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Labor Relations Laws – U.S. Postal Strike 1970

Labor Relations Laws – U.S. Postal Strike 1970


The U.S. postal strike that occurred in 1970 is one of the strikes that caught the entire country’s attention for rippling the flow of information in the country. The strike, which lasted eight days, started in New York before spreading to other cities. The strike led to the direct involvement of the United States president because, at that time, even the government was relying on postal services to communicate across states. The president ordered the postal workers to get back to work, but the workers did not listen to his directive. The president’s directive also made postal workers in regions that had not yet joined the strike walk out hence worsening the situation. Workers in other government agencies also declared that they would strike if the president pursued legal action against the postal workers, thus making it hard for the government to decide on the best way forward. Union leaders tried convincing the workers to get back to work, but they refused.

The Story Behind the Strike

Before the strike, postal workers were prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining. They also felt that their wages were very low and that the working conditions were unsafe and poor ((Shelton, 2021). The postal workers’ benefits did not meet their expectations, and during winter, they had to work under very low temperatures and very high temperatures during summer. The management of the postal department was also outdated and disorganized. The postal union was negotiating with Congress to get better working conditions and higher pay, but their efforts were not yielding any fruits. Congress made the situation worse by raising postal workers’ wages by 4%, while Congress members received a pay rise of 41%(Rubio, 2010). Postal workers were angered by the decision, especially because they viewed it as a discriminatory move. Most postal workers were African American, and their population in the workforce increased because whites left postal jobs for better jobs in other government agencies. The military outside the post office increased the importance of African American workers due to tensions in the cultural climate, the demonstration effect that showed that political change could be achieved without violent civil disobedience and overlapping personnel.

The Winning and Losing Side

The government was on the losing side while the postal workers were winning. President Richard Nixon had declared to crush the postal workers and dispatched the military from the United States Armed Forces to process the mail in New York City even though the military personnel did not have the training to work in postal services. The court seeded injunctions and imposed fines against union leaders to pressure them to convince the postal workers to get back to work. The post office department finally realized that it could not operate without the postal workers and decided to bargain with the postal unions to reach a favorable agreement and get the workers back to work. They reached a preliminary agreement within a day, and the postal workers resumed their work. After the final agreement was reached after a month, the workers received a 6% increase in their wages. President Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act which resulted in an 8% salary increase for postal workers (Rubio, 2010). Postal workers also had another big win by being given rights to engage in collective bargaining regarding their benefits, wages, and working conditions, although they were prohibited from striking. The American Postal Workers Union the Letter Carriers, and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union were then formed the following year. No action was taken against those who had walked out during the strike, and no striking worker lost their job. In addition, no worker or union leader was jailed or fired for acting against the federal government.

Possibility of a Cooperative Partnership

The management of a partnership between management and a union may seem a bit far-fetched because it is hard to believe that these two conflicting sides can collaborate for a shared good. However, it is possible to have a cooperative partnership. In the United States, cooperative partnerships formed for effective labor management may not last long, but the union is responsible for the longevity and stability of the partnership. The union’s role is to ensure that workers feel less threatened and more comfortable when their union representatives are actively involved in the cooperative partnership (Carrell et al., 2012). Workers need to understand that cooperative partnership is the key to maintaining effective relationships between management and the union. Such cooperation leads to strong entities respecting one another and collaborating to achieve common interests (Ospina & Yaroni, 2003). The entities may disagree or agree on the issues being addressed and use arbitration or mediation to maintain good relations.

The success of cooperative partnerships also lies in trust. Changing behaviors and alterations in the customs of union leaders and management are the main factors to consider in building a trusting cooperative partnership. There should be good communication practices between parties whereby information flows down to all levels (Klerck, 2018). Every stakeholder needs to be involved in the communication process. Verbal and face-to-face communication is important because it contributes to building commitment and trust. Other factors contributing to the development of credibility and trust include having a positive attitude towards one another, initiating collaborative behavior, and believing that every side is doing their best to meet shared goals. The unions and management should also demonstrate their commitment to making relationships work and meeting the mutual interests of every employee. Unions and management also need to think strategically about the partnership (Ostrowsky, 2005). They should create a plan to guide leaders with the forces and factors that may affect the effort of the parties involved in the partnership. Some of the factors to consider are the presence of influential individuals on both sides who are not in support of the relationship. It is also important to track the relationship process to determine any adjustments that need to be made for better collaboration.


Strikes are among the most prevalent mechanisms used to ensure that workers’ grievances are addressed. The U.S postal strike that occurred in 1970 demonstrated that uniting to achieve a common goal can significantly impact ensuring that people do not settle for less. It also demonstrates that collective bargaining gives workers a voice to advocate for what they want and limits the power the federal government has over them. For instance, the unity of postal workers and other workers in government agencies ensured that postal workers received a pay rise, and no worker or union leader was arrested, fined, or fired for participating in the strike. Organizations need to embrace cooperative partnerships, which are possible to form and manage as long as there is rust among the unions and management and there is a proper flow of communication among all the parties involved in the partnership.


Carrell, M. R., D., C. H., & Heavrin, C. (2012). Labor relations and collective bargaining: Private and public sectors. Prentice Hall.

Klerck, G. (2018). Industrial relations and human resource management. Human Resource Management, 311-334.

Ospina, S., & Yaroni, A. (2003). Understanding cooperative behavior in labor management cooperation: A theory-building exercise. Public Administration Review, 63(4), 455-471.

Ostrowsky, J. (2005). Union-Management Cooperation: Can a Company Move from an Adversarial Relationship to a Cooperative Relationship and is Interest-Based Bargaining a Necessary Condition to do so? (12) Seminar Research Paper Series.

Rubio, P. F. (2010). The great postal wildcat strike of 1970. There’s Always Work at the Post Office, 233-261.

Shelton, J. (2021). Undelivered: From the great postal strike of 1970 to the manufactured crisis of the U.S. postal service. Labor, 18(4), 150-152.


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Labor Relations Laws - U.S. Postal Strike 1970

Labor Relations Laws – U.S. Postal Strike 1970

Assignment Overview
View the following video about the top ten labor strikes in U. S. history (measured by numerical or historical significance):

(, 2014). (2014). Top 10 labor strikes in U.S. history. Retrieved from

Case Assignment
Select one of the strikes presented in the video as your focus for this assignment:

10. Steel Strike 1919
9. UPS Worker Strike 1997
8. U.S. Postal Strike 1970
7. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Strike 1981
6. Homestead Steelworkers Strike 1892
5. ILGWU Garment Workers Strike 1909
4. Great Railroad Strike 1922
3. Textile Workers Strike 1934
2. Bituminous Coal Strike 1946
1. Steelworkers Strike 1959

Prepare a 4page paper addressing the following:

Summarize the story behind the strike.
Was there a “winning” side and a “losing” side? Or, were both sides “winners? Or, were both sides “losers”? Why?
The union movement has changed throughout history. Many labor-management agreements today call for cooperation between management and labor. Discern whether or not, given this turbulent history, a cooperative partnership is even possible.
Use at least five Trident Online Library sources plus any applicable background readings to support your discussion.

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