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Letter Carriers Continue A 23-Year Tradition Of Working To “STAMP OUT HUNGER”

1-in-7 Americans need food assistance including, 7 million seniors, over 1 million veterans, and  12 million children.

The National Association of Letter Carriers continue help feed those in our local communities who need assistance holding the nations largest annual one day food drive, on May 9th.

 

NALC 1 Minute PSA video link

http://216.164.46.16/commun/foodrive/2014/logos/SOH.jpgOn Saturday May 9th Letter Carriers  will be conducting their  annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. The drive is the largest one-day food drive in the nation. Last year, more than 70 million pounds of food were collected, making this the eleventh consecutive year that collections reached over the 70-million-pound mark. Since the drive began in 1993, nearly 1.4 billion pounds have been collected. Residents are asked to just place non perishable food by their mailbox for their letter carrier to pick up and deliver to a local food pantry.

Led by letter carriers represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), with help from Rural Letter Carriers (NRLCA), other postal employees and other volunteers, the drive has delivered food to local food banks at a critical time as food pantries often run low on donations in the Spring.   This years drive is enthusiastically cosponsored by the AFL CIO , The National Rural Letter Carriers Association and the United Way.

NALC 30 Second PSA video link 

2015_Food-Drive-Flyer-EnglishWhat makes this drive truly successful, year after year, is the amount of effort our food drive volunteers put in to help bring in as much food as possible,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “Rather than taking a well-deserved rest after a full day of delivering the mail, countless men and women in branches large and small spend untold hours working out the local logistics necessary to conduct a successful food drive so generous customers can help those in need.”
Letter carriers visit every address in America at least six days a week, so we are acutely aware of how hunger affects the communities we serve. Driven by a desire to do something about this problem, and inspired by the success that a number of branches had experienced with local food drives, in the early 1990s the NALC worked with the Postal Service to come up with a national food-collection campaign.

The nation’s labor unions are in full support of the food drive, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “With the support of unions all across America, the NALC can set a record in collections, helping those who have lost their jobs and the millions more facing economic uncertainty.

The United Way’s Stacey Stewart expressed her organizations support “The United Way will continue to partner with the NALC Food Drive in 2015. Its our privilege to once again, join with organized labor, an indispensable partner in our broader mission to create real and lasting change in communities throughout the United States.”

NRLCA President Jeanette Dwyer commented on the success and simplicity of the food drive: “It has become clear how such a small act of charity on the part of one person can resonate so profoundly in the communities in which we live.”

Please join us on America’s greatest day of giving.

To donate, just place a box or bag with your cans and non-perishable items next to your mailbox, before your letter carrier delivers mail on May 9th.

The carrier will do the rest.

The food is sorted, and delivered to a local food bank or pantry, where it is available for needy families.

For more information watch this short 7-minute video from the National Association of Letter Carriers that explains it all, and why letter carriers are donating their time to help feed the people in their own communities. 

(All of this information can also be found in Spanish in this video translated by NALC members in Puerto Rico Branch 869)

 

 

Senator Rand Paul Has No Idea Why The USPS Appears To Be Failing, But He Blames Unions

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

With much fanfare Rand Paul has officially kicked off his Stand with Rand presidential campaign.  He is arguably the most anti-worker candidate on the American political landscape.

Paul never strays from being a front man for the wealthy with his extreme anti-union beliefs. For Postal workers his message is clear as he advocates an  end to collective bargaining rights for postal workers when their current contracts expire.  He says he is not “opposed to all unions” he just believes unions are inappropriate for public service workers.

For other union workers, his thoughts are just as clear as he proudly introduced a National Right to Work Bill in the Senate. The National Right to Work Committee has given Paul $20,000 already this election cycle, which is 57% of all the money it has handed out to all other politicians combined.  So you can easily say that Rand Paul has essentially become the national spokesman for Right to Work. This kind of belies his “man of the people” messaging.

