Seattle APWU News
Report by Jacqueline Hailey
Publisher: Seattle Local American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO.
Frequency, Size: Started March 1972; published monthly; ranged from 2-12 pages.
Editors: For a list of editors from March 1972 to February 1991, click here.
Local Presidents: For a list of the Seattle APWU Presidents, click here.
Collection: University of Washington Allen/Suzzallo Libraries. For Local 28 News: Microform and Newspaper Collections (A7164). For Seattle APWU News: Special Collections (HD6350.P72 S44).
Today: The Seattle APWU News continues today. The Union currently represents 366,000 employees nationwide. It is still the largest postal union in the world and is the fifteenth largest union in the AFL-CIO.
"Today in America unions have a secure place in our
industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaires harbor the ugly
thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the
right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those –
regardless of their political party – who hold some vain and foolish
dream of spinning the clock back to the days when organized labor was
huddled, almost as a helpless mass…Only a fool would try to deprive
working men and women of the right to join the union of their
choice." – Dwight D. Eisenhower
In the Seattle area, postal workers came together to form a union in the early 1900s: Local 28 of the National Federation of Postal Office Clerks. On July 1, 1971, the NFPOC merged with the United Federation of Postal Clerks, the National Postal Union, the National Association of Post Office and General Service Maintenance Employees, the National Association of Special Delivery Messengers forming the American Postal Workers Union. This union became the largest postal union in the world.
The Seattle Local American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO newspaper, better known today as the Greater Seattle APWU News, started as the Local 28 News in 1947, changing its name after the 1971 merger. The Seattle APWU News looks like any other newspaper. It has news, editorials, and special features. In the early 1970s, there were not many ads or cartoons, but over the years, it has produced more and more. It circulates to members of Local 28, whose dues fund the newspaper. Advertising also defrays some of the costs.
Published monthly, the Seattle APWU News from 1972 to 1991 had been consistent in reporting mostly local, some national, and even some international labor news. The paper ranged from 2-12 pages in length depending on the year and what was going on at the time. The University of Washington Allen Library offers many volumes of this newspaper in its Special Collections; however, most of the volumes are incomplete.
The Seattle APWU News promoted equity, benefits, security, and advancements. As C.B. (Chip) Bryant, President of the Seattle APWU from January 1976 to April 1982, said, "The desire for unified effort, advancement, better job conditions, resulted in the formation of SAPWU. Most Seattle Postal Workers desire unified effort, advancement, better job conditions. Therefore, most Seattle Postal Workers are member of SAPWU." Until the postal workers formed unions, life in the post office was more than difficult. Postmasters worked their employees without equal pay, often cutting wages, without overtime, without vacation or sick leave, and much more. This is why Local 28 started in Seattle, and then merged with the AFL-CIO in order to increase their chances of success.
The news focused on strikes, the Constitution, members, grievance procedures, and, yes, even union picnics. The paper also included Guest Editorials, the President’s Message, the Secretary’s Notes, the Clerk’s Herald, and the Editor’s Corner. Members of the committee including the President and craft officers wrote most of the articles in the paper. The paper reported on the postal news in different regions across the nation, especially the active locals Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Memphis, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, and Wichita regions. In 1981, the union represented 320,000 members nationwide.
Francis S. Filbey became the first national president of the merged postal union. Previously he had led the United Federation of Postal Clerks. Edna Dean became the first president of the Seattle Local. She had previously served Local 28 as president, steward, and member of the legislative committee. This was all the information given on Edna Dean. Her term of office was short since the leadership of the APUW local changes every year. Click here for a list of the local's presidents. The first editor of the Seattle APWU News was Frank. M. Worden, who probably served earlier as editor of the Local 28 News. Click here for the full list of editors.
Membership maintenance and union participation receive a great deal of attention in the newspaper. In 1972, the Seattle APWU News reported that there were approximately 1600 paid members, but only about 50 of these members actually came to the meetings. The newspaper repeatedly encouraged members to get involved. Paid members were asked to recruit other members. A poem submitted in December of 1974 by Barbara E. Wilson asks the members, "Do you just belong?"
