Postal Workers Protest Against Workplace Abuse

Protest Postal
Jonathan Smith, President of the NY Metro Area chapter of the APWU leads the picket line of a protest.
Evan Miller

“Disrespect! We say no!” “Harassment! We say no!” “To assault! We say no!”

These are some of the chants that could be heard outside the United States Postal Service (USPS) District Office in Melville on July 12 when members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) from throughout New York and areas stretching to Massachusetts were picketing for equal rights in the workplace.

What started the protest?

The protest stems directly from a May 5 incident in which Michelle Nadeau, vice president of the APWU’s Long Island New York Area Local chapter was allegedly physically assaulted by a USPS NY-2 District Labor Relations Specialist in front of witnesses.

According to accounts, the management official also used prejudicial language towards Nadeau that would be deemed unacceptable in the modern workplace.

“I am most humbled by the message that we have in extraordinary strength in the APWU and this message is not over today,” Nadeau said, addressing the large crowd of postal workers, family members and friends who came to show their support. “Make no mistake, it is not over today. We will continue to fight and for every member out there who questions what your union does for you, send them this message.”

Pete Coradi, a national business agent for the APWU, said he witnessed what happened to Nadeau.

He expressed his disappointment in the management official who is supposed to solve workplace disputes rather than create them, as well as in the postal service’s area and district management, which has failed to take any disciplinary action against the manager. 

He said that if the offender were a non-managerial postal employee, they would have been disciplined immediately and perhaps even had their job taken away, something that has been done for seemingly minor offenses in the past.

“We want the rules to be applied fairly and equally for all employees,” Coradi said. We want dignity and respect as some of our signs say. Zero tolerance means all employees, dignity and respect for postal workers.”

Many union members say that the May incident displays the systemic problems and toxic work environment that currently exists in the postal service, which has caused large numbers of employees to quit their jobs, especially new-hires.

What workers want to achieve from the protest

Jonathan Smith, president of the New York Metro Area chapter of the APWU, led the picket line throughout the afternoon. He said that if the postal service wants to deal with the problem at hand, it must start with treating employees and management equally. 

“There’s no new paint on the wall that’s going to change the management’s attitude,” Smith said. There’s no new mail processing equipment that’s going to make the employees feel better about their work environment. There’s no new equipment that you could bring in there, there’s no signs talking about we all are together because those are only words that have no meaning.”

The APWU represents 200,000 employees of the United States Postal Service, and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.