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 (www.postalworkersunited.blogspot.com) , 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 - www.postalworkersunited.blogspot.com
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.