WASHINGTON (PAI)—Unions and their allies, including dozens of national groups, launched yet another blitz to save the U.S. Postal Service from going under. Whether it’ll succeed in time is up in the air.
“The people of this country deserve great public postal services,” says a pledge form for people to sign on the main website, www.agrandalliance.org. “We advocate expanded services, such as non-profit postal banking and other financial services. We call on the Postmaster General and the Board of Governors to strengthen and champion the institution.”
“The public good must not be sacrificed for the sake of private investment and profit. A strong public Postal Service is our democratic right.”
The current campaign is tied to the next coronavirus economic aid legislation. But their obstinate foe, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shows no signs of listening. So one big union, the Letter Carriers, has worked with a bipartisan duo of senators on a $25 billion stand-alone backup.
Thanks to the coronavirus, the Postal Service’s financial situation is dire. Its board and former Postmaster General Megan Brennan calculated that the USPS, which has never gotten any taxpayer dollars, needs that sum just to make it through the end of 2020.
That’s because USPS’s big money-maker, first-class mail, collapsed when the U.S. economy crashed into a depression caused by business closures and worker layoffs needed to combat community spread of the virus.
By contrast, McConnell forced USPS to accept a $10 billion line of credit in the last economic aid bill, with so many strings attached that USPS is still bargaining with Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the money.
Trump, who hates public workers and people of color, calls the USPS a “joke.” His White House right-wing ideologues want to starve it, privatize it, sell off profitable pieces and abandon the rest. They also demand firings, dumping union contracts, and other cuts. Mnuchin and Trump are using USPS’s neediness to impose those conditions. Without the direct aid, the USPS might have to shut down within weeks, and just before the November election, when millions of voters, including every voter in Oregon, Colorado, Washington and several other states vote by mail. Other states have seen booms in mail-in ballots. USPS’s collapse would also throw 600,000-plus workers, most of them union members, Black, brown, female, veterans or a combination of those characteristics, out of jobs. “Today, members of A Grand Alliance To Save Our Public Postal Service are calling our Senators to urge them to provide at least $25 billion to the Postal Service,” the alliance’s July 23 e-mail said.
“The coronavirus crisis has hit the Postal Service hard. Income is falling dramatically while costs are increasing. Without funding, the USPS could run out of money in a matter of months. Please make your call to help save the Post Office as soon as you can. Dial 833-924-0085 to be connected,” it adds. Signing the petition is an alternative. “Senate offices are telling us that the volume of phone calls they are getting is pushing the Postal Service funding to the top of their agenda. That means it’s working and we have to keep going,” the alliance says. But while the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers, the Mail Handlers/Laborers, the Rural Letter Carriers, the National Consumers League and others are all on board with the campaign to ensure the $25 billion is in the Senate economic stimulus law, NALC President Fredric Rolando realized they may need a backup to get around McConnell’s blockade. “On July 2, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the ‘Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act’ (S4174)” as the stand-alone backup, Rolando reported to members. It would provide the $25 billion in a ‘Postal Service COVID-19 Emergency Fund’ to make up the difference between revenue and expenses during the pandemic, available through Sept. 30, 2022.”
“NALC continues to lobby aggressively for direct financial relief, favorable loan terms, and hazard pay,” he continued, providing another website, www.HeroesDelivering.com for information. “Letter Carriers should continue contacting their senators to urge support for such funding in the stimulus package.” He said his union worked with the two senators to craft the measure.
Besides the postal unions and the Consumers League, other supporters of the pro-USPS campaign include the Communications Workers, National Nurses United, AFSCME, the Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, the Fire Fighters, Jobs With Justice, all six AFL-CIO constituency groups, the Service Employees, Railroad Workers United, and the Jewish Labor Committee. The NAACP, 9to5 and Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses are also on board.