The intrepid riders of the Pony Express, who carried the mail through hostile territory to the most remote areas of the American frontier, are better known to most Americans than the 800,000 men and women who collect, handle, distribute, and deliver well over 166 billion pieces of mail a year to every corner of the nation and beyond. It makes no difference that the Pony Express was a private venture and lasted only nineteen months; its exploits, real and imaginary, have been drilled into the American consciousness through the romance of the Western novel and motion picture.
Yet, the nation's major communication system, a system upon which the efficient working of government and business depends, and that is vitally important to virtually every individual in the nation, might rightly be called a human express--a system driven by human beings working in environments that are far from romantic and performing tasks that require skill, accuracy, attention to detail, and plain hard labor.
This is the story of the men and women who move the mail inside the Post Office and their relations with their employer, the United States Government, or, more specifically, the United States Postal Service. It is the story of the world's largest postal union, the American Postal Workers Union-AFL-CIO ( APWU). Relatively young as American unions go, the APWU was formed in 1971 by a merger of five older postal unions, each with a long and significant history. Thus, with its predecessors, the APWU scans the entire history of postal labor relations, including the early efforts of postal workers to form labor unions, the battle against the concept of "sovereignty," and the gradual emergence of collective bargaining in a public sector industry.
The book is divided into three parts. Part I describes the great postal strike of 1970, the first nationwide strike against the United States Government in history. That strike resulted in the reorganization of the nation's postal system and the merger that created the APWU.
Part II deals with the emergence of postal labor organizations and the