When speaking on Postal Reform a month ago in Florida he blasted the Postal Service:
“There are two sectors in the economy. The productive sector: you. And the non-productive sector: the people who live in Washington. They don’t make anything. They can’t even run the post office. They say we are going to project our power and we create new nations around the world.  We can’t run our own post office. They came to me last year on my committee and you know what they said, ‘we need bonuses for people at the post office.’ They said ‘you’ve got to pay people to retain talent. To get talented people you’ve got to pay them.’ I said ‘how much talent does it take to lose a billion dollars a quarter.’” I am not quite sure that Postal Bonuses were a major topic in the postal reform mark up. I am quite sure that postal  union workers do not receive any bonuses. Plus the USPS has turned an operational profit over the last few years.

(Michael Vadon - Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul - FLIKR CC)

(Michael Vadon
– Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul – FLIKR CC)

“So something has to change, but everybody opposes any changes that would allow the Post Office to make decisions like a business. Maybe if they were to have bankruptcy and renegotiate all of their labor contracts, they would have a chance. But there’s too many strong political, partisan voices up here to let that happen.  So I don’t know what the answer is. Privatization would be great but how we go about doing that is another story.”

Senator Paul’s main contribution to the Postal Reform hearings before his committee were not exactly constructive. He immediately proposed an amendment calling on the Postal Service to declare bankruptcy and reorganize. In the senator’s vision of reorganization, collective-bargaining agreements between USPS and its employee unions would be renegotiated, while existing no-layoff protections and the ability to bargain over wages would be banned.

Paul then tied up the committee with a lengthy barrage of questions about his failed amendment to “remove a federal ban on guns in the post offices.”  This prevented substantial debate on the problems with retiree pre-funding obligations that his Congress placed on the USPS. Senator Paul’s Postal Reform boils down to eliminating workers rights and enhancing gun owners’ rights in the post office. That is not Postal Reform, that’s Postal Destruction.

The real issue behind the Postal Service’s red ink is the  2006 Congressional mandate that the Postal Service fully fund 75 years of retiree health care costs in a 10 year period. This onerous mandate costs the USPS $5.5 Billion a year and is the only reason that the Postal Service doesn’t show a profit on its balance sheet. Even more outrageous is the fact that this payment is unnecessary as the USPS retiree fund has more than enough money for decades into the future. The hard-working union workers of the Postal Service are on their 3rd straight year of an operational profit.  It’s been an extraordinary turnaround that Paul fails to mention.

Rand Paul has some serious misconceptions not only about the productivity of  union workers but also their retirement and health care plans. ” Federal employees have almost double the compensation that private employees have. […] Maybe these government unions are going to have to contribute to their pension, maybe they’re going to have to pay something for their health care, like I’m having to pay, so when I hear regular taxpayers in Kentucky they don’t have a lot of sympathy because they’re paying high insurance premiums and they have to pay for their own retirements. “

(Video link)

He couldn’t be more misinformed. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Also Federal workers participate in the Federal Group Health Care system where they buy their healthcare.  For some Postal Workers (CCAs and  PSEs) the price for health care almost make it unattainable while joining a retirement plan is not fiscally possible. The Postal Service does not contribute anything to their retirement plans. Paul had to know he was completely misrepresenting the facts, but that didn’t stop him. His overall dislike of public sector unions make any exaggeration of the facts acceptable, it seems.

Demonizing federal union workers is a Republican staple since Ronald Reagan fired Air Traffic Controllers. There is a profit to be made by decimating the Postal Service both politically and financially.  It’s no surprise that UPS and FedEx are among the top 10 contributors to his leadership PAC. With Paul it’s simple: you just follow the money. Whether it’s degrading public union workers or being the lead advocate for bills against private sector workers, it’s clear whose side Rand Paul stands with. His close ties with anti-union groups show his true allegiance.  He will offer an occasional  populist message on foreign policy or the war on drugs in an effort to disguise the fact that when it comes to economic issues he is firmly against working people.

Paul is the latest in the line of snake oil salesman running for President who under the guise of free markets/privatization, who want to further enrich the ultra-wealthy on the backs of  middle class workers.  The ultra-wealthy supporters of Paul never vote against their economic self-interest. Notice the record-breaking income inequality as proof. In spite of that Rand Paul is running for president hoping to fool working people in to voting against their economic well-being.  His Stand with Rand movement is clearly standing on the backs of union people.

Paul believes ordinary people should just be slaves for the rich and be thankful for it. He expounds on this in the video below.  For working people a more  accurate slogan describing their economic outlook under a President Rand Paul would be Fall With Paul.

