Postal bill draws protests in U.S. cities

Bronx, N.Y. — No more door-to-door mail delivery. The end of Saturday mail. Those are just two of the severe cuts approved July 24 by the Congressional committee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service. The National Postal Mail Handlers Union, the Rural Letter Carriers Union, the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers all condemned the proposed legislation. APWU president Cliff Guffey predicted it “will lead to the demise of the Postal Service.” (Postal Reporter News, July 26)

Post office supporters and workers who organized rallies in several cities on July 27, the 238th birthday of the federal mail delivery service, also pilloried the bill’s proposals.

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) postal reform legislation, H.R. 2748, was passed by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee along party lines, 22-17. The act, if passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, would make drastic changes to mail service without addressing the main problem — the unnecessary requirement to fund pension health-care costs 75 years in advance.

Issa’s bill comes on top of sweeping postal actions in the last year that have closed 30 percent of mail processing plants; reduced hours by 25 percent to 75 percent in half of all post offices; put 10 percent of post offices up for sale; subcontracted trucking and mail handling; cut thousands of mail routes; and eliminated 60,000 postal jobs. The cuts are creating a slowed-down mail system.

The Issa bill would end mail delivery on Saturdays, except for parcels. It would also replace door-to-door delivery for 40 million homes with neighborhood cluster boxes or curb boxes by 2020. Another 100,000 postal jobs — 20 percent of the workforce — would be eliminated. It would also prohibit no-layoff clauses in future collective bargaining agreements, raise premiums for health and life insurance benefits, and establish “competition advocates” to promote contracting out.

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“Cuts … proposed would drive more mail out of the postal system and could send the Postal Service into a death spiral,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “and they would diminish USPS’ ability to take advantage of the obviously booming e-commerce market.” (NALC.org, July 22)

Even Mark Strong, of the National League of Postmasters, criticized the bill, saying it “eliminates the public policy provision in the law that ensures that urban and rural Americans receive parity in mail services. Under H.R. 2748, rural citizens would inevitably become second-class citizens.” (Postal Reporter News Blog, July 25)

The proposed anti-union legislation was heavily criticized at several rallies held July 26 and 27. In Portland, Ore., plans by protesters to occupy the Main Post Office on July 26 were thwarted by the heavy presence of Department of Homeland Security police, postal inspectors and postal managers.

In Vista, Calif., union and community activists picketed outside Rep. Issa’s office on July 26. Besides criticizing H.R. 2748, organizers raised opposition to USPS plans to subcontract the highway movement of mail to the private sector in approximately 162 Postal Vehicle Services sites nationwide. The spoils from privatization would be $65 billion in USPS revenue.

In New York City, a noontime rally on July 27 was held on the steps of the historic 1935 Bronx General Post Office. USPS officials plan to vacate and sell the beautiful structure, which is home to 13 priceless murals by Depression-era artist Ben Shahn.

Several Bronx residents, the Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services, Save the Post Office and others have filed an appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission challenging the closing. They charge postal officials with neglecting to follow the historic preservation review process. (SavethePostOffice.com, July 19)

The protest featured a number of community and labor representatives, including Ramón Jiménez and Mike Eilenfeldt, two of the Bronx appeal plaintiffs. Pedro Joaquin Aquillar, of the Coalition of Cab Drivers, spoke. This group represents thousands of cab drivers in danger of losing their jobs in a new five-borough taxi plan.

Other speakers included Debbie Szeredy, president of APWU Local 3722; Milagros Cancel, Parents to Improve School Transportation; Julio Muñoz, Congreso Comunitario Del Sur Del Bronx (South Bronx Community Congress); Nieves Ayress, La Peña del Bronx; and Teresa Gutierrez, May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights.