It’s hard to think of anything of value that 49 cents can still buy –except to send a letter clear across the country. Affordable, accessible and universal mail service has long been a vital link in America’s infrastructure. The United States Postal Service (USPS) currently serves over 150 million commercial and residential customers each day, and its living wage union jobs have catapulted hundreds of thousands of workers into the middle class, stabilizing com-munities and strengthening our economy. Although a “quasi-governmental” institution that is enshrined in the Con-stitution and subject to congressional oversight, the USPS operates without taxpayer funding.
But this institution has come under siege by corporate interests –some driven by anti-union sentiment- that seek to chip away at the USPS in a march toward privatization of mail service. USPS opponents claim that dimin-ishing mail volume due to e-commerce and online banking warrants cutbacks, which have included slowing first-class mail service, closing post offices, cutting hours of operation and eliminating staff. A push to eliminate Sat-urday mail delivery has as yet been unsuccessful.
Is the USPS financially viable, and are these cutbacks necessary? Postal Service proponents point to a spe-cific piece of crippling government legislation as the root of the problem. The Postal Accountability and En-hancement Act of 2006 forces the USPS to pre-pay future healthcare costs for postal retirees to the tune of $5.5 billion per year. The USPS is the only organization, public or private, that must comply with this mandate. Propo-nents claim that, without this burden, the USPS would have been $1.4 billion in the black for 2014.
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) has dug in hard against attacks on the USPS. In February 2015 it announced “A Grand Alliance,” a coalition of 64 organizations combining resources to save the Postal Service. Participating groups include the National Council of Churches, Greenpeace USA, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the AFL-CIO. The alliance will wield its clout to influence postal-related legislation. A modest victory was recently achieved when the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee recommended reversing previous cutbacks to first-class mail service.
“It’s hard to kill a service that people support,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein.
Learn more at www.agrandalliance.org