Through Rain, Sleet, and Snow The Mail Must Go Through, So Why Is Congress Trying To Destroy The USPS?

Letter Carrier in the Snow (image by Mark Turnauckas FLIKR)

(image by Mark Turnauckas FLIKR)

As Letter Carriers put their health and safety at risk each day in this especially brutal winter we can take solace in the fact we have enabled the Postal Service to  continue its financial turnaround. 2015 Fiscal Year Quarter 1 reports released Friday confirmed what all Letter Carriers know our business is booming . All types of letter mail continue to grow and parcel delivery is skyrocketing allowing the USPS to make a $1.1 Billion operating profit just this quarter. This will be the third consecutive year with a sizeable operational profit.

As Letter Carriers walk house to house in blustery winds on treacherous snow and ice to deliver America its mail many in Congress sit in their warm offices saying they have to reform or dismantle the worlds best Postal Service. They don’t consider Clerks and Mail Handlers driving in snowstorms through the middle of the night to move the mail.  Their anti government ideology blinds them as they ignore the facts. Those people could not do a Letter Carriers job for a day especially in this hell of a winter. As a news commentator stated this week ” the only vehicles on the road were Plows, Police and Postal Trucks”

They want to sell off the USPS as there is profit to be made by the wealthy in their climate controlled boardrooms.  Anti government zealots use Fed Ex and UPS as examples of what the USPS should become. They fail to mention both Fed Ex and UPS have increased prices 5-10% this year and still charge fuel surcharges even though gasoline prices have plummeted.

While politicians are cashing their campaign contributions from Fed Ex and UPS they also seem to disregard the fact that the Postal Service delivers to every address in America every day. Those private companies often  drop off their unprofitable and difficult deliveries at the nearby post office to have a USPS Letter Carrier deliver the last mile.

Instead of looking at “fixing” the Postal Service these financial statements should send Congress searching into ways that other segments of the U.S. economy can emulate what the Postal Service exceptionally well. The USPS is a  highly unionized and diverse work force  providing an essential service to hundreds of millions of people regardless of their economic status. The Postal Service provides a public service through harsh weather conditions and turns a billion dollar profit.

 

(Image by Rebecca Flickr CC)

(Image by Rebecca Flickr CC)

If Congress wants to truly wants to represent its constituents it would vote to rescind the unprecedented $5.5 Billion annual retiree prepayment obligation that  the USPS is expected to pay for future retirees . That alone would allow the Postal Service to accelerate this already impressive turnaround. Debating outdated ideas like cutting back mail delivery do not advance the best interest of the American Public.

This brutal winter has shown again the employees of the USPS are remarkable. Without  $1 of taxpayer money the USPS delivers an essential service to every address in America every day and turns a substantial profit.

The NH State Association Of Letter Carriers Played Big Role In Helping To Win Three of the Four Major Races

election-results-clipart-300x300It was a difficult election cycle for all involved in Labor 2014 as we constantly battled a very apathetic electorate. Though I am quite sure more than 7 out of 10 NH Letter Carriers voted for labor friendly candidates the level of enthusiasm did not come close to the more recent elections. Considering how the high the stakes are for our union this apathy is troubling.

The good news in NH is that we reelected Senator Jeanne Shaheen as well as Congresswoman Anne Kuster and Governor Maggie Hassan all allies of ours. The bad news was seeing quite possibly our unions strongest supporter in DC, Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter lose in a close race. The late avalanche of negative ads paid for by out of state anti worker groups no doubt led to her defeat.

I was honored to be one of four NHSALC releases in this election cycle. I would like to sincerely thank NALC Regional Field Director Ross Medico for his outstanding work in coordinating our efforts in NH. Having him join us certainly energized our efforts and resulted in the campaigns highlight when over 50 Letter Carriers from New England teamed up for a GOTV Labor Walk in Manchester just days before the election.

I also wish to express my thanks to the other NHSALC release staff: President Wayne Alteresio, CDL Jim Fucella and SLL Steve Phillips.  They all sacrificed a ridiculous amount of their time and energy in fighting for candidates to help save our postal service. They all put their lives on hold as the campaign became a blur in the final weeks. The actual work on this campaign was close to two years in the making and the dedication of the NHSALC Legislative Team is indeed a model for the rest of the country. Our state association is extremely fortunate to have a release staff willing to sacrifice so much for job security for us all.

