The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is currently attempting to negotiate new contracts for urban, rural and suburban workers at Canada Post. This is far from a routine round of collective bargaining.
CUPW has refused to do what too many unions do today: accept that it's impossible to put up a serious fight against employers' efforts to take away workers' past gains. The CUPW's insistence that future hires at Canada Post should get the same pension plan, rights and pay rates as today's workers is an important rejection of divide-and-conquer "two tier" schemes that sell out tomorrow's coworkers and undermine the position of today's workforce.
CUPW's demand for pay equity for rural & suburban workers -- mostly women -- shows that unions can be a force against sexism. Currently rural and suburban postal workers are composed of roughly 70% women, and make around 30% less than urban letter carriers who are roughly 70% men.
By defending its current contract language (Appendix T) on service expansion and pushing for postal banking, CUPW is demonstrating its commitment to the visionary Delivering Community Power plan to transform Canada Post in a way that's consistent with the Leap Manifesto. The union is showing that unions can do more than just defend their members -- they can press to change the services that their members deliver.
Delivering Community Power includes ideas like converting post offices to solar powered centres with electric charging stations for Canada Post’s electric motorized fleet. Mail carriers could deliver local produce and check in on seniors while public banking can offer small loans, tax credits and incentives to become a hub for renewable power development.
This steadfast and visionary approach is one that can inspire activists in other unions to work in new directions. It shows skeptics that a different kind of unionism is possible.
If CUPW makes gains, it will raise expectations and give much-needed hope to other workers across Canada and Quebec. But if postal workers are forced to give concessions it will reinforce the message that "There Is No Alternative" to the neoliberal onslaught.
That's why all supporters of social and ecological justice should care about what's happening at Canada Post.
If you're in Winnipeg and you want to help build support for CUPW, we encourage you to connect with the members of Solidarity Winnipeg and other people who have come together to form People for Posties Winnipeg. Together we will join picket lines, educate one another, and find new ways to support our local postal workers.
For more information and resources, please visit these websites:
*This letter was adopted and published by the Solidarity Winnipeg Communications Committee