My Dad’s Finest Hour

My Dad’s finest hour may have been during the famous U.S. Postal Workers Strike of 1970. Per Wikipedia:

“At the time, postal workers were not permitted by law to engage in collective bargaining. Striking postal workers felt wages were very low, benefits poor and

working conditions unhealthy and unsafe. APWU president Moe Biller described Manhattan post offices as like “dungeons,” dirty, stifling, too hot in summer, and too cold in winter….An immediate trigger for the strike was a Congressional decision to raise the wages of postal workers by only 4%, at the same time as Congress raised its own wages by 41%.”

And from the Website of the New York Letter Carriers Union Branch 36:

“Every revolution has its triggering events, and for the 1970 postal strike it was the courageous actions of a small group of Bronx letter carriers….The actions of the Bronx carriers had instilled a sense of euphoria among many New York carriers…for it became clear that if thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of postal employees could only show the same sense of courage and solidarity that the Bronx carriers had demonstrated, then throughout the country true power would rest in the hands of postal employees.”

Julius Rettig ca. 1972My Dad played a small role in all this. According to my mom, he was in management, by then, so no longer part of the union. He was under strict orders, that wintry March, to keep the doors of the massive Bronx General Post Office building locked against the strikers. But he disobeyed, at some risk to his job, and unlocked a door so that the strikers could come in and warm up and use the bathrooms.

The strike succeeded, and postal workers won the right to unionize. As a result, according to the NYLCU-36 narrative:

“Literally millions of workers employed by the Postal Service during the past 35 years have been the beneficiaries of wages, benefits and working conditions far superior to what they otherwise would have been.”

George Eliot’s encomium to Dorothea, the activist heroine of her great novel Middlemarch, seem apt:

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Missing you, Dad, and trying to live the life you would have wanted for me.

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