Some APWU members have responded to my posts by threatening to revoke their membership while nonmembers have justified their refusal to join their brothers and sisters in common efforts. Each of these reactions is totally foreign to my intent. While I have differed with some decisions of the administration, it is healthy debate and makes collective organizations stronger. Throughout my union career in leadership positions, well-meaning observers found strong exception too many of my decisions. I attempted to separate personal attacks from constructive criticism when the detractor had a different and perhaps better idea. And, over the 53 year period of leadership there were plenty of opportunities for many to take exception. These were and are intelligent human beings who offer alternatives.
To use healthy debate as an excuse for dropping out is wrong. It does not address the problem of aggressive leadership and does not advance our collective intent of improving conditions for postal employees. Managers and supervisors left to their own devises will deny employees’ an appropriate share of benefits from their efforts and that is why nonunion workplaces do not compare to the wages, benefits and working conditions of organized establishments; workers combined have more power to demand an equal share, including dignity and respect in their employment.
As a part of civilized society, we participate in collective units including our neighborhoods, cities, counties, states and the geographical areas known as our country. Each of these entities form governing bodies empowered to make decisions. Inevitably, many of the decisions made do not fit our expectations, but we do not abandon our affiliation to these entities because we disagree on one or many issues. Why should your affiliation with labor unions be different? We vote, write letters, send emails, make phone calls or just talk to our neighbors or associates but we do not quit. A labor union is no different from these other collective bodies. It’s your city, your country, your union. When we take exception to their decisions we must accept that they were made in good faith given the body of evidence available. I know each of the current officers and have the highest respect for them in the performance of their duties. My disagreement with selective decisions does not make them bad people or make me superior. If I had continued as president, I too would have detractors.
A labor union is as strong and as effective as its membership. Unlike services retained when securing professionals like lawyers, economist or mechanics whom we judge based on results, union officials are like looking in the mirror. They are a reflection of “us.” Notwithstanding my criticisms of the contract, 70% of the membership voting voted its approval. Sixty percent of the represented employees did not vote and by failing to express a view their reaction was “whatever.” We cannot separate the negotiators from those who ratified. The membership shares equal credit and blame and the first priority of a negotiator is get an agreement that will be ratified.
The most recent issues in debate have no more relevance to ability and commitment. People make decisions and should be judged on those decisions, but one that you disagree with is not reflective of its value to others who have equal expectations. But assuming a decision is incorrect, you cannot correct it from the outside. This is not the last contract that will govern your wages, benefits and conditions of employment. Mortal human beings make judgments, some that prove to be positive building blocks and others that are duds. As individuals, we are never as wonderful as our most honored accomplishments and not as bad as our worst.
Living is about waking each day with a commitment to make tomorrow better. Quitting is not a positive act, and never adding your voice to the struggle for more accomplishes nothing. The union is the only vehicle available to give you voice as an employee. It has its high moments and its lows, but it is you and only you can make it better. Be a member. Make a difference.