U.S. postal strike of 1970

U.S. postal strike of 1970

The U.S. postal strike of 1970 was a groundbreaking two-week strike by federal postal workers in March 1970. President Richard Nixon called out the United States armed forces and the National Guard in an attempt to distribute the mail and break the strike.

The strike led directly to passage of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which modernized the postal service and provided for collective bargaining for postal workers.

Causes of the strike

At the time, postal workers were not permitted by law to engage in collective bargaining. Postal workers felt wages were very low, benefits poor and working conditions unhealthy and unsafe. The U.S. Post Office Department's management was outdated and, according to workers, haphazard. Informal attempts by workers to obtain higher pay and better working conditions had proven fruitless.

The strike

The strike began on March 18, 1970. More than 210,000 United States Post Office Department workers were eventually involved, although initially the strike affected only workers in New York City.

President Nixon appeared on national television and ordered the employees back to work, but his address only stiffened the resolve of the existing strikers and angered workers in other 671 locations in other cities into walking out as well. Workers in other government agencies also announced they would strike if Nixon pursued legal action against the postal employees.

The strike crippled the nation's mail system, disrupting delivery of pension and welfare checks, tax refunds, census forms, and draft notices. Businesses hired planes and trucks to deliver publications and letters.

Nixon spoke to the nation again on March 25 and ordered 24,000 Army, National Guard, Army Reserve, Air National Guard, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve forces to begin distributing the mail. But the military proved ineffective at the task. ["APWU History," American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO; William Gardner Bell, "Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1970," 1973.]

Negotiations, in which United States Secretary of Labor William Usery, Jr. played a key role, resolved the postal strike in just two weeks.


Postal unions, Nixon administration officials and Congressional aides not only negotiated a contract which gave the unions most of what they wanted, but which also established a legislative framework which led to the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970.

Under the act, postal unions also won the right to negotiate on wages, benefits and working conditions. ["The Strike That Stunned the Country," "Time," March 30, 1970.]

On July 1, 1971, five federal postal unions merged to form the American Postal Workers Union, the largest postal workers union in the world. ["APWU History," American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO.]



*"APWU History," American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO. [http://www.apwu.org/about/history.htm] Accessed December 5, 2006.
*Bell, William Gardner, ed. "II. Civil Disturbance and Emergency Operations." In "Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1970." Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1973. [http://www.army.mil/cmh/books/DAHSUM/1970/chII.htm]
*"Chapter 7: Nixon and Ford Administrations, 1969-1977," Brief History of DOL, U.S. Dept. of Labor. [http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/dolchp07.htm] Accessed December 5, 2006.
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,942202-1,00.html "The Strike That Stunned the Country." "Time." March 30, 1970.]

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