We know our democracy is under siege, and over the last week, we witnessed another attack. When Donald Trump and his handpicked postmaster general threatened the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), we responded. We heard the voices of the 500,000 union members—the mail handlers, the letter carriers and the postal workers—who work for this beloved and trusted agency. We heard the voices of senior citizens who depend on USPS for their Social Security checks, and the heroic veterans who receive their prescriptions by mail. We heard the voices of a nation sick and tired of the schemes and the manipulation and the lies.
Make no mistake, we are pleased that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy backed down this week, halting plans to further diminish this revered public service. But that is not enough. It does not reverse the damage already done, such as limits on overtime and the removal of mailboxes and sorting machines. And it only commits to standing down through Election Day.
That's why we strongly support Speaker Pelosi's decision to take up legislation to protect the post office. It's why we are pushing the Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which includes $25 billion in funding the Postal Service needs to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. It's why we're working with our postal unions to negotiate a settlement with the postmaster general that protects the public's right to get the mail delivered promptly, including mail-in ballots. We're going to win this fight. I know Donald Trump is trying to get people to believe you can't trust the mail—but in the labor movement, we know we can trust our brothers, sisters and friends in the Postal Service to get our mail-in votes delivered.
LCLAA APPOINTS VARGAS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) is welcoming Jose Vargas as its new executive director. Vargas, a member of the United Federation of Teachers-AFT (UFT-AFT), began his career as a paraprofessional and spent most of his career working in the Bronx as an early childhood teacher in New York City's public schools.
"Our nation, communities and people face trying times which pose many challenges, as well as opportunities for our organization," said Yanira Merino (LIUNA), LCLAA national president. "I am sure Jose's leadership will be of dire importance as we strive to address a variety of issues that affect Latino working families. I welcome Jose to his new role and wish him success as he embarks in this important journey."
Vargas' connection to LCLAA dates back to the early 1990s, when fellow UFT leader (and LCLAA co-founder) Maria Portalatin encouraged him to join the organization. In 2012, he became LCLAA's second secretary-treasurer, a position that previously had been filled by Portalatin. His longstanding commitment to and knowledge of LCLAA, the labor movement, and Latino and immigrant communities will be instrumental as he takes on his new role. The AFL-CIO joins in welcoming Jose Vargas as the new executive director of LCLAA.
UA ENDORSES BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT
The United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) announced on Monday that its Political Engagement Committee has concluded its endorsement process with a decision to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for president. The announcement is the result of a monthslong process that weighed the merits of both leading presidential candidates and whether either had earned the support of the more than 359,000 members of the UA—or whether the union should remain neutral.
"We're not going to sit on the sidelines at the UA. This endorsement is about putting UA members to work and fighting for fair wages and good benefits. Under a Biden administration, that's exactly what we'll get," said General President Mark McManus. "Let's be real: nobody in the Oval Office will be with us on every single issue. But with his long history of standing shoulder to shoulder with working families and his commitment to an all-of-the-above energy approach that will mean more UA jobs, protecting the hard-earned retirements of our members and appointing union-friendly judges, Joe Biden will be a fierce ally to our UA brothers and sisters in the White House."
The UA's Political Engagement Committee was formed two years ago to directly engage members across the country in the political process; it is made up of business managers, business agents, journeymen and journeywomen, and apprentices from around the United States. The committee met virtually over the last few months to develop a set of criteria to be used for a possible presidential endorsement and to compare both candidates on the four core issues most important to UA families: union rights, infrastructure, energy and retirement security.
FREE UNION PLUS SERVICE HELPS UNION MEMBER CUT MEDICAL BILLS
Angela Neal, a member of the Kansas Organization of State Employees AFT/AFSCME (KOSE AFT/AFSCME) Local 300, had little trouble negotiating a fair price for a car—and other kinds of consumer bargaining didn't bother her, either. But when the social worker tried to lower her medical bill debt, the going got rough. "Trying to lower the debt from medical expenses is so hard," explained Neal. "Some of the bill people can be harsh."
Every time Neal saw the medical bills piled on her kitchen table, she was filled with dread. She diligently contacted the billing offices of her physician and labs asking for their help in lowering her debt and coming up with a manageable payment schedule, but hung up each time feeling discouraged and overwhelmed.
Fortunately, as a union member, Neal had Union Plus in her corner, offering her just what she needed: an advocate to help her negotiate lower medical bills. Neal's co-worker encouraged her to check out the Union Plus Medical Bill Negotiating Service, and Neal was thrilled to see that it was easy to sign up for the free service. To qualify for help, she only needed to be an active or retired union member with at least one outstanding unreimbursed medical expense of at least $400.
"Union Plus' medical bill negotiator helped knock off as much as 50 percent of some of my medical bills," Neal recalled. "It was nice knowing that someone was working for me just because I am a union member. I'm so glad this union benefit exists." Visit unionplus.org/billnegotiator to get started.
WE DO THE WORK
Roberta Loving (OPEIU) is a senior meeting planner in the AFL-CIO's Meetings and Travel Department. She oversees housing, negotiated rate programs, transportation and transactional finances, among many other duties. Her diverse skillset is as rare as her level of commitment to excellence. Roberta is a highly valued team member who approaches new opportunities with optimism and passion. Much of M&T's successes are directly attributable to her tireless efforts, for which she absolutely forbids any accolades. In her spare time, Roberta loves to do arts and crafts.
Early during the pandemic, she learned of a mask shortage at a local hospital and—to no one's surprise—without hesitation she dedicated her talents and resources to meeting that need. She worked late into the night but was up and ready for the Meetings and Travel Department's early-morning meetings the next day. Her colleagues recognize her unmatched work ethic, and beautiful heart of compassion and humility. Not only is the AFL-CIO better for having Roberta, it's people like her that make this world a better place. We thank her for nearly 30 years of service.