The NH AFL CIO headed by President Mark MacKenzie worked tirelessly to coordinate the Labor 2014 effort and much of the success labor candidates had in 2014 has to be attributed to its work. This was a challenging campaign on countless levels.

Postal Unions APWU and NPMHU played a strong role in this campaign and they must be commended. As is often the case the NH Postal Unions political teams work far more effectively together than in other states. Former NHSALC officers Lew Henry and Terry Gesel formed an effective alliance with political allies throughout the state and should be applauded for their efforts as well.  It’s a group effort to win elections and this group in NH won 3 out of 4 for the NALC.

This Labor 2014 campaign coincided with a workers battle on another front. The bitter strike in NH/Maine at Fairpoint by IBEW and CWA workers posed a dramatic back drop to workers struggle against union busting management tactics. Fairpoint is owned by Wall Street hedge funds and is trying to decimate their unions and out source middle class jobs. Does that sound familiar?  Many IBEW-CWA workers left the picket line after their shifts and went to the NH AFL CIO to participate in Phone Banks and Labor Walks. Considering the turmoil in their lives to take time out their personal chaos to make calls and knock on doors in support of all unions including the NALC was truly inspiring.  Please join them on their picket line and contribute to their relief fund at Fairnessatfairpoint.com .  That’s what unionism is all about.

WMUR TV Fabricates A Story Promoting Scott Brown, Attacking Billy Shaheen

Say goodbye to news coverage with integrity on WMUR TV.

Many NHLN readers already think WMUR TV has been biased toward Republican candidates and causes for years – but they have reached a new low.

This past weekend, WMUR TV decided to try to gain some ratings points by completely misrepresenting a quote from Senate candidate Scott Brown. Instead of just bending the facts to make a mediocre story more appealing, WMUR completely twisted them to build a news angle that didn’t actually exist.

Here’s what really happened: Last Wednesday, Scott Brown visited the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester. He met many voters, both supporters and opponents, as you would expect in any public campaign stop. Among the people he met was Manchester resident Wayne Alterisio. Wayne is a popular figure in the city and is the NH State Association of Letter Carrier State President.  Wayne and I have been friends for decades.

I don’t remember when I first told Wayne that Scott Brown and I went to high school together in Wakefield, MA. Actually, Scott and I were pretty good friends until Scott went off to college. We sort of lost touch after that. However, Wayne never forgot that Scott and I had once been good friends.

Last Wednesday, while Wayne was eating his breakfast in the Red Arrow Diner, Scott Brown walked in and they engaged in a conversation.

As Wayne told me later, Wayne greeted the candidate cordially, “Hi Senator Brown … I know a very good friend of yours, Bill Brickley.Wayne and Senator Brown then had a discussion on the Minimum Wage as that is a significant issue for many working class families.  As Senator Brown was ending their conversation, Brown said, “Say hi to Billy for me.

WMUR did not have their own camera crew following Senator Brown, so who knows where they got their information about what was said that day. But incredibly, in their coverage of the Red Arrow Diner visit, WMUR cited Senator Brown’s “Say hi to Billy” comment as a reference to Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s husband, William “Billy” Shaheen.

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people in New Hampshire named “Billy.” So what reason would WMUR TV have, to think that Senator Brown’s “Say Hi to Billy” comment referred to Senator Shaheen’s husband?

WMUR then built an entire segment around the comment. WMUR Political Director Josh McElveen was the reporter (or should I say creator?) of the story, making it even more egregious. The almost 3 minute piece has been widely circulated, both when it was originally shown and then when it was highlighted on weekend news recaps.

The only thing worse than a fake news story is a widespread fake news story.

WMUR did not see that the real new story in the conversation between Wayne and Senator Brown was growing income inequality and the stagnant Minimum Wage.

Evidently there isn’t much appetite for that. Instead, WMUR took a one-sentence remembrance, completely out of context, and pushed it to attack Senator Shaheen and her husband Billy.

It’s easy to connect this pro-Scott Brown coverage to the $74,545 that the Scott Brown campaign has paid WMUR this week for just one particular ad that is to be shown 148 times. I would imagine this saturation is already conveying Senator Brown’s message sufficiently. Feeling the need to manufacture fake anti-Shaheen “news” angles seems to me to hint at overkill.

