Delivering community power: Postal workers pitching solutions to climate change

Written by Tracy Glynn on August 2, 2016

DeliveringCommunityPower_EN_Final1-1The NB Media Co-op interviewed Kristin MacEachern with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Atlantic office about the union’s proposal, “Delivering Community Power,” that aims to tackle some big challenges such as climate change and local economies.

NBMC: In a nutshell, what is the “Delivering Community Power” proposal? Who is behind it? How did it originate?

KM: It looks like the post office we should have, and the post office we could have. It’s about imagining a public postal service that would lead a much needed change in how we think of our public services and the potential that exists through them to make our communities more inclusive, greener and accessible.

The “Delivering Community Power” initiative was taken on by a number of concerned groups consisting of The Leap Manifesto, Friends of Public Services, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA),  Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and Smart Change. These groups are united on many fronts, some of which include economic, environmental and social issues, and how our postal service can be adapted and expanded to assist in some of these critical issues. Canada Post is a powerful and trusted Canadian network that WE own, and we are all interested in developing it to its full potential.

“Delivering Community Power” looks at making Canada Post a green energy producing community hub, a local business supporter and providing new and improved services with something for everyone.

This initiative looks at power – renewable fleets, charging stations for electric vehicles, having the post offices powered by renewable energy and other examples that would make Canada Post a leader in changing the conversation on major challenges such as climate change with much needed actions versus rhetoric.

It also looks at the expansion of the services we provide such as door to door delivery where we would provide a check in service for an aging population and people with mobility issues. This alone would serve to improve the quality of life for members in our communities.

“Delivery Community Power” is about making our post office an integral part of  our communities with services that would enhance the lives of each and every one of us and for future generations.

NBMC: One of the many interesting things mentioned in the proposal is postal banking. How is the current banking system hurting people and how does this proposal attempt to make banking better for people?

KM: A postal bank would provide services to communities that are currently underserved, or not at all. It would also provide an alternative to pay day lenders and the exorbitant fees they charge. It is not hard to go into a small community in any part of Canada and not be able to find a bank, but almost always there is a post office. We have many more post offices than even Tim Hortons in this Country, and we should be utilizing that existing infrastructure. All we have to do to prove postal banking as a financially viable alternative is take a look at any one of the countries that have it now – Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy and France just to name a few. We all deserve the same services, and this is one way we could close the gap in many of the  smaller communities that have long since been forgotten. A study completed shows that only 54 out of 615 First Nations communities are served by a local bank branch. Postal banking would offer this service to those communities as well.

NBMC: What has been the response so far to the proposal?  Who supports it? Who doesn’t?

KM: During a cross Canada tour Dru Jay (Friends of Public Services), in conjunction with the CUPW met with local community and organization members during public meetings to discuss the type of post office written about in “Delivering Community Power.” The response to these meetings was wonderful! We are all very concerned about our environment, our public services and building our economy so this initiative has something for everyone. Many seniors organizations, community, environmental and public groups are interested and pursuing these ideas along with us, and they have been vital in sharing this information with the rest of the population. The fact that there are many groups, associations, activists, community and Union members working on this is inspiring! The amount of participation we are seeing is the reason this movement is where it is today and why support continues to grow.

We cannot say that there haven’t been a few nay sayers along the way. One of those would be Canada Post who despite having completed a 600+ page favorable (and redacted) study on postal banking, which claimed it was a “win-win” for both the public and Canada Post, refuses to talk about postal banking. Another in opposition are the “big banks.” Why would a big bank be concerned about postal banking? Because it would provide some very much needed competition in Canada. It would provide lower fees, more access to those who may have been shut out previously, and may be perceived as a threat to those banks who would rather not be forced into  lower interest rates for customers and a smaller bottom line.

NBMC: Postal workers in Canada have been behind other changes that have made lives better for working people. What are some of those achievements?

KM: Postal workers continue to fight for all, whether here in Canada or internationally. We stand in solidarity with all groups that continue to demand a better world and society. Changing the working lives for the better for everyone is one of the things CUPW prides itself on. There have been many gains in the labour movement with the help of CUPW – such as maternity and parental leave, protections against sexual harassment, the equalization of some wages within our bargaining units (still a battle), pay equity is still and  will continue to be a major issue we will fight for, as well as winning the right to collective bargaining for all public sector workers and defending that right today.

For CUPW, our history encourages us to continue to engage in social activism because it is who we are, we have policies within our  constitution that defines our orientation and ensures that this important work continues to be major  part of what we struggle for.  A peoples struggle is a peoples struggle, and we need to be united. Instead of worrying about “me,” we need to be worried about “us”- a collective group who are always stronger together.

NBMC: This proposal is a clear example of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers engaging in important social unionism at a time when the postal workers are also facing struggles of their own. What are some of those struggles and why should all workers support these struggles? 

KM: Even during this round of negotiations that we are currently in with Canada Post, CUPW is fighting for the working lives of the next generation of workers. We are demanding  an end to the pay inequities between Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers and Urban members; and we are fighting to protect the pension plan for future workers. Along with other demands, the CUPW will continue to protect and fight for good decent jobs for the future, protect and defend the right to free collective bargaining, as well as protect our public service and demand that Canada Post look at our initiatives to improve and enhance  our public postal service.

NBMC: What do you plan to do next on “Delivering Community Power?” How can people support this proposal?

KM: For postal workers, we are sharing the information and materials far and wide in hopes that the public will also ask for this vision to become reality for this very important and vital public service. We will continue to support our allies such as the Friends of Public Services as they promote these initiatives and provide opportunities for the public to meet and discuss these ideas. We will also continue to present and meet with Members of Parliaments, all levels of government, rural communities and all our allies to ask that they, along with us, demand more, imagine more, for our public postal service.

To receive copies of the “Delivering Community Power” pamphlet, email: info@deliveringcommunitypower.ca

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