Wednesday, February 28, 2007

March 1st Press Release

This is the text of a press release I've sent to our local media outlets. Check it out, and follow my lead!

Press Release
Postal Workers United Against Tyranny
February 28th, 2007

Bush asserts authority to open mail without warrant - local postal workers cry foul

When President Bush signed the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act of 2007, he added his own interpretation of the law in a Presidential signing statement. As you may have heard, this signing statement effectively declares that the President and his agents have the right to open first class mail without a warrant.

According to ACLU Washington's Public Education Director, Doug Honig, this statement represents "another attempt by this administration to undermine the Constitution and the Bill of Rights," by asserting powers not granted him by the Congress or the Constitution.

Here in Tacoma, two postal workers decided to do something about it. Mark Nelson, letter carrier and co-director of Postal Workers United Against Tyranny ( , had this to say:

"You know, when you were a kid, you looked up to the policeman, the milkman and the mailman, but nowadays it seems like the last public servant people can trust is the mailman. Now that people think we're gonna be prying around in their private lives, what's gonna happen to that trust? Our mail is sacred, or at least you want it to be."

On February 14th of this year, the Pierce County Central Labor Council passed a resolution in support of postal workers in this effort. Click here to read a rough draft of that resolution.

Todd Iverson, Tacoma longshoreman and President of the grassroots working families' advocacy group, America in Solidarity, was at that meeting.

"What I said was basically like this: I don't know the exact number, but it's something like for the first two hundred years of our history, there were forty-five Presidential signing statements. President Bush has signed something like four hundred and fifty! That's insane."

In his capacity as President of America in Solidarity, Todd has seen a lot of aggressive policy choices taken by this administration.

"This is another example of President Bush's clear disdain for workers in America. I have nothing to hide, but I think we have to be careful about Big Brother. We're getting closer to Orwellian levels of government...I'm not so paranoid to think that they're going to spy on everyone, but I think that what they're doing is threatening our liberty."

Jeff Richardson, director of Postal Workers United, had a chance recently to ask the new Tacoma Postmaster about this issue. She stated categorically that President Bush has not been granted any new authority under this law. An official press release on the USPS website backs this up.

Some of the Postal Service's customers, however, aren't so sure. Says Marilyn Kimmerling, longtime peace activist and member of the liberal singing group, Raging Grannies:

"We're a targeted group. The FBI infiltrated our chapter in Portland. We're named in a lawsuit against the administration for spying."

Asked about this latest Presidential signing statement, Marilyn continues:

"He's making it up as he goes along! I don't think that's the right of the President, to make up laws as he goes along. He doesn't veto laws that Congress brings to him, and then in the fine print he reserves the right to do as he pleases. He makes the whole Congress meaningless."

Mark Nelson hopes that the resolution passed by the Labor Council makes an impact. He and his fellow letter carriers will be debating a similar resolution in their own union, NALC Branch 130, this Thursday. If that resolution passes, the NALC delegates will take it to their State Convention this May. The resolution calls for the union to oppose this policy, and it also urges union officers around the state to meet with their elected officials to discuss this critical issue.

Mark Nelson is excited about organizing his fellow workers, but he's hopeful that concerned customers will get involved as well. To them, he has this to say:

"Contact your elected representatives. Voice your concerns. Tell them that you're disturbed. We don't know what these people are gonna be doing unless we can make the Congress step up and do their job: a little oversight!"

Doug Honig agrees:

"Citizens should speak publicly about this issue. Pass resolutions, encourage their representatives to look into this practice, write letters to the editor, especially if they see an article about this. It's important that you let other people know what's going on."

Jeff Richardson is the founder and co-director of Postal Workers United Against Tyranny and a Tacoma letter carrier. He's written extensively about this issue at their blog -
Jeff is also the Education Director for America in Solidarity and a delegate to the Labor Council from his union, NALC Branch 130. He can be reached by phone at (253)227-6884.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New resolution language

Okay, the delegates committee for the State Convention met, and we set up a resolutions committee to work up the language for the resolution. Here it is in its (nearly) final form:

Resolution to Oppose Warrantless Searches of US Mail

Whereas: The President of the United States has asserted the right to search our citizens' mail without a warrant, and

Whereas: The Congress, in passing the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2007, has specifically forbidden such searches without a court order, and

Whereas: The Fourth Amendment requires that no warrant be issued except on "probable cause", and

Allowing the President to engage in this practice threatens the ability of workers and organizers to operate without fear of being punished for their actions, and

Whereas: The high esteem of America's postal workers could be threatened if our customers believe we might be opening their mail, therefore be it

That we will oppose the President's interpretation of this law, and be it further

That we will urge our local, state and national officers to meet with their elected representatives to encourage them to act quickly in reversing this policy, and to share the results of those meetings with our membership.

This should get passed this Thursday. If you all get anything passed, let me know!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Send in your reports of mail being opened

We'd like to compile a list of reports of mail being opened. When you send in a report, give us as much information as you can, put a (p) next to anything you would like to be made public, and we will share it with the investigators in Congress. If there is a news story associated with the incident, send us that as well.

Here's the latest news stories:

Homeland Security Opening Private Mail - MSNBC
History Professor's Mail Opened by Homeland Security - the Progressive
The Government is Reading Your Mail -
Bush Wants to Secretly Read Your Mail - The Dakota Voice
Will Big Brother Be Opening Your Mail - Socialist Worker

I did my best to push the issue with my union

Well, I did it. I went to my union meeting and fought for the following three proposals.

One, that we pass a resolution opposing the President's use of signing statements. That was pretty easy. The branch will usually pass resolutions because they know they're not going to achieve anything.

Two, that we form a special committee within the branch to organize our opposition to this move. The committee, the Civil Rights Committee, would be tasked with spreading the news in the media, researching more information, and reporting back to the branch. After a friendly amendment to scratch talking to the media, we voted. It failed, due to a lack support from the branch officers and the overwhelming disapproval by the retirees.

And Three, that we as a body endorse the Solidarity Charter of Postal Workers United Against Tyranny.

This also failed, as the group were unwilling to endorse a group they know nothing about. Therefore, I will have to work to inform my brothers and sisters about this group and what we're trying to achieve.

I've sent in a letter to our newsletter, so hopefully some folks that care about this will attend next month's meeting, in which I will resubmit these proposals.

Tell us how you're doing on your end, and we'll print anything you want made public. Send your submissions to this address!