Vincent Sombrotto, letter carrier who led 1970 strike, dies at 89

January 17, 2013

Vincent R. Sombrotto, a labor leader who served as president of the National Association of Letter Carriers for 24 years, died Jan. 10 at a hospital near his home in Port Washington, N.Y. He was 89.

The NALC announced the death but did not disclose the cause.

Mr. Sombrotto joined the old Post Office Department in 1947 as a part-time carrier. As a letter carrier at New York’s Grand Central Station, he took charge of the 1970 postal strike to protest poor working conditions and wages so low that some carriers qualified for welfare.

President Richard Nixon called in 25,000 troops to deliver the mail in the city after the carriers went on strike. The walkout eventually spread to 100 cities and involved more than 200,000 postal workers. It led to the creation by Congress of the U.S. Postal Service, which began operations in 1971 and guaranteed collective-bargaining rights for postal workers.

In 1978, Mr. Sombrotto was elected as the NALC’s 16th president, a position he held leading the union’s 300,000 members until his retirement in 2002.


This undated photo provided by the family shows Vincent R. Sombrotto. Sombrotto, who served as president of the National Association of Letter Carriers for 24 years, died Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, at age 89. (AP)

He played a key role in helping to reform the Hatch Act, a law that prohibited partisan political activities by federal employees.

Vincent Raymond Sombrotto was born in Manhattan on June 15, 1923, and was a Navy veteran of World War II, the New York Times reported.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Rae Luisi Sombrotto; seven children; two sisters; and 14 grandchildren.