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National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 79 holds rally amid contract negotiations

By Clio Jensen

Seattle postal workers rally for a decent contract.

Seattle, WA – Around 100 postal service workers and supporters gathered at Westlake Park on May 29 as the National Association of Letter Carriers continues negotiations for a new contract with USPS. The rally was hosted by NALC Branch 79. Postal workers and supporters spoke about the need for a strong contract that includes a higher starting pay, an end to the two tiered system, and an end to mandatory overtime.

Kevin Gottleib, president of NALC Local 79, took to the stage first and spoke out about the need for a higher starting pay that is competitive with the rest of the industry, stating, “We need our bargaining team to hit a grand slam out of the park.” The previous NALC contract expired on May 20 but will remain into effect until a new contract is agreed upon. Postal service workers are currently start at around $19 an hour.

When USPS does hire new workers, pay and benefits are not enough to retain them. This has trapped the industry in a cycle of understaffing and forced overtime. Carriers are forced to work 60 hours every week, and many work as many as 90 or even 100 hours a week, leaving them with very little time to spend with their friends and family. This also causes safety issues, as exhausted carriers are more likely to hurt themselves or others on the job.

Debbie Dixon, regional administrative assistant for the NALC, says the problem is the management – or rather mismanagement – of the U.S. postal service. Managers are often hired on after working as non-career letter carriers for less than 90 days, with little to no knowledge of the contract or the day to day of the job.

“We must train management on contact compliance,” Dickson declared to an energized crowd. “We need to them to be trained on how to actually run the United States Postal Service!”

Rogelio Gose, a shop steward at NALC Branch 79, spoke about the demands that letter carriers want to see in the contract, and sent a clear message that workers are not afraid to stand up and fight for a contract that meets these demands. In addition to an end to mandatory overtime, and higher starting wages, carriers want to get rid the non-career track “city carrier assistant” position, which comes with lower pay and worse benefits than career track jobs. “We want the national letter carrier position to be a career where we can retire with dignity and respect!” said Gose. “We must be organized and send a clear message to our national bargaining team that we need a contract that meets our standards.”

In between speeches, the crowd chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, mandatory overtime has got to go!” and “First-class service, first-class pay!”

Speakers also commemorated the postal worker strike of 1970, where over 200,000 postal workers went on a wildcat strike, which won them the rights to collective bargaining, in addition to higher wages and safer working conditions.

Meech Vecchio, vice president of the Seattle Educators Association stated, “Our collective wins affect all workers.”

David Yao from the American Postal Worker’s Union told the crowd, “Your struggle is our struggle. What we do helps you, what you do helps us.” He also called on all postal workers to stand in solidarity with Teamsters at UPS when their national contract expires on July 31.

C Moline, a carrier out of the U District station who organized the rally, was the last to speak and thanked everyone for coming out. Echoing earlier speakers, Moline emphasized the need for carriers to take back their power at the job and stop relying solely on the grievance procedure to settle issues at work. “No longer can we watch as our managers push around and bully other carriers. No longer can we fight with one hand behind our back,” said Moline. “This rally is the start of a new time in our branch, one were we take back the power we have left at the negotiating table.”

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