big plus for his campaign. And a shot across the bow to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Several shots, actually.
Sanders has gone out of his way to seek the support of organized labor. He spoke at APWU convention and made it clear the U.S. Postal Service — as a government agency — is here to stay if he has anything to say about it. For decades there has been a campaign to gut or privatize the Postal Service. The Postal Service has eliminated more than 200,000 jobs in recent years. Some business groups, and politicians, would like to see it shrunk down to a money-losing operation that only carried mail or parcels to places where private carriers won’t, don’t or can’t operate. Some GOP presidential candidates have (again) talked about eliminating various federal agencies. One said there were five on his list, but he could only name four of them.
Postal workers are everywhere in the U.S. The Postal Service is an army (many employees wear uniforms) of mostly privates, with some buck sergeants, majors and colonels. And one general. The Postmaster General.
The vast majority of postal workers (clerks, letter carriers, mail handlers and other crafts) actually belong to a union — the APWU, NALC, Mail Handlers — and pay dues.
The vast majority of white collar federals don’t belong to a union, and don’t pay dues although many are represented by a union.
For years Democratic candidates have mostly taken the federal vote — and certainly union endorsements — for granted. For good reason. Two union presidents (NALC and APWU) did endorse President Richard Nixon for reelection but they made it clear they were doing it as individuals, not in the name of their unions.
Most of the unions have members in just about every community. They can raise money through PACs and they have been known to detail members of their office staffs to work in political campaigns. That can be a big help both by saving the campaign salary money, and also because of the quality of the Washington-based talent assigned to the campaign.
In many areas — Ogden, Utah; Huntsville, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; Marion, Illinois — the government is both the primary and best-paying employer. This is especially true in small towns located near federal prisons, or Army or Air Force bases. In some small rural areas — places like Chincoteague, Virginia, people with senior jobs in the National Park Service, NASA, Defense, Justice and the IRS are among the town’s more prosperous citizens. What postal workers makeup in income, they make up for in numbers.
All the federal and postal unions happily worked for then-Sen. Barack Obama after he won the nomination. They supported his second term too. What they got in return is debatable: A 3-year pay freeze and a proposal, since withdrawn, to reduce the size of future cost of living adjustments for federal-military and Social Security retirees.
The AWPU board and president said they supported him (Sanders) because he supports them, and working folk everywhere. Fair enough.
But why did they do it this early, and bet on a candidate that is such a long shot?
Maybe the idea was to send a registered letter, receipt requested , to HRC, the leading and likely candidate. The message: We’re-out-here-and would-love-to-hear-from-you-sometime. Drop us a line sometime.