Why Public Space Is So Valuable

Jeremy Mohler

Jeremy Mohler Communications Specialist, In the Public Interest

My favorite job during college wasn’t building sets for the school theater or managing a fancy hotel, it was working the front desk at my hometown library. Not only did I make decent money—which paid for me to commute to school—but I also got to help people find the resources they were looking for.

At least once a shift, I helped someone get on the internet to search job listings or pay a bill. I was young and naïve—and probably not as helpful as I could’ve been—but I could tell it meant a lot to them that the public library was there.

So when I read about what public employees are doing at Denver Public Library, I was reminded of the value of public space and public employees.

Homelessness is skyrocketing in Denver due to rising housing prices and rents. Last year, Colorado had the nation’s largest increase in the number of homeless veterans. City officials have reacted with force rather than care, banning camping and cracking down on existing encampments.

But the library is taking a different approach. Employees partnered with local nonprofits to wash people’s laundry and host writing workshops for those going through hard times. Management also hired two social workers to help visitors find affordable housing, register for public benefits, and connect with citywide resources.

Earlier this year, the library trained staff to administer an anti-overdose nasal spray, as Denver recoils from the opioid epidemic sweeping the country. They bought 12 spray kits in February—by May, they had used seven of them.

“It costs us $75 per kit,” said the library’s central administrator. “If you can save somebody’s life for $75, let’s do it.”

Libraries, like post offices, beaches, and parks, are public spaces that bring us together and form the backbone of a healthy and just society. When they’re well-funded and under democratic control, we can do great things with them.


Reposted from In the Public Interest

Posted In: Allied Approaches

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

There is Dignity in All Work