Incidentally, WMUR is in a bitter dispute with its own 13 IBEW photographers, as the company continues to deny them pension benefits that are afforded to other WMUR employees. Since 2005, these 13 union employees have been singled out and denied pension benefits. This is unconscionable when you consider the fact that WMUR parent corporation Hearst has made $10 billion in revenue. They are the only 13 employees at the station denied these benefits.   This may be the reason that WMUR had to rely on a NECN video crew to get a news feed of Senator Brown’s Red Arrow visit that took place one mile from WMUR studios.

WMUR TV owes an apology for this fabrication.

The first victim of this malicious lie is NH Letter Carrier State President Wayne Alterisio. Wayne was falsely accused of being there on the instruction of Billy Shaheen. Wayne should be commended for being cordial to Senator Brown and for bringing up the minimum wage issue. Minimum Wage is directly related to the income inequality that has become one of our nation’s biggest problems. Though they disagreed on that subject, it was a respectful conversation.

Also due an apology is the campaign of Senator Jeanne Shaheen. She had absolutely nothing to do with Wayne choosing to have breakfast at the Red Arrow.

The biggest apology should go to the viewers and advertisers of WMUR.  Though the station portrays itself as a credible news organization, the actions related to this story show otherwise. Viewers and advertisers expect WMUR to report the news factually – and not act like tabloid journalism by completely fabricating news.  This wasn’t an accident or a typo. This was clear fabrication and WMUR TV must be held responsible.

At The NALC Convention, Letter Carriers Show Their Support For All Workers

NALC6

Having  just returned from Philadelphia and an NALC Convention that was inspiring.  I am struck by the fact that Letter Carrier solidarity towards our political fight  for survival has continued to strengthen since our last convention in 2012. What has also increased in intensity is the national war on workers. Battlegrounds were all around us, many speakers at the convention relayed stories about attacks on worker rights and when we stepped outside we saw visible proof with the Carpenters Union picketing the convention center and UNITE HERE picketing the Radisson Warwick Blu which was one of our host hotels. Clearly all our grievances are connected.

NALC1

Senator Bernie Sanders speaking at the NALC convention

Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a fiery speech which was interrupted multiple times with standing ovations by the nearly 7000 delegates.”Well, I’ve got a message for Mr. Donahoe,” Sanders said. “At a time when the middle class is disappearing and the number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high, do not destroy middle-class jobs at the Postal Service. At a time when senior citizens and small businesses depend on the Postal Service operating six-days a week, do not end Saturday mail. At a time when the Postal Service is competing with the instantaneous communications of e-mail and high-speed Internet services, do not slow down the delivery of mail, speed it up. And do not dismantle the Postal Service by shutting down a quarter of the mail processing plants left in this country.”

The address by National Postal Mail Handlers Union President John Hegarty stressed the importance of the newly signed postal alliance which has all four postal unions working together to save the Postal Service. “The Postal Union Alliance puts it out there for all to see; we are united and we can’t be defeated.”

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NH State Association of Letter Carriers members Wayne Alterisio and Lew Henry stand with locked out Carpenters

Outside the convention center was a group of locked out carpenters. The Carpenters union which was locked out  seems to have a valid grievance and is currently in court trying to end their lock out. By some reports the Carpenters have been vigilant in contract enforcement and this may have played a role in the hard-line stand  from the convention center. In the spirit of solidarity the carpenters were enthusiastic participants with Letter Carriers and community groups in the Stop Staples rally held on Wednesday. The most contentious issue in their negotiations was a clause to allow increased low wage temporary workers.

NALC3A mile away UNITE HERE organized a  boisterous rally at the Radisson  Warwick Blu Hotel on Friday. The contagious spirit was reminiscent of early OWS in NYC . The workers are in difficult contract negotiations looking for a fair contract with job security. Workers are looking for protection from contracting out their jobs to low wage workers. For a company that is making millions of dollars a year giving its workers a fair contract should not be an issue. This is the latest example that corporate greed is always an obstacle to fairness.

