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The National Alliance of Postal Employees was formed in 1913 in response to the discrimination faced by early black postal employees. The organization is comprised of a union of people who serve the nation as rank and file employees in the U.S. Federal and U.S. Postal Service. Their motto is unmistaken: Faithful Until Death, (or formally Ad Mortem Fidelis).

In the early 1900’s, nearly every railway mail clerk was African American. The job of a railway mail clerk was hazardous. The mail clerks had to ride in wooden cars, which often crashed on the track. By 1913, steel cars were made and the job became more competitive. White railway workers took over and used the Railway Mail Association for protection. The Association excluded blacks from their membership. Therefore, the black clerks had no labor union or protection.

On October 2, 1913 at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, black mail clerks from across the country convened and formed the National Alliance of Postal Employees. It was the first industrial union in the United States open to everyone. The group immediately fought for fair practices within the railway mail system. Among their first motions was the elimination of the use of photographs for identification for civil service examinations. The current process left the hiring practices open for discrimination. The practice was finally changed 26 years later.

The Alliance also took on women’s rights shortly after WWII, insisting that they be given the same career benefits as other postal workers. The organization prides itself in being the creators of a Board of Appeals and Review for the U.S. Postal Service to address employee grievances and take action.

The NAPE organization left a voter registration mark in the historical elections in 1964, after the Civil Rights Act legislation. Under the Hatch Act, NAPE surpassed all federal unions in registration that year. In 1965, the National Alliance of Federal and Postal Employees expanded to include federal employees, thus changing the name to NAPFE.

With the success of the organization within the postal service industry, the Alliance symbolized their historical strides by lighting an eternal flame at the foot of Lookout Mountain in October 1973, the place where it all began. The flame was to serve as a constant symbol of the Alliance’s permanency and heritage.

The National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.

(Photo: USPS)