Postal Service Cuts a Path to Privatization, say Critics

Ronnie L. Taylor, left, a 30-year maintenance worker, joined with other postal workers in Toledo, Ohio, in December to inform customers about looming closures. (Andy Morrison - AP)

Postal Service Cuts a Path to Privatization, say Critics

A US Postal Service plan announced Thursday to cut nearly 35,000 jobs and close nearly half of its regional processing centers will be disastrous for the US public and will lead to further privatization of the parcel delivery industry, say critics.

The cuts would include closure or consolidation of 223 of the 461 existing mail processing centers and eliminate up to 30,000 full-time jobs and 5,000 non-career positions. The agency has gotten rid of about 140,000 jobs in the last five years, mainly through attrition, but still had about 650,000 workers at the end of 2011, according to its most recent financial statement.

At the request of Congress, the USPS agreed to wait until mid-May to begin closures so lawmakers would have time to offer legislation or seek alternatives.

"These changes," the USPS said in a statement of Thursday, "are a necessary part of a larger comprehensive plan developed by the Postal Service to reduce operating costs by $20 billion by 2015 and return the organization to profitability."

US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), however, called the plan "deeply flawed" in a statement, and said that he hoped to see reform legislation in Congress in the coming weeks that would prevent such a plan from going into action:

"At a time when the Postal Service is competing against the instantaneous delivery of information from email and the Internet, slowing down mail delivery service will result in less business and less revenue, and will bring about a death spiral for this institution which is so vitally important for all Americans.

"A critical weakness of the current Postal Service plan is that it ignores the onerous financial burden being placed on the Postal Service by $5.5 billion a year in pre-payments for future retiree health benefits. According to the Postal Service inspector general, those payments are no longer necessary because of the $45 billion which that account already has accumulated.

"The Postal Service needs to be reformed not by massive cuts, but by a new entrepreneurial business model which expands the products and services the post office can sell in the 21st century digital age."

Letter Carriers, Postal Unions respond

"This is really about taking the peoples postal service and turning over its technology and business to private communications companies who wine and dine Congress," explained Charlie Twist, a USPS letter carrier and union member, in a press statement. "We have already lost over 100,000 jobs. We are going to fight laying off 200,000 more. We know that [the plan's] real intention is to destroy the entire postal service, bust our unions and deprive communities of critical service."

Johnnie Stevens, director for the Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs (CLUPJ) in New York says, "The spin is in full swing" when it comes to talking about the "USPS being broke." Such rhetoric is easily dispproved and is repeated widely only to justify "layoffs, post office closings and union busting when the current moratorium [on closures and consolidations] expires May 15."

The Great Postal Heist

A popular video explains the history and current plight of the US Postal Service:

Senators Support Saving the Postal Service

27 US Senators