All these workers realize that prosperity spreads  from the middle class out not from the top down. If trickle down economics works we would be flooded in jobs at the present time. The wealthy have not owned such a high percentage of our nations wealth since before the Great Depression of the 20’s. With the extreme wealthy making money at unparalleled rate why wouldn’t they pay their workers a fair wage.

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At a workshop local fast food workers outlined their plight against the reckless greed that has run rampant through their industry. A moving presentation from a fast food worker who was fired last week from his job for participating in activism to raise the minimum wage. It was eye-opening. He has two small children and was trying to survive on $7.25 an hour. In reality he had no choice but to fight to raise the wage. He had nothing to lose.

Corporate owned politicians are hell-bent on eliminating public services and replacing those union middle class jobs with low pay, no benefit, non-union jobs. It is accelerating the race to the bottom. In the private sector turning middle class jobs into temp jobs is happening at an alarming rate.  How can the ultra wealthy not comprehend  they are creating an unsustainable economic structure?

Our economic system can either make many people prosper for a long period of time or a few prosper for a short time. Judging by the building wave of economic discontent the clock is starting to run out on our plutocracy.

I Cannot Believe What Shira Goodman (Pres. of Staples) Said About The Dedicated USPS Employees

Shira Goodman

Shira Goodman, CEO of Staple Inc

Shira Goodman, North American Commercial President for Staples couldn’t hide her contempt for Postal Workers when she spoke to hundreds of Staples employees in her first ever Town Hall style meeting. Ms Goodman chastised Postal Workers with several disparaging remarks including: “It must be nice to have a job for life” then adding “those days are over, this country can’t afford to do business as usual”. In her world Staples workers are nothing more than temporary workers always at risk to have their jobs abolished.

It comes as no surprise that Shira Goodman was on the “Jobs and Economy” Steering Committee during Mitt Romney’s transition to Massachusetts Governor in 1992. Judging by her attitude towards workers there is no doubt she buys into Romney’s hateful 47% comment made during his presidential run.

It’s also hardly shocking that Shira Goodman’s job before joining Staples in 1992 was being a manager for Bain and Company (1986-1992). Staples was one of her clients. Bain was the leader in outsourcing workers jobs for management profit. She must feel quite comfortable in outsourcing postal jobs to her transient workforce.

The negative ramifications are already being felt by postal workers. In the San Francisco area the USPS has announced it is reducing customer service hours in 21 of the 39 Post Offices. “They’re shutting the doors at 5 p.m. and posting signs sending people to private locations – including Staples – to conduct postal business,” said Geoffray Dumaguit, president of the San Francisco Local of the American Postal Workers Union. “This will inconvenience and irritate our customers, who often need to visit a Post Office after work.”

Shira Goodman must also feel quite comfortable in knowing her husband Senior Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz seems to have pretty close to a “job for life” at Temple Emmanuel in Newton, Massachusetts. I certainly am not anything close to a theologian but “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is a popular twist on a biblical proverb that I am sure Shira Goodman knows of. Considering her situation It seems the height of hypocrisy to be attacking the hard-working employees of the worlds best Postal Service.

I am sure the bible has plenty of verses about the evil of greed  practiced by Bain Capital and Staples. Also many on the virtuousness of treating  people with respect and dignity as is practiced by labor unions throughout this country.

The AFL-CIO has announced it has endorsed the APWU national boycott of Staples . This boycott includes all Staples retail stores in the US, Staples.com, Staples Advantage as well as branded proprietary products.

Respecting workers and not exploiting them is not “business as usual” in Shira Goodman’s world. We as postal union members “can’t afford” to let this anti-worker sentiment go unchallenged. Staples outsourcing Postal Service jobs is the current battle in a national war on workers, Shira Goodman is leading the forces against postal workers. Mitt Romney must be so proud.

The Cecily McMillan Verdict: Innocent Victim Goes Back To Jail

Justice For CecilyIn a tense courtroom and nearly hidden by a group of over 50 court officers, Judge Zwiebel did the work of the powerful and sent Cecily McMillan back to Rikers Island Prison on Monday. Clearly the absurd zeal in which the prosecution has gone after Cecily is meant to send a chilling signal to all who protest peacefully against the entrenched oligarchy that currently run this country.

