(This article first appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Retirees Department Director Nancy Olumekor
Dedicated APWU unionist Eleanor G. Bailey passed away on December 12, 2018 at the age of 87. Over the course of her life, Eleanor never stopped fighting and organizing.
When she first joined the Postal Service in 1965, her salary was $3,000 per year. Tired of working long hours for little pay, with no ability to negotiate for wages and COLA increases, Eleanor helped push the New York City’s postal clerks to join the Great Postal Strike in March 1970. She was among the 200,000 workers who organized, rallied and fought in that strike, which drove Congress to enact postal reforms that paved the way for the collective bargaining rights, good union wages, and better benefits.
A tireless champion for women’s equality, “Momma E” never stopped fighting for her fellow union sisters. Eleanor was active in the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) from its inception in 1974, organizing women in New York City. Eleanor served as a CLUW National Vice President from 1991 to 2001.
At the 1978 APWU National Convention, Eleanor and other women fought for a voice at conventions and leadership opportunities by creating POWER – Post Office Women for Equal Rights. Eleanor was awarded the Nilda
Chock Pioneer Award at the 30-year anniversary celebration of POWER during its 14th Biennial Convention.
A 47-year resident of the Bronx’s “Co-Op City” neighborhood, Eleanor fought for her community as a founding member of the Coalition to Save Affordable Housing while serving on citywide housing/tenant associations and as president of her Building 32 Association, a position she held for nearly two decades. Eleanor led other successful fights in Co-Op City, including a year-long rent strike against a management company’s hiking of maintenance fees and organizing against a proposed cutback to bus service through the neighborhood.
Eleanor was elected and served since 2006 as president of the APWU Moe Biller Retirees Chapter. She was a coalition builder and spent her life bringing people together in the struggle. She fought for the preservation of Social Security and Medicare not only as a retirees and worker’s rights issue, but as a women’s right’s issue.
In 2012, when the Postal Service announced that it would close both of Co-Op City’s post offices, Eleanor organized her neighbors – mostly comprised of fellow retirees – for protests and sit-ins. When local politicians held town halls regarding the closings, over 500 retirees showed up for each one. They kept the post offices open.
In 2014, Eleanor spoke out against the ill-fated USPS-Staples deal. She led the Moe Biller Retiree Chapter in the fight to keep pressure on the USPS by regularly protesting at Staples for over 3 years.
Her tireless fight for postal workers, for her beloved neighborhood and for the livelihood of retirees, women, and working people will live on for generations to come. Eleanor Bailey was truly a woman for all seasons, and we will continue the fight she led for so many years.
In the New York Metro Area Postal Union, Eleanor Bailey was an inspiring and motivating presence, whose years of experience showed the importance of continuing to push forward to preserve what so many had fought for in years past.
“She was a teacher. She believed in reaching back and pulling people up. She always said, ‘brothers and sisters, we still have work to do. The fight still continues,’” said Tiffany Foster, Executive Vice President of the local.
“She was so committed to the struggle. She was a wealth of information on the history of the struggle not only with the APWU, but of labor in general,” said Jonathan Smith, President of the local.