Speech | Gender Equality

Shuler: APWU Women Have Been the Changemakers

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler delivered the following remarks as prepared virtually to the American Postal Workers Union's Post Office Women for Equal Rights Conference:

Good afternoon, APWU women! POWER!!

It is so great to be with you today. 

I just have to say thank you first to Joyce [Robinson], Liz [Powell], and Debby [Szeredy], you are incredible leaders and I’m proud to fight alongside you. And of course to your fearless President Mark Dimondstein. The entire APWU team has been amazing, especially during the pandemic.

It is such a thrill to be you, Especially during Women’s History Month! You are fighting for gender equity and building power in our workplaces and in the union – and I just have to say thank you for being the changemakers! 

Organizations like POWER [Post Office Women for Equal Rights] are exactly what we need to lift up working women and move them from the sidelines… to the center of our unions.

POWER helps us come together and share our stories and experiences… so we help each other become more effective leaders and motivate the next generation to take on leadership roles…from our unions, and even into public office! 

Because our unions need more women leaders. Full stop. Only when we are at the decision making table will we be able to build a future where equal pay is a reality. Where affordable and reliable dependent care, and benefits like paid family leave are the norm for everyone! 

With more women in leadership we can make sure that our work environments are free from racism and discrimination and sexual harassment… and the best way to do that is through a union contract.  

Contracts like the one where 94% of APWU members just voted “yes!” for last month, securing wage and COLA increases, job security, and more!

Congratulations…that is incredible. 

I know how hard it is to get a contract like that across the finish line.

That’s the kind of win we need, and to lift up and show to all working people, especially women and young workers not yet in unions, that power of coming together.. 

This is a win for APWU members and their families… but it’s also a win for our communities and the labor movement as a whole. 

And you have the wind at your back with the recent legislative win with the Postal Service Reform Act.

That was a long time coming and was a result of years of hard work... 

No more of that ridiculous mandate to pre-fund retiree health benefits…

And it guarantees six-day delivery… finally!

Finally Congress delivered on what we’ve been saying all along: That the USPS and its workers are critical to our everyday lives and we need to invest in its long term future. 

Because in the toughest times, political upheaval, a deadly virus spreading unchecked…you delivered. 

160 million addresses. 

Billions of pieces of mail. 

Vital medication. 

65 million election ballots. 

Care packages. 

And you keep on delivering…connections and lifelines for businesses to stay open and families to stay in touch. 

You are, have been and always will be, essential. 

We can all agree that the last few years haven’t been easy. 

Thank you never seems enough…thank you for your dedication and for everything you have sacrificed. 

But so much more is owed, especially to women workers. 

Women have been taking on most of the unpaid work at home even since before the pandemic.

And this balancing act that many working women have been pulling off for decades—between home and work, kids and career—has become even more complicated. 

For the past two years, working women have lived in a world of constantly shifting schedules and uncertainty.

Our situations have gotten harder, not easier. 

But we keep fighting. We keep showing up to work, showing up for our families and our communities.

For generations, we have gritted their teeth and persevered. Despite unaffordable child care, undervalued labor, unequal pay. We’ve kept going—because that’s what we had to do.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that working women found hope in our unions. A voice on the job.

And a strong support network of powerful women who have helped us through tough times...

Challenged us to go after what we deserved...

And pushed us to take on leadership roles.

None of us would be here without that network of support. Women in our movement who lift each other up and help each other step into leadership roles. 

We all need mentors and role models. Liz Powell has been one of mine. And there are so many to point to in the APWU, like Eleanor Bailey. 

You know her story – Eleanor pushed New York City’s postal clerks — who were underpaid and mistreated—to join the Great Postal Strike in March 1970. She knew a woman’s place was in her union! She was a powerful voice for women’s rights and the importance of growing women’s leadership. Think about what it was like in 1970…

Now there are 24 women in executive positions at APWU! 

I know Eleanor would be proud of how we and the 6.5 million union women across the country are moving forward together.  If there’s one thing I want to leave you with today, it’s the importance of reaching out to the women in your midst. We fought so hard to make it up that ladder, don’t pull it up behind you. Make a commitment to reach out to one young woman in your workplace or at a union meeting, and bring her into your circle.

APWU Women: Let’s keep fighting for progress, together…keep growing our movement, and with fearless women like you at the forefront, I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Thank you.

Explore the Issue