Film subject Mary Burkhard fights for democratic elections at NAPS Convention in San Diego

Mary_BurkhardMary Burkhard, Female Candidate for National Office fights for “One Member, One Vote” to break up the “Boys Club” in leadership the National Association of Postal Supervisors

San Diego, CA; August 23-29, 2014

The system that elects the national officers of NAPS (National Association of Postal Supervisors) is based on rules that may have made sense when the organization was founded in 1908, but are outdated and undemocratic for 2014. When the largest NAPS branches across the country control blocks of votes, it is reminiscent of machine politics where the outcome of the election is pre-determined. The undemocratic process has been a barrier to women being represented in the organizations’ leadership.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) 40 percent of employees in the United States Postal Service are women, but in the 105 year history of NAPS, only one woman, Margarete A. Grant of San Francisco, has held a leadership position from 1986 -1996. In the past 20 years, no other woman has been elected to serve NAPS in Washington D.C. and there has never been a woman elected President of NAPS. Mary Burkhard, NAPS Branch 244 President from Santa Clarita, California is running for NAPS National Secretary/Treasurer at the convention taking place at the Towne and Country Resort and Convention Center in San Diego, CA. Burkhard supports a resolution that would change the election system to be more democratic, giving every member of NAPS one vote.

The NAPS organization is controlled by Congress through Title 39, US Code, Section 1004. Mary Burkhard has been lobbying Congress on behalf of NAPS members to have Congress change this code to reflect the need for more transparency and democratic elections.

NAPS leaders have taken steps to make the organization less transparent by banning video recordings at the convention, and blocking filmmaker Jay Galione of “Gone Postal: The Documentary” access to the convention hall to film the debate on the resolution to give each member one vote, as well as the campaign speeches and events leading up to the election. Galione and filmmaking partner Sheila Dvorak were allowed access to the convention in 2010 when Mary Burkhard first began fighting for a more democratic election procedure and to represent her NAPS members as their Secretary/Treasurer. The story of Mary’s determination and passion for the Postal Service will be chronicled in the film “Gone Postal: The Documentary”, coming in 2015. The trailer is available now at www.gonepostalfilm.com/trailer.

Blue Stone Press – Gone Postal: documentary lens on USPS

Gone Postal: documentary lens on USPS

Anne Pyburn Craig
BSP Reporter

It’s no exaggeration to say that the U.S. Postal Service is under attack. A Google News search for “post office closing” returns over 53,000 results: hours being cut, branches being shuttered, irate residents protesting closure plans or wringing their hands over the loss of their local PO.
Post offices are community centers of sorts, where you can pick up the latest news and gossip along with your mail and see a friendly face or three. Post offices, along with libraries, are a place where we are treated not just as consumers, but as citizens. The U.S. Postal Service was established in the Constitution.

Rosendale filmmakers focus on USPS

Rosendale filmmakers focus on USPS

Useful and beloved as they may be, post offices are dropping like flies: in Mumford, Texas, on Starlight Lake Road in Pennsylvania, on Rt. 7 near Albany. Locally, the closing of the mail-processing center in Newburgh added a day or two to delivery times, as mail now needs to be routed through Albany.
A privatization deal struck to allow office supply mega-mart Staples to carry out many postal functions means mail being handled by $8 an hour employees rather than sworn civil servants in 1,500 locations; although Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe swears no jobs will be cut and no post offices closed as a result of the pilot program, it doesn’t seem to be holding true on the ground.

How to fight back? Rosendale filmmaker Jay Galione, whose father was a postal clerk for 30 years, has teamed up with fellow filmmaker Sheila Dvorak to make Gone Postal, a feature-length documentary and work of unabashed advocacy that exposes the untold stories, from what might have made a postal worker snap to how Congressional manipulation has set the USPS up for failure and privatization. The BlueStone Press spoke to the filmmakers about their project.
BSP: Beyond Jay’s dad, how did you locate former postal employees who would speak out? Were current ones afraid or forbidden to do so? In your trailer, I see one interviewee with his face blurred; I’m guessing that might be someone who still works there?
SD & JG: You’re right; it wasn’t easy finding workers who were willing to talk to us. Most postal workers fear their jobs are at stake if they speak out. We started our search online, finding workers who had written books and articles and were not afraid of talking publicly about the problems inside. Once we found these activists, they connected us with other workers across the country who trusted us with their stories. In North Carolina, when mail carrier Steve Spencer killed himself at the post office, his friends and coworkers felt it was too important to keep quiet and gave candid, emotional interviews.

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THE MEDIA DEFAULT: Postal Coverage Falls Short

I sifted through the barrage of news stories on the Postal “default” last week hoping to find some real journalism. Sadly, I didn’t. Instead, I came across the same tired citations from official sources like the Postmaster General, the National Union heads, and the players in Congress.

Here’s the skinny: Wracked with a financial burden imposed by the Bush administration* the Postal Service defaults on a multibillion dollar annual payment, following the greatest recession since The Great Depression.

*“Thomas M. Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who proposed the law, said the payment requirement was initiated by the administration of President George W. Bush.” (NY Times 7-31-12)

The ensuing “crisis” is being used as a pretext to dismantle the agency as we know it. Postmaster General Donahoe and Republicans in Congress propose setting loose tens of thousands of unemployed, and erasing hundreds of thousands of living wage jobs from an already ravaged economy.

Does the Postal Service need to economize? Sure. It’d be hard argue with that. But where can they find efficiency? Certainly not from the Postmaster General or from the voices in Congress. The people involved in the conversation at a national policy-making level have either never worked in a post office, or they haven’t touched the mail in years.

Want to know where Post Offices can be consolidated? Where redundancies exist? Where money is wasted? Ask a letter carrier in Gastonia, North Carolina. Ask a Postmaster in Gold Run, California or a Mailhandler in Newburgh, New York.

I did that. The result is a four year cross country investigation chronicled in the documentary film (currently in progress), Gone Postal.

Witness a place where efficiency and progress are lost in a sea of grievances, retaliation, and lawsuits. Where unreachable goals are never justified but always enforced. And where employees have no voice.

Solutions to a problem rooted deep in the foundation of the organization won’t be found in a headline or a soundbite.

A service that operates on a local level everywhere in America, meeting different challenges in each market and terrain is now being shattered by the decisions of centralized controllers far removed from the daily operations, who have substantial political and personal interests at stake. Who’s looking out for the Service?

Jay Galione
Director, Gone Postal