Former Omaha Area Local President and National APWU Clerk Craft Director Kenny Wilson passed away June 1, 2015.
The following is an excerpt from a December 2007 Post Script President's report:
In preparing to write this article, I read the prior Post Script publications dating back to the 1950’s. As referenced in President Burrus’ comments and in the history of the APWU [see related article in this Post Script], the different crafts each had separate Unions. The Omaha Postal Clerk, later to become the Omaha Post Script, was issued by the United Federation of Postal Clerks [UFPC].
The past articles and history tell of a time when wages were so low that some postal workers had to apply for welfare, when postal workers started as ‘subs’ and had to wait in the break room without pay for hours – just for a chance to work, when the Omaha plant had no women bathrooms or lockers, when working conditions were unsafe and worker rights were held hostage at the whim of a supervisor.
It was an era without leave rights, overtime rights or vacation rights, Collective bargaining did not exist – it was collective begging. Congress held control of wages and consistently denied real increases.
Before running through a portion of the history of Omaha, it is important to place Union involvement in context with that time in history. Wages were low, Union dues were low and there was no Collective Bargaining Agreement. Union officers were not paid, worked off the clock and often traveled at their own expense. Union officers piled into cars and vans, shared rooms and slept on floors to attend conventions and training seminars.
No modern technology – grievances were researched by manual and book, written by hand, processed by type writer. Publications were typed, carbon copied and published through hours of manual labor. It was a time dominated by manuals, type writers and phone calls.
Union activism = personal sacrifice.
The evolution of Omaha Area Local, #11 took off in 1965, when Kenny Wilson was elected as President of the UFPC. Starting with a piece of paper and a single type writer as the sole assets of the Union, an office in his basement and a vision, President Wilson began the hard work in leading Omaha to becoming one of the best locals in the country.
The Wilson administration was surrounded by dedicated and smart fellow Unionist’s – former Vice President [and President] Don Johnson, President Gavin Jensen, Editor Wes Cahow, Health Plan Representative Tom Carew, Pearl King and many others.
Under Kenny Wilson, dues were raised to provide proper representation, the local was led during the Great Postal Strike, became a part of the APWU, a full time President was established and the vision of owning a Union Hall was put on the table and advanced.
From 1966 through June of 1972, President Wilson led in the development of the local constitution, negotiation of the local agreement and the fight for workers rights and contract enforcement.
President Wilson became Wichita Area Vice President [modern day National Business Agent], National Assistant Clerk Craft Director and National Clerk Craft Director. Kenny was regarded as one of the finest to have served this Union as the National Clerk Craft Director, being responsible for negotiating much of the Article 37 language and the settlement of many Step 4 decisions that resulted in the establishment of important rights and contract interpretation .After a distinguished career at all levels, Kenny retired in 1992. The Union hall is dedicated to and named after Kenny Wilson.
Kenny was born August 8,1932, led a full life and touched so many of us until June 1, 2015.
Thank you Kenny - for all you've done in your life - for Omaha and for union members throughout the country. You will be missed but not forgotten. Rest in peace.