Are you an active member
Encouragement came from headquarters in Washington, D.C. Only July 7, 1982, APWU News published the following letter from national president Moe Biller:
Dear Local & State Presidents:
As you are aware, under the terms of the National Agreement…As an incentive for a more pronounced organization awareness among APWU officers and stewards, the National Office in offering all locals and states an augmented rebate of $20 per new member for August 13…as the "rallying" date on which all the activity will occur.
This day will be known as "Memberation" Day, a time when all postal workers can reflect on the importance of having a Union and contract which provides them with ongoing benefits while other workers are in a "give back" situation or are not even able to give back because they are out of a job.
"Memberation" Day can also be a time when non-members can reflect upon the same thing and take the positive step of assuring many such days by joining the American Postal Workers Union…
Union democracy is a major concern of the Seattle local. With new leaders to be selected at annual elections, voting is a popular topic. Headlines like "Vote September 19" encouraged members to vote for their new executive board. Other reports included temporary and permanent changes in the constitution, articles urging members to write to Congress and state legislatures, meeting highlights, union products (only by union-made products), state and national conventions, questions and answers to grievance procedures, the unsuitable postmasters, strikes, and of course, local picnics.
Humorous articles about working conditions and post office supervisors filled the newspaper. Postmasters who refused to cooperate with the union were lampooned as well as criticized. An article in the February 1977 issue makes fun of "Standard Guidelines for judging Employee Performance Prior to Salary Increase: From ZMT Supervisor’s Handbook."
Another article in the January 1986 issue criticized working conditions by comparing the Seattle post office to a prison, saying that both represent "hard time."
SEATTLE POST OFFICE
1. Big concrete building 1. Big concrete building
2. Fenced in
2. Fenced in
3. No windows 3. Windows nailed shut
22. Individual must fight own battles
The APWU is your Union fighting for your rights, which are
guaranteed under our National and Local Agreements. A united
membership and your support are the only ways to stop this list of
similarities from growing any longer. Get involved. Help us help you.
Talk to non-members about joining. Understand the issues. Seek out the
Union’s opinions and its reasons for taking action.
United – progress will be made.
Separated – we are just doing Hard Time.
Then, there are political cartoons that show how overworked the postal employees can be. Forced overtime, wage cuts, eliminating necessary positions, refusal to bargain collectively were other subjects of biting articles and even more caustic cartoons .
Boycotts and supporting union made products are another important element of the APWU News. Advertisements in the Seattle APWU News supported union-made products, health coverage plans for unions, the Seattle Postal Employees Credit Union, See’s Candies offer 20% off for Postal employees, and picnic days. The full-page ads included boycotts against non-union made products where some led to affects of the destruction of the company or the continuation of it. Examples include national boycotts "officially sanctioned by the AFL-CIO Executive Council (Effective February 1984)." Companies include:
The first strike of the Seattle Local American Postal Workers Union was on June 12, 1972. This strike followed the breakdown of negotiations with the United States Postal Service. A second strike followed a few months later, on November 15, 1972, in opposition a hiring freeze i and the elimination of positions. A few years past before the next strike in May 1988 opposing wage cuts occurred. One of the most recent strikes in August 1996, a national demonstration remonstrated management’s plan to contract out new Priority Mail Processing Centers, and a local strike protested against the attempts of postmasters to privatize postal service that would destroy wages and working conditions.
The American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO has successfully recruited more workers throughout the years, nationally and internationally. In 1987, the Union began looking for international ties because they felt the world was an international economy. They sought to support morally, financially, and politically the workers around the world, especially in developing nations such as the Philippines, Salvador, and South Africa.
In the end, the Seattle APWU News covers more local news
about the Union, not local news that would be placed in newspaper such
as the Seattle Times. What is important for the reader to
notice about this paper is that it has a voice. It is clearly
subjective with editorials from the President, officers, and the
editor encouraging membership involvement, boycotts against
non-unions, meeting highlights, and more. This newspaper does not
appear to be gendered or racial. There have been women and men
presidents of different races. The Union’s Constitution clearly
states its equality for both race and gender: the purpose "of
this union is to unite all postal employees regardless of sex, race,
nationality, creed, or political affiliation, into membership in on
brotherhood, the American Postal Workers union, in order to advance
the economic, social, and cultural welfare and improve the standard of
living for themselves and their dependents." Overall, this Union
accomplished many goals, and to this day strives for a better
(Carolyn Overbo Nilsson in 5/80)
Copyright © 2001 by Jacqueline