Though her sentence of 90 days in jail with 5 years probation was on one level a relief as a harsher sentence was thought possible considering the one-sided actions of this court throughout this process. It is still deeply troubling to see an innocent 25 year old union organizer and community activist being sent back to prison, knowing she was a victim of a sexual assault not a criminal.

Its even more troubling when you consider the executives on Wall Street  who profited and caused the great recession still walk free. Not one of those corporate criminals served any jail time.They never even showed any remorse for the avalanche of economic misery they brought to millions of working people.

New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez spoke to the energetic and passionate crowd of Cecily supporters outside the courthouse and released the following statement.”The US Constitution encourages protest, free speech and a redress of grievances in cases where the government is not properly serving the public interest. This is what Cecily and so many others sought to do; so for any to end up in jail is a travesty from which our country suffers even more. We in government can serve best only when our constituency is engaged and concerned; and we should never seek to stifle dissent, especially when it is as peaceful and impassioned as Occupy was and continues to be.”

As journalist Chris Hedges said in a recent article, “The corporate state, which has proved utterly incapable of addressing the grievances and injustices endured by the underclass, is extremely nervous about the mass movements that have swept the country in recent years. And if protests erupt again—as I think they will—the state hopes it will have neutralized much of the potential leadership. Being an activist in peaceful mass protest is the only real “crime” McMillan has committed.”

Image Gerard Flynn gerard_flynn

Cecily’s lawyer and friend read statements
Image Gerard Flynn (Flikr: gerard_flynn)

The Cecily team released a statement that in part read:”On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant, heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large. The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy-handed enforcers, the NYPD. We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concerned about the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This ruling will not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve.”

Standing before the Judge before sentencing yesterday Cecily was not backing down. “Whether personal or political, violence is not permitted. This being a law that I live by, I can say with certainty that I am innocent of the crime I have been convicted of,” McMillan said. “I cannot confess to a crime that I did not commit. I cannot throw away my dignity in return for my freedom.”

As a labor movement we must adopt a similar posture. We have to fight for economic justice for all – no compromises!

Please follow justiceforcecily.com for updates and ways to support Cecily.

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Cecily McMillan: How A Non-Violent Labor Organizer Ended Up In Prison After Being Attacked By Police

PLEASE NOTE Some of the descriptions, images, and videos may be graphic at times.

The brutal beating and phony charges that has placed Cecily McMillan in a NY  jail could have happened to any one of us. If you dare peacefully protest about income inequality or union busting or Wall Street corruption you could just as easily been locked up in a prison cell as Cecily is. The criminal justice system is not delivering justice in this case and its seems to be viewing this case backwards. When the victim of an assault is instead convicted of a felony it shows to the extreme that the price of speaking truth to power is expensive in our country.

On March 17, 2012 a crowd of hundreds had gathered in Zuccotti Park to celebrate the Six Month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. This was a peaceful crowd which was dancing and singing and enjoying being with each other. Nearing midnight NYPD couldn’t allow this peaceful celebration to continue and suddenly Zuccotti Park had a scheduled “cleaning” that had to be performed that instant.

So NYPD entered the park with riot gear and batons to clear the park of peaceful people. What followed was the typical brutal crackdown of OWS. Over 70 arrests followed including that of  23-year-old grad school student and union organizer Cecily McMillan. Known in OWS circles as the “Queen of non violence” because of her uncompromising opposition to any violent tactics.

Cecily attacked

NYPD Officer Grantley Bovell accused  Cecely of elbowing him as he tried to escort her out of the park. Cecely maintains that Bovell grabbed her right breast from behind and startled she responded by throwing up her elbow striking the undercover officer.Basically her “crime” was reacting to being groped from someone behind her. The photographic evidence of marks on her breast seem to confirm her accusations.

What followed was her being tackled and beaten by multiple NYPD officers that left her dazed, injured bruised and going in to a frightening seizure as shown here.

Unconscionably 18 minutes past before medical help finally arrived and stabilized Cecily.

This video shows the helplessness of the crowd and the attitude of the police.  Both the NYPD and Cecily were fortunate she survived that beating.

“It was total over-policing, the use of brute force,” National Lawyers Guild Attorney Stolar said. “And that is really a hallmark of how police reacted with most Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, gatherings and protests.”(N.L.G. New York City chapter’s Web site shows a different policeman grabbing another female protester’s breasts.)

