On September 27, 1989, nearly 1,500 postal workers demonstrated in front of the GPO, calling for the removal of Philadelphia Postmaster Charles James and faulting his attendance policy in the death of a Philadelphia postal worker on August 18. The postal worker who died of an apparent heart attack shortly after reporting to work but before hitting on the clock, had previously been told by management when he was hired that if he was ill he should report to work and then go to the postal Medical Unit, instead of calling in sick. The rally was the second that year by the Philadelphia local postal unions, the APWU, NALC and Mail Handlers Union.
For the first time in the history of the postal labor movement, the national presidents of the three unions shared the platform with local leaders to denounce the attendance policy and other harsh working conditions at the Philadelphia Post Office and to demand the ouster of James.
“Charles James has out-lived his usefulness to the Postal Service,” declared Moe Biller, APWU national president. “It’s too late for redemption…We want him out, so that you can go inside and live in dignity,” he said.
“Postal workers are committed to making this Postal Service the best in the world and to serve the American public in the best possible way,” said Vince Sombrotto, national president of the NALC. “We can’t do that with managers like Charles James. They can have it the easy way, and that way is to work with us, or they can have it the hard way, and that way is to work against us,” he said.
The union leaders urged PMG Frank to demonstrate his commitment to a “kinder, gentler Postal Service” by getting rid of James, and vowed to press the fight in Washington.
“No longer shall we stand silent and allow ourselves to be the oppressed and abused, while the Postal Service encourages us from coast to coast to participate in a cooperative atmosphere and Employee Involvement Programs,” said Glenn Berrien, national president of the Mail Handlers Union. “Instead of working with us, they work on us,” he said.
As always, the rally was a success thanks to the direct result of the active participation of our members, stewards, officers, friends, families, and local labor and community leaders.
As part of the strategy to keep the pressure up, the local also implemented a successful petition campaign urging everyone to sign the “Petition to Congress” protesting the life-threatening attendance policy and other hostile policies of Postmaster James.