Anticipating the White House will propose privatizing the U.S. Postal Service – eliminating services and displacing union jobs – the Postal Workers (APWU) launched a mass campaign to derail the privatization scheme.
At a rally in downtown Pittsburgh on August 21, during the second day of the union’s convention there, APWU picked up strong support from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., who promised to introduce legislation to stop the White House’s plan in its tracks. Dozens of U.S. House members, from both parties, support a resolution – which doesn’t have the force of law – against privatization, too.
The rally and the convention occurred just before a postal “reform” commission, headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, sent its still-secret report to the president on how to privatize the USPS.
That drew the ire of the convention’s 2,000 delegates, Sanders, other speakers, and APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Now we are facing the battle of our lifetimes,” Dimondstein declared in his keynote address. Other speakers included American Federation of State, Country and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders and Bill Lucy, the founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
“Last month the White House Office of Management and Budget dropped the bombshell proposing to totally sell-off and privatize the public postal service. These troubling and stormy times underscore that those in power mean business and think their time is now to seize the $70 billion of postal public revenue for their private profit!” Dimondstein said.
The solution APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union offer is to let the USPS enter new lines of business – like postal banking – and to get rid of the main cause of the red ink: The $5.6 billion yearly GOP-Congress-mandated Postal Service pre-payment of future retirees’ health care costs.
Without that spending, unique to USPS, it runs in the black. With it, it runs in the red and gives republicans the excuse to advocate ending the USPS as a public but independent agency.
“Sisters and brothers, privatization threats are not new. But we have never faced outright plans to sell the entire Post Office, destroying the democratic right of the people to universal service, reasonable rates, and aimed at annihilating our union and decent postal jobs. Postal privatization is about the profits of a few at the expense of the many – period!” Dimondstein said.
Dimondstein laid most of the blame at the feet of “billionaire-backed think tanks like the right-wing Heritage foundation, with extensive influence in this White House,” and congressional Republicans, who imposed the health care pre-funding mandate on USPS in 2006.
But he didn’t let the Democrats off the hook, criticizing influential “party functionary” Robert Shapiro and 2016 Democratic convention heavyweight Elaine Kamarck, an Hillary Clinton delegate, by name for pushing privatization, too. APWU was one of only five unions to back Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the 2016 party nod.
“No other company or agency faces, or could survive, such an onerous financial burden” as the $5 billion annual health care pre-payment, Dimondstein added in a pre-convention op-ed in the Boston Globe. “Without this manufactured pre-funding crisis, the Postal Service would have shown a positive net income in four of the last five years averaging close to $1 billion annually — again, without a dime of taxpayer money.”