Biden His Time

Gary Villani

Gary Villani Writer, Retired, USW Local 959

On May 2, 2011, hours before I underwent brain surgery, news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy Seals. “At least I outlived you, you son of a bitch!”

Sitting up, I had accidentally pulled several EEG leads loose from my partially shaved head. An alarm sounded. I apologized to the responding nurses.

I described that moment to Beau Biden a year later, after he led a group of veterans marching in a Fayetteville, North Carolina voter registration drive.

I was still catching my breath and wiping my brow when the Vice President’s son walked over and asked if I was doing alright.

“Yes sir, I’m fine, thank you.” Sketching a salute with my walking stick, I said, “We’ve got other things in common besides we’re both voting for your dad.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes sir. We both served in Iraq—and we both battled brain illness afterwards.”

“And here we still are.” Biden smiled and the genuineness of his expression touched my heart.

I offered a quick account of my medical marathon, including the night bin Laden’s death cheered me up, then identified myself as a 2012 Obama organizing fellowship selectee. I expressed my regret that due to medical setbacks I wasn’t able to do more for the campaign.

“Well, I’m glad you’re out here with us today.”

“Likewise!” I replied. “As a Goodyear Steelworker, the tariff the Obama Administration slapped on China in 2009 for dumping cheap tires in North America made a difference that might’ve saved our jobs. Your father understands what it means to have the backs of the middle class.”

Beau looked proud. I was glad my tendency to get a little tongue tied had given me a break for change.

“My dad always interrogates me for good stories from the campaign trail. This is one I know he’ll like.”

Beau Biden’s death in 2015 from a relentless form of brain cancer deeply saddened me.

Weeks ago, I learned that Joe Biden would appear at the Kimmel Center, in downtown Philadelphia on November 15th to discuss his book, Promise Me, Dad. The man charged with moderating the talk and asking questions would be none other than America’s Shakespeare—the founding father of West Wing, Aaron Sorkin.

All I had to do was score a seat, book a room, and be there.

Being there was a no-brainer in this hate-riddled, tinybrain age of trumpism.

When Mr. Sorkin asked Mr. Biden what keeps him up on sleepless nights these days, President Barack Obama’s rock steady, two term understudy leaned toward the crowd as if meaning to answer eye-to-eye. “I bet less than ten percent of you gave much if any thought to an exchange of nuclear weapons before last Election Day, did you?”

The talk was everything I hoped for—insightful, uplifting and inspiring.

At the end, I couldn’t restrain myself from hollering loud enough to be sure I was heard, “Run, Joe! Run!”

***

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

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