why i support the canadian union of postal workers and why you should, too

Earlier today, we put a sticker on our mailbox.

It's meant to be a message for our letter carrier, to show support for her cause.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has filed notice to strike at one minute before midnight on June 2. The overwhelming majority of its membership wants to strike, and from what I hear, have been pushing leadership to reject concessions and authorize the walkout.

The posties' fight is not only about their own right to decent working conditions. It's for our rights, too: our right to good public services that put people before profits, our right to decent jobs that raise our standard of living, rather than force us to work ever harder just to stay afloat. Indeed, the posties' fight has echoes for our entire society, because as the income gap widens, our world becomes scarier, less safe, and less civil.

During the Toronto municipal workers strike, many of us were horrified at the anti-labour, anti-human spew emanating from most of the media and many of our co-workers and neighbours. Yet when activists marched in the Pride parade holding signs aloft reading "We support Toronto's striking workers!" they were greeted with huge cheers throughout the parade route. Could it be that most people understand what's at stake?

We must not be afraid to reject the politics of envy, to reject the mindset that says, "I don't have it so good, why should that guy have it better than me?" As good jobs disappear - jobs with salaries that can stave off poverty, benefits that can bring a bit of comfort and security, and (have we forgotten the concept?) pensions that provide a dignified retirement - as those jobs disappear, we will all suffer. The closer we are to the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, the greater that suffering will be, but increasing numbers of us will slide closer to that bottom rung.

On the other hand, the more those jobs do exist - even if they're not our jobs - the greater the possibility that more of us will have decent jobs. If unions had not raised the standard of living for their own members through decades of struggle, the prospects for all of us would have been very grim indeed.

This, it seems, is what so many people do not understand.

Were it not for the battles of the auto workers, miners, steelworkers, teachers, nurses, textile workers, sanitation workers, and all other union workers, none of us - none of us whose parents and grandparents were not born into wealth - would have been able to enjoy a middle-class standard of living.

You may have heard the expression, "Enjoy your weekend? Thank a union." That's only part of the story. I once posted this from Oot and Aboot with Some Canadian Skeptic:
Do your children have to work anymore? Thank a union.
Does your workweek cap at 40 hours? Thank a union.
Do you get health benefits? Thank a union.
Do you get maternity leave? Thank a union.
Do you get sick leave? Thank a union.
Does your workplace have safety-precautions? Thank a union.
Have a weekend? Thank a union.
Do you have more time off than time at work? Thank a union.
Do you get to retire one day? Thank a union.
Ever have a paid holiday? Thank a union.
Take a day off and not been fired? Thank a union.
Not been fired for being gay, black, or a woman? Thank a union.
Do you get overtime pay? Thank a union.
Have a minimum wage? Thank a union.
Has that minimum wage risen since the 1970's? Thank a union.

You can visit CUPW's website to send a letter to Canada Post in support of postal workers. And when you see your letter carrier, you can show her your support. If you don't see the letter carrier for your house or building, consider leaving a note in your mailbox or a sign in your window. Tape a sign to your nearest red or gray Canada Post box:


For another take on the importance of the coming postal strike, please read my friend and comrade Dr J: 5 reasons to support postal workers.

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