Post Office Workers to Trump: ‘U.S. Mail: Not for Sale’
By Miho Watabe | Oct 08, 2018
All four postal service worker unions (the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union) plan to keep up their fight against the Trump administration’s push to privatize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
On Columbus Day, October 8, postal workers across the county will converge on congressional offices in their districts with a critical message: “U.S. Mail: Not for Sale.” These rallies are only the latest in a series of ongoing actions taken by unions and members of Congress to halt the administration's privatization plans.
One goal of the campaign is to alert the public. “We all get the same rights and the same service,” Mark Dimondstein, president of American Postal Workers Union (APWU), told The American Prospect. “That would all disappear if the U.S. postal office was sold.”
The administration first confirmed plans for USPS privatization in a reorganization report released in June. The report argued that the institution is unable to stay afloat financially and confirmed that a task force was investigating pathways for privatization. But critics argue that the postal service could be profitable if it hadn’t been subjected to a “manufactured” financial crisis via the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, a 2006 congressional measure that requires USPS to pre-fund workers’ retirement benefits 75 years into the future over the span of ten years.
The unpopular privatization plan is already creating difficulties for the administration. In July, the House of Representatives introduced a resolution condemning privatization. Postal workers held a massive August rally against privatization in Pittsburgh during APWU’s biennial national convention. Then in September, two days before the unions announced their upcoming day of action, the Senate introduced its own resolution rejecting privatization.
Both the Senate and the House resolutions boast bipartisan support. But Dimondstein doesn’t find it surprising that the resolution appeals to both sides of the aisle. “There's a very real understanding [by] many elected representatives from rural states of how important the post office is to their communities,” Dimondstein said, “and people want to protect it.”
It’s true that Americans love their post offices—more than any other government agency, in fact—and they rely on services that will likely disappear if USPS is privatized. Monday-to-Saturday mail delivery, affordable postage costs, and the ability to access postal services no matter where you live in the country are just a few examples of services that the USPS ensures.
Most of these services fall under the USPS’s “United Service Obligation.” The USO requires the postal service to make its services accessible to all residents and is linked to the Constitution’s grant of authority to Congress to establish post offices. Historically, the USO has shaped official USPS policy, which prioritizes access for all and quality services over profits.
But USO is likely to be scrapped under a for-profit business model. Case in point: Trump’s task force committed itself to redefining the USO, suggesting a drastic change in “the level of service Americans should expect from their universal service operator,” which would mean a complete restructuring of one of the oldest institutions in the United States. Privatization could establish surcharges for hard-to-reach addresses or the elimination of unprofitable routes. Dimondstein summed up the everyday consequences for Americans: “Service will be down, costs will go up.”
The task force’s pathway-to-privatization report was reportedly submitted to Trump in August. But, not surprisingly, it will not be made public until after the midterm elections. While it’s unclear if the congressional backlash has convinced the Trump administration to reconsider USPS privatization, these recent actions by politicians and workers alike reaffirm the post office’s enduring popularity.