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THE ALLIANCE CENTENARY
WILSON TO OBAMA

By Paul N. Tennassee

Guyana Journal, May 2013


“The history of the Alliance is one of the most fascinating recordings of vision and devotion to the cause of racial advancement enacted by any group in the great stage of human progress. More than a story of leadership, it is an epic of 35 men (and one woman) bound by devotion to a noble cause. This is no 10% novel of glamour or meaningless adventure, nor a playwright's dream of names inscribed in steel and stone out of which any one personality can be singled for eulogies or christening ceremonies. Instead, it is a spiritual monument to cooperative and concerted effort.” John L. Sweat-Founder Member - Alliance October 1944

INTRODUCTION

In October 2013 the Alliance (National Alliance of Postal Employees) will celebrate its Centenary. It is an American story that is intimately linked to the United States Postal Service (USPS), trade unions and independent black organizations. In the first decades of the 20th century, African Americans were structurally blocked from employment in the private and public sector. The Post Office Department, which was the largest employer, opened its doors to educated black men to work as railway mail clerks. The White AFL affiliated Clerks Union prohibited blacks from becoming members on the basis of racial difference. Consequently, the black railway mail clerks founded their own union National Alliance of Postal Employees (NAPE). In 1965 it became National Alliance of Postal & Federal Employees (NAPFE. NAPE and NAPFE are commonly referred to as The Alliance. The Alliance is the only surviving independent predominantly black union. Today, the Alliance, USPS, trade unions and independent black organizations are at risk of becoming obsolete. The challenge for these institutions is to endlessly create them as they evolve through the 21stcentury.

ALLIANCE CONTRIBUTIONS

The ALLIANCE played a mainstream role for six decades in the 20th century in the struggle for trade union and civil rights. Among its martyrs are James Foster Spencer who was lynched in 1920 and William C. Moore who was gunned down in 1963 on a one man march to Alabama for freedom and equality. The ALLIANCE is referred to as the NAACP of the Post Office.

Highlights of its achievements include:

persistent struggles for union recognition and increases in workers' wages
launch of its publication National Alliance in 1917
establishment of a national office since 1925 in Washington DC to lobby Congress, President and the Post Office
elimination of photographs requirement in applications for jobs in the federal government,
fought unflinchingly on behalf of fifty of its leaders who were persecuted during the Joe McCarthy persecutions in the 1950s
first donor to MLK and Rosa Parks Montgomery Improvement Association, supported the NAACP in the grassroots and led many of their membership drives
maintain on the post office agenda both labor issues and racial equality issues in 20th and 21st century
successfully lobbied for equal employment opportunity and played a major role in JFK's implementation of EO 10988
achievement of dues check-off system and introducing EEO to the Post Office
provided the Post Office with dozens of EEO Officers from its ranks
desegregated the Post Office
established a credit union
national housing program for the elderly
established an affordable Alliance Health Plan that lasted from 1980s to 2004
deposited significant sums of money in black banks
provided Howard University grants of one million dollars to establish a Labor Management Institute
another one hundred thousand dollars to Howard Labor Law Clinic and $10,000 to Fisk University Preservation Committee
invested half a million dollars and co-founded Air Atlanta (first black airline)
donated $2,000 to Jessie Jackson first Presidential Campaign and supported his second run
supported the March on Washington
provided in the 1980s $15,000 annually to the NAACP, $10,000 to the United Negro College Fund
endorsed programs of the National Urban League, National Black Leadership Roundtable, Peoples Platform by Black Coalition and all Black Labor Fronts founded by A. Phillip Randolph
contributed to Africare, TransAfrica and Congressional Black Caucus.

The ALLIANCE conceived, designed and implemented a dynamic international program. It developed relations with the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and other unions in various parts of Africa. The leadership did a twenty-five days mission to Africa and met labor unions in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya and Liberia and signed memorandums of cooperation. Seminars for overseas African trade unionist were organized at Howard University, sponsored and financed by the ALLIANCE. Ninety African trade unionists were trained. ALLIANCE developed relations in a mission to China with the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). During 1983-2006, the ALLIANCE was affiliated to the World Confederation of Labor, held the Vice Presidency for North America and attended the 69th Session of the International Labor Organization in 1983. In 1988 in Senegal, the ALLIANCE President and Vice President signed a cooperation agreement with the WCL to establish a Washington Liaison Office at its National Office in Washington DC to monitor the international financial institutions in DC and hold WCL representation at the UN. The ALLIANCE became an important focal point of solidarity with WCL affiliates around the globe and a voice for them in four prominent global governance institutions. Solidarity for the ALLIANCE was a two way street. In early decades of this century, as the union entered financial crisis due to significant loss of membership, it obtained a significant loan which it quickly repaid from the Confederation of Christian Trade Union of Belgium (ACV). Martin Luther King, Marion Barry Jr., Walter Fauntroy, Maynard Jackson, William Lucy, William Pollard and Joslyn N. Williams are among many of socio-political leaders in the US and abroad who are on record for recognizing the outstanding contributions of the ALLIANCE

WILSON TO OBAMA

The ALLIANCE has managed its affairs under forty-four Presidents in the USA: Wilson to Obama. America has witnessed extraordinary changes during the 100 years that have unfolded. There was a time when to enter the federal government one needed to submit a photograph so that a black person could be identified by his or her race and denied a job. Today, the man in the White House is a Black Man. Some still raise the questions about his birth certificate, but the vast majority of Americans of all races, reelected him to a second term of office. It is definitely a far cry from the days of President Wilson who actively engaged in institutionalizing segregation. The ALLIANCE is still standing with its fourteenth black president. The times ahead are very challenging and its future is as uncertain as those of the USPS, labor unions on the whole, and independent black organizations, HBCUs or Professional Black Organizations. We are certain that 1913 is not 2013. The ALLIANCE must invent itself as it travels through this century or go under. One way or the other, its one hundred years legacy is a gift of experiences to be evaluated and treasured by Americans in general, African Americans in particular, labor unions, USPS and the membership and leadership of the ALLIANCE.



–"In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself". Frantz Fanon - 1967.


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