Berkeley, Calif. — When the major banks and financial institutions in this country were facing economic failure, they were quickly given a multitrillion-dollar bailout. But the U.S. Postal Service, a public institution serving millions of people, is getting sold out instead of bailed out. The government in collaboration with major real estate interests is closing post offices and selling the properties to the highest bidder. In Berkeley, Calif., a growing movement of workers, activists and city residents is coming together to make clear, “Our post office is not for sale.”
People gathered Nov. 14 at the historic downtown Berkeley Post Office to protest its planned sale to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s spouse, Richard Blum, a University of California regent and chair of CBRE, a major real estate firm. According to the “Save the People’s Post Office” newsletter (Nov. 2012), CBRE has the “exclusive contract to sell off Berkeley’s historic Main Post Office and some 70 other post offices nationally.” The new community/labor coalition charges Blum and other big-business interests with trying to privatize and profit from the federal postal system.
At the rally, Berkeley City Council member, Max Anderson, called the proposed post office sale “a slap in the face for the people of Berkeley. It should not be up for sale.” He said the sale smacks of a corporate mentality that was just defeated on Election Day. Anderson said the defeats of Measure S, which would have criminalized people who sat on the city streets, and Measure T, which would have given big developers a green light to further “develop” Berkeley, were victories for everyone’s civil rights.
Susan Hammer, chief shop steward of the American Postal Workers Union, East Bay Area, Local 47, had her first postal job at the downtown Berkeley post office. Hammer called the sale “unnecessary” and urged everyone to fight this latest attempt to privatize the postal system.
According to the organizers of “Save the People’s Post Office,” this movement won an important victory by forcing a postponement of the public hearing on the sale of this historic building. The original meeting was scheduled for two days before the “Thanksgiving” holiday, which would have guaranteed a low attendance. The hearing will probably be scheduled for sometime in January.
Following the rally, protesters walked into the post office to view the priceless New Deal murals on its walls and then marched up to Constitution Square in downtown Berkeley to gather more support for the campaign to stop the illegal sale of the Berkeley post office.
The next action of the community/labor coalition will be Dec. 4. Protesters will expose the role of real estate mogul Blum by gathering at his San Francisco office, 909 Montgomery St. in San Francisco, and marching to Sen. Feinstein’s office. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit savethepostoffice.com.