Postal workers and community activists will rally at the Staten Island, N.Y., Mail Sorting Facility, 550 Manor Rd., at noon on Feb. 9. The mail processing plant is being targeted by workers because it is one of 99 centers scheduled to be shut down in the next six months. The U.S. Postal Service threatens to close half of its 461 processing and distribution plants by the end of 2014.
“We won’t be able to stop the closing of the Staten Island plant,” retired postal worker John Dennie told WW, but “we need to raise our voices to alert the public of dire consequences from the ongoing efforts to degrade and eventually privatize the people’s post office.”
The picket is being organized by Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services (CLUPJS) and Community & Postal Workers United, a national coalition. The protest is endorsed by the Staten Island Local of the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 99, National Postal Mail Handlers Union Local 300, and the New York Metro Area APWU.
The postal service is going ahead with moving the mail processing operations to Brooklyn, even though many Staten Island residents are still traumatized by damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Plant closings not necessary
Despite the explosion of internet communication, the USPS turned a profit of $900 million as recently as 2006. Last fall, the postal service posted its 13th straight quarter of productivity gains, yet it lost billions of dollars in 2012. The huge losses are piling up because Congress undermined the viability of the country’s most trusted federal institution with a 2006 law mandating that 75 years’ worth of future-retiree health benefits be paid in 10 years, at a sum of more than $5.5 billion per year.
Minus the pension prefunding requirement and an accounting loss on workers’ compensation liability, the real operating loss is only $900 million a year. In a $67 billion company, that’s just 1.5 percent, a rate that is holding fairly steady in a flat economy. That loss could be eliminated with just a 1.5-cent increase in postage rates. (esquire.com)
The USPS handled 160 billion pieces of mail in 2012, almost half of the entire planet’s mail. It charges customers 46 cents for a first class letter, the cheapest postal rate anywhere. Postal workers drive over 213,000 vehicles, the largest civilian fleet in the world, logging 1.2 billion miles a year and covering 3.7 million square miles of territory.
Certain corporations and wealthy entrepreneurs would love to get their greedy hands on an institution — minus the unions of course — that has a direct link to every household in the country via 151 million mailboxes.
Privatization threatens jobs, low-cost postage
The USPS is going ahead with privatization piece by piece, even though Congress is unable to agree on authorizing legislation. For instance, the postal service wants to subcontract the trucks that deliver mail from processing plants to local postal facilities, threatening the jobs of 6,900 postal drivers. In response to an APWU lawsuit, a federal arbitration panel is expected to announce its decision by March 4 on whether USPS plans for motor vehicle privatization violate its labor agreement with the APWU.
Many post offices do business in expensive downtown buildings, historic structures real estate moguls covet. One of many such buildings the USPS wants to sell is the Bronx General Post Office on East 149th Street in New York. The historic block-long edifice contains 13 murals by painters and spouses Ben Shahn and Bernarda Bryson Shahn and two 13-foot sculptures: “Noah,” the Biblical ark builder, and “The Letter,” a mother and daughter clasping a piece of mail. The APWU immediately announced its opposition to the sale. (dnainfo.com, Feb. 1)
“The end game here is privatization,” said Charles Twist, a mail carrier at the Morris Heights, N.Y., branch and CLUPJS member. “When you see how much property [USPS management is] trying to get rid of, billions of dollars worth, it makes anybody on Wall Street start salivating.”
Congress was unable to agree on a number of proposed bills last year that would either save the postal service or lead to its demise. A white paper released in January 2013, and paid for by Pitney Bowes, argues that the USPS should be reduced to a series of private companies that would process and transport the mail to a USPS letter carrier, who would deliver it. (napawash.org)
That plan would simply transfer “the USPS profit centers to the private sector while saddling the public with the cost for ‘the last mile.'” Other proposals are expected to be fought over this spring by the new Congress.
Meanwhile, the USPS keeps eliminating jobs — 168,000 since 2006. (savethepostoffice.com, Jan. 10) Twenty-one percent of postal jobs are held by African Americans. The postal service is the largest employer of Black workers making over $55,000 annually. Many of these jobs are threatened by cutbacks in employment and services. (multiculturallife.org, June 21)
On the weekend of March 17, events to save the postal service are slated in many cities and towns, timed to put attention on the Great 1970 Postal Strike, which forced the government not only to raise wages and benefits for underpaid postal workers, but also to modernize mail processing and delivery. Rallies, forums, participation in St. Patrick’s Day parades and film showings will highlight the need for Congress to once again save the postal service, not destroy it through privatization.
Piette retired from the USPS in 2011.