Speech | Better Pay and Benefits · Corporate Greed

Trumka Offers Passionate Defense of Letter Carriers

Detroit, Michigan

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka delivered the following remarks at the National Association of Letter Carriers' 71st Biennial National Convention:

Good morning, NALC! It’s great to be back here in Detroit!

Brother Fred (Rolando), thank you for that introduction and for all that you do for working people. You are truly one of the great leaders of our movement, and it’s an honor to call you my friend.

Brothers and sisters, I want to start by extending my deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Peggy Frank. To all of her brothers and sisters at Branch 2902, know that the entire labor movement grieves with you.

Peggy was a mother and grandmother who, for nearly three decades, committed herself to public service. She did the important work of connecting her community and our nation—one home at a time. Peggy had more than earned the retirement she was looking forward to in just a few months.

But after being sent out in 117 degree weather...dragging a mailbag...driving a truck without air conditioning...those golden years were taken from her, and she was taken from her family.

Peggy defined service. She embodied sacrifice. She was the very essence of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

We will not let Peggy die in vain. It’s time to fight like hell...to end the injustice plaguing us...to end the indignity we face...to end the inequality crippling our country...to end the egregious idea that exploitation is the cost of doing business.

This is our time to reclaim America for the people who build it and make it work!

Brothers and sisters, are you ready to fight? ARE YOU READY TO FIGHT? Let’s honor our sister the best way we know how: Organize. Mobilize. Bargain. Agitate. March. Register. Vote.

This is our country...and it’s high time we took it back!

I can’t think of a better union to carry our banner forward than NALC. At a time of enormous challenge, you’ve demonstrated the labor movement’s power. You’ve proven working people’s ability to change the world for the better.

You do it in your locals and at your worksites every single day. Even in an open shop, you have organized 93% of workers. And we're going to get that other 7%! 

If you want to know how we’re going to organize after Janus, ask a letter carrier!

But your reach isn’t limited to your union halls. You’ve proven yourselves in your communities.

I had the privilege of stopping by NALC headquarters in May to help kick off your annual food drive. I saw your brothers and sisters preparing to carry out that unparalleled, nationwide act of compassion.

You’re owed a huge debt of gratitude. It’s a big job. The largest one-day food drive in the world, in fact. 1.6 billion pounds of food...collected over a quarter-century...in more than 10,000 cities and towns.

On behalf of a grateful labor movement, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Service is what you do. It’s what you’ve always done. You are in a league of your own. From New York City to the most remote outposts of Alaska...for nearly two and a half centuries, your work has enabled that fundamental American idea...E pluribus unum...out of many, one.

You are government at its best—diligently serving the needs of all those who live and work here.

So, when I hear right-wingers talk about breaking up the Post Office and selling it off to the highest bidder, I start to wonder...what don’t they want to privatize? What don’t they want to put in the hands of corporations?

Brothers and sisters, nothing gets me quite as riled up as when some know-nothing tells us how to do our jobs. President Trump isn’t the first politician to come after the men and women of the Postal Service. And he certainly won’t be the last.

The corporate right-wing wants to reduce mail delivery. They want to cut your benefits, slash your pay and destroy your union! They are the ones who imposed the ridiculous and unfair pre-funding requirements on your health care plans.

Well I’ve got a message for every single corporate hack that wants to upend your lives to line their own pockets: Letter carriers don’t just deliver the mail. They also know how to deliver a giant can of whoopass.

Listen up, haters!

We’re going to beat back these attacks.

We’re going to defend the Postal Service.

We’re going to defend our unions.

We’re going to defend our communities, our country and the working people who serve them!

And if you corporate thugs want to get to the hard working folks of the NALC, you’ve got 13 million more of us to get through first!

Now I know this won’t be easy.

The Trump Administration is pursuing a broken corporate ideology with a fervor and recklessness that I have never seen.

Meanwhile, it’s failing in its most fundamental responsibilities...failing to deliver the basic services that a government is supposed to provide.

Just think about this. The Postal Service’s board of governors has nine members. Anyone know how many vacancies there are?


Without a Board of Governors, the Postal Service is functioning under what's called "temporary emergency status." You can't plan. You can't make decisions. You can't make the investments you need. You can't address any of the challenges facing the agency.

That's no way to run a government. And boy, "temporary emergency" is a pretty fitting term for how this administration does its business.

This isn’t about partisanship. This isn’t about politics. This is about doing your job. And brothers and sisters, you know better than anyone…if you want the job done right, you better do it yourself! That’s why working people are taking the future into our own hands.

Brothers and sisters, in this moment, it’s on us to do the extraordinary.

The elite political class is throwing everything they have at us. The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is just the latest insult.

Kavanagh has routinely ruled against working people. He is a threat to our pocketbooks...our safety...our very way of life. And that’s why we’re calling on the Senate to reject his nomination.

But even as the Court delivers us blow after blow...even as President Trump tries to privatize the Post Office and rolls back regulations designed to protect us on the job...working people are writing a comeback story.

We’ve never looked to Washington to validate our movement. We’ve never relied on politicians for our strength.

Our power lies in the hundreds of thousands of workers carrying new union cards—three
quarters of them under 35.

It lies in the tens of millions more who would vote today to join a union if given the chance.

Our power lies in the workers who are standing together, marching together and fighting
together in communities across the country, in every region and every sector, arms locked tight together in solidarity.

That’s our power. And we intend on using it to break corporations’ hold on our politics...to take back Washington and state houses and city halls for working people...to stop the cycle of broken promises...to end the barrage of knives stuck in our back.

We’re unleashing the largest and most strategic member to member political program in our history.

That’s how we win elections. We’ve done it in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and California and Wisconsin and Virginia.

Now we’re taking this wave across the country!

You’re already leading the charge. As we speak, letter carriers in Missouri are mobilizing and organizing against a despicable, corporate-backed right to work referendum. And I can’t say for sure...but I imagine other folks are having a hard time keeping up with them on the doors.

Brothers and sisters, we have the chance to take our country back. To truly make America great.

But, it won’t just happen. We need you. Every single one of you.

Because two is stronger than one.

I remember back when my son Rich was young—maybe three or four years old. He and his buddy Chad were driving around in the backyard in one of those battery operated jeeps.

He must have heard me talking on the phone, because he drove up and asked: “Dad, what’s a union?”

So I told him to try to push his jeep up the hill in our backyard. He strained and struggled, but he couldn’t get it up the hill. Then I told his friend Chad to give him a hand. Working together, they got the job done. I looked right at my son and said: “That’s a union...people doing things together that they can't do alone.”

All these years later, even in the face of these enormous challenges, I know we can and we will win a new day for working people…together. Only together can we get that jeep over the hill. Only together can we secure what we’re constantly told is impossible. Only together can we hand a brighter future to our kids.

Thinking about my son...and now my grandson...I’m reminded of who we are fighting for.

The children...the future...that's what our labor movement is all about! That's who we're walking for! That’s

Thinking about my son...and now my grandson...I’m reminded of who we are fighting for…and what we’re up against.

Our opponents are well-funded and ruthless. They’ve rigged the rules. They’ve called us names. They’ve tried privatize our jobs. They’ve told us unions aren’t welcome. I say, bring it on!

We’ve taken your best shot and we’re still standing. We’re strong. We’re powerful. We’re united.

It is time…it is high time…for us to take America back!

Because we’re the ones who carry the mail and teach the classes. We make the roads, bake the bread and lift the loads. We stand tall. We don’t run and hide. We wake our country up every single day. We tuck her into bed at night. We’re the American labor movement, and we will not be denied!

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