Postal Workers Must Fight the Bosses' Attacks

postalworker1The postal workers are under serious attacks by the bosses of the U.S. Postal Service and the policies of the federal government. It has been reported that the Postal Service has a loss of $5.7 billion so far this year (the fiscal year ends on September 30). On August 1, 2012, the Postal Service failed to make a payment of $5.5 billion to the federal government toward a fund intended to cover future retirees’ health benefits. This was technically considered “a default.”

As a result, the Postal Service bosses are sharpening their knives to make the workers pay for their crisis. They want to cut 100,000 jobs through “voluntary retirement.” If they don’t get volunteers, layoffs are sure to follow. Given that about 500,000 people work for the Postal Service, that is 20% of the work force.

The bosses also want to close many post offices, reducing service to many towns, cities and neighborhoods. They even want to end Saturday delivery. This will make “snail mail” even slower and close offices on the one day many workers actually have time to go there for purchases and packages.

The U.S. Post Office was originally set up by a revolutionary government—the Second Continental Congress.  Ben Franklin was the first Postmaster General.  Officially, the 13 colonies were under King George III of England, and the Second Continental Congress organized the revolution that led to the birth of the USA.  The Constitution of 1789 states that mail delivery is one of the tasks that the federal government must undertake. It was seen as essential to have a national communications infrastructure as part of ensuring freedom of speech. All communities, no matter how small or how isolated, would get the mail delivered. The Post Office was not set up to make a profit; it was set up to ensure a cheap and efficient postal delivery system for the entire country.

In the 1970s, Congress set up the U.S. Postal Service, turning the Post Office into a “quasi-governmental agency” that must make a profit. U.S. imperialism was spending lots of money on bombing the Vietnamese people and they wanted to seek other sources of revenue for the war machine.

It is true that electronic banking and the internet have reduced the volume of mail. Mail volume has declined 25% since 2006. However, there are still millions of letters and packages that need to be delivered, and the quicker the better. People can buy things on the Internet, but these commodities must be sent as packages by the Post Office or other delivery companies such as UPS. Part of the reason for the Postal Service’s losses is the fact that a large chunk of the profitable package business is in the hands of UPS, Fed Ex and similar companies.

In addition, Congress passed a law in 2006 that forced the Postal Service to contribute $75 billion into a fund to pay for future retiree health benefits. No other part of the U.S. federal government must do this. In fact, the requirement was clearly imposed to set the USPS up for failure—to then bolster the case for privatization.

The elimination of this requirement alone would go a long way toward solving the USPS’s problems without any cutbacks in workers or services. If more money is needed to ensure quality, efficient service, and quality jobs for all USPS workers, the federal government can easily find it by cutting the military budget and withdrawing troops from other countries.

The four main postal workers unions—American Postal Worker Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association—must join together in this fight. If they organize and mobilize the membership and reach out to the broader public for support, they can conduct the kinds of job actions which will cause a lot of problems for the Postal Service. This will have implications for many businesses. This is the leverage that they have to make the bosses listen to their demands. It is the lack of mobilization and the strategy of lobbying the Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill which is making the workers feel weak and inviting more attacks.

These unions should also link up with the Teamsters Union that represents UPS workers. All of these unions must support each other in their struggle against their bosses and help to organize the unorganized workers in the nonunion package delivery industry. The Postal Workers will also find allies with the pubic sector worker everywhere who are now under attack.  Finally, workers in general will support them, as they are also against cuts in this vital service.

In the long run, the unions need to fight against the Democrats & Republicans who are implementing these attacks. That means the establishment of a mass party of labor. A labor government could nationalize the various private package delivery companies and establish one coordinated mail and package delivery system offering quality service at a low cost. All workers in this system would have union protection and union level wages and benefits.

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