As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Day I reflect back on the contract negotiations when it was agreed that it would be celebrated as a holiday under the collective bargaining agreement.
As the unions (APWU and NALC) prepared for the 1984 national negotiations it was agreed, without dissension, that the negotiators would seek the inclusion of MLK day as a recognized paid holiday. It was agreed that I, as the Ex VP of APWU, would make the presentation. This was an honor as I was the first African American in the history of postal bargaining who would represent the interest of all APWU and NALC represented employees and in that capacity seek agreement to honor the life and death of an American hero with a specific day to be celebrated as a paid Holiday.
I prepared for several days the arguments that I would present and the passion that I would generate to have the largest civilian federal agency honor the slain civil rights leader. Moe Biller and Vince Sombrotto were the respective union Presidents and they deferred to me to make the presentation.
I introduced the bargaining proposal and began an impassioned presentation extolling the positives of reaching agreement on the union proposal anticipating that the discussions would transpire over several sessions and agreement would not be reached until I had attacked postal managements sensitivity to such a racially charged issue. My presentation consumed the better part of an hour and I was prepared to extend it as long as necessary but when I paused to add additional compelling reasons the postal negotiator interrupted me and declared that “we ‘USPS’ accept the union proposal” Thus agreement was reached to include MLK Day as a postal Holiday and in every successive year postal employees have enjoyed it as a day to celebrate and rest. So each year when the day arrives I recall with pride my involvement in its establishment.