The AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION, CLEVELAND AREA LOCAL, (APWU), the largest major postal union active in the city in 1995, represented an amalgamation of earlier unions established for specific groups of postal employees. The APWU, with over 2,800 members in Cleveland, was created in 1971 after the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 established the U.S. Postal Service as an independent government agency. Although postal unions had been able to bargain over issues such as working conditions, promotional standards, grievance procedures, and safety since 1962, the reorganization gave them all rights to bargain collectively that private industry unions had, except the right to strike. Nationally, the APWU is composed of workers from 5 unions: the United Federation of Postal Clerks, the National Postal Union, the National Assn. of Post Office & General Service Maintenance Employees, the National Federation of Motor Vehicle Employees, and the National Assn. of Special Delivery Messengers. Each, active and separate since the turn of the century, shared a history of low wages and little ability to speak out about their jobs until 1912, when the Lloyd-La Follette Act permitted federal and postal workers to form unions. Although subsequent legislation provided for workmen's compensation, retirement, and a nighttime differential, wages lagged behind those of private industry. Despite wage gains in the 1940s and 1950s, the postal union had limited bargaining clout. Frustration led to a wildcat strike of 200,000 postal workers in March 1970, followed by passage of the Postal Reorganization Act.
In order to forge a stronger bargaining unit, the 5 component unions formed the APWU. The first 4 contracts (1971-78) emphasized wage issues, while working conditions have become more important since 1975. Although the postal unions had chapters in Cleveland shortly after national formation, records are sketchy as to their founding dates and achievements. In 1995 the Cleveland APWU had 2,400 members. Gloria Belvy served as president.