In a country that sells itself to the world as the model for political freedom how can behavior like this occur? NYPD receives substantial money from corporate giants like JP Morgan Chase (4.6 million in 2010) ,Goldman Sachs and Bank of America and they have in turn acted like the corporate police force cracking down fiercely on non violent OWS. NYPD leadership has seemed to modify their motto and “protect and serve” primarily their financial interests.  If peaceful protest against the powerful is not allowed then what kind of democracy do we actually have?

What followed next instead of police brutality charges were, astonishingly, felony charges against Cecily for assaulting a police officer. Her being groped and beaten suddenly became her fault.

Cecily was convicted on May 5th of the charges by a jury that was allowed by Judge Zweibel to only hear one side of the story. Nine of these jurors sent a letter to the judge on Thursday asking for leniency. Her sentencing hearing will be on May 19th and the whole world will be watching.

This case highlights the vast miscarriages of justice in our country where the powerful and the marginalized live their lives with a much different set of rules.

Over 20,000 people have signed this petition please add your name asking Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio to pardon her. Check out the website www.justice4Cecily.com for more ways to help.

Cecily by all reports remains in good spirits and her latest advice to her supporters comes in the form of a quote from Joe Hill that we in the labor movement are very familiar with “Don’t mourn organize”

OWS Cicly

The USPS Teams Up With Staples: Taking Good Union Jobs And Turing Them Into Part-Time, Low Wage Jobs

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

The US MAIL IS NOT FOR SALE. The manufactured crisis that is being used to destroy the postal service is taking a new turn this spring. As ongoing efforts to eliminate Saturday mail delivery have come to a standstill in our deadlocked Congress. The USPS is moving forward with a plan to place postal counters, without postal employees in 8o Staples stores. In time they want to expand this misguided plan to over 1500 stores nationwide.

These Staples stores will be manned strictly by non-union Staples employees. This is the right-wing dream scenario of turning thousands of solid middle class union jobs into part-time/low wage jobs. Would you rather have a trusted postal worker, who is sworn to protect the mail,  handling your transaction or would you rather roll the dice on the credibility of a  low wage staples worker?  Its one step closer to dismantling the worlds best Postal Service, and one more affront on the war on workers.

The Postal Service is kicking the door open to privatize retail operations,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. Staples is not a Mom-and-Pop operation, he pointed out, and, “If we don’t stop this program, we will soon get a letter from the Postal Service telling us management plans to contract out all of retail,”

A few weeks ago Staples announced its planning to close over 200 stores nationwide. This news did not deter USPS plans to pursue this contracting out program. This proves, more than ever,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein, “that it’s a bad idea to turn public services over to a private company that can close stores at will, with no public input and no public comment.

It’s easy to envision a scenario where a local post office is closed and its services placed in a nearby Staples store. Then without warning that Staples closes. Why would the Postal Service theoretically place its customers in that dire situation?

Instead of pursuing this misguided union busting partnership with Staples the USPS would be better off by working with Congress to provide banking services at the local Post Office. This would provide a valuable public service for millions of Americans, while at the same time providing a new revenue stream for the USPS.

There is a growing need for a postal banking system. With over 25% of the American public without bank accounts the demand is abundant. Currently they are being forced to pay exorbitant fees to non traditional banking services just to accomplish routine banking tasks.  These 68  million “unbanked” citizens paid over $89 billion in fees and interest in 2012, on average 10% of their income. The USPS is the only entity positioned in a way to provide these services.

The situation is especially acute in economically disadvantaged areas where banks have moved out leaving behind these shady businesses that profit off the misery of the poor. It is quite clear that establishing postal banking services is an idea whose time has come.

It’s not surprising to see in a country that is obsessed with money and power, that Congress would not take action on any legislation, like postal banking, that would help mitigate the exploitation of those in difficult economic situations.  Power rules in DC the marginalized are always further marginalized.

At a time when the USPS is making an operational profit you would expect them to look to build on that success. Instead, astonishingly,  they are looking at ways to dismantle the most efficient and popular agency of the US Government. The time is now to get involved and stop the next step of the sell off.

Please take part in the National Day of Action and join us at the  STOP STAPLES PROTEST – Thursday April 24th at the Staples on Ft Eddy Rd in  Concord from 4-6 PM

 

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