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BLA hosts Maine postal union president

December 1, 2023

Courtesy of Sam Cooper
UNION STAMP OF APPROVAL: Scott Adams speaks to students about the value of unionization in the Pub. Adams is currently the president of the Maine American Postal Workers Union and was invited to campus by the Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA).

On Wednesday night, the Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA) hosted Scott Adams, the president of the Maine American Postal Workers Union, who discussed his role in the organization and the importance of unionization. BLA brought Adams to campus in hopes of starting a collective conversation about the benefits of labor unions.

Adams began the talk by reminiscing on joining the postal service workforce and beginning his career as an unengaged union member. He only began to understand the role of the union after he received notice that his job at the post office, handling mail that would be sent via airplane, was eliminated during a restructuring. He assumed that the elimination of his role would mean he was out of a job and needed to leave the postal service to find another career. Adams later learned the union had negotiated with the postal service to make sure he and the rest of his colleagues would get comparable jobs at the same pay level after their initial firing.

“[The] union stepped in out of nowhere, saving my job with them and pay grade,” Adams said.

After getting more involved with the union, Adams was approached to run for president of the union. He was initially reluctant, but Adams recalls that, after attending church, he realized that serving as president would give him an opportunity to help others and serve his community.

“It was that drive to do something for other people.… You want to help other people. You want to serve other people,” he said.

According to Adams, not everyone wants to be in a union, and unionization efforts can only work if everyone is willing to contribute.

“[The term SCAB] stands for still collecting all benefits. People ask, ‘Why would I join the union when I get the same benefits for not paying anything?’ That’s freeloading. And if everybody did that, we wouldn’t have a union,” Adams said. “So, that’s the concept of unionism and fighting for doing things for other people.”

Adams is particularly proud of communal efforts to create progress within the postal service union, such as working toward pay equity for women and employees of color. As part of these communal actions, he again emphasized the shared responsibilities of union members to advance the goals and purpose of the union, forgoing personal desires to work together to achieve group success.

“In a union shop, when the union members go and negotiate a contract, not one of you has to walk up to your boss and say, ‘Can I have a pay raise?’” Adams said.

BLA member Sam Cooper ’24 explained that they wanted the discussion to bring topics of labor organizing to campus.

“One of the BLA’s goals is to open up spaces for dialogue about what labor looks like on campus and what kind of labor happens here and just get people talking about labor on campus and thinking about the types of labor that they do,” Cooper said.

Attendee Luke Robinson ’26 was particularly interested in what Adams had to say about the political demographics of the postal workers union.

“What Adams said, that 40 to 45 percent of the postal union that he’s a part of are registered Republicans, I didn’t know,” Robinson said. “I think, oftentimes, the word union carries with it the idea that it’s a radical sort of thing. But the way Adams talked about it made it seem very commonplace. I think that’s important to normalize it in that way.”

Adams ended his talk by emphasizing that unions aim to make employees’ lives better. He hopes that students will carry that understanding forward into the rest of their lives.

“It is really about helping other people. Anybody that gets involved as an activist in a union does it because you want to help other people,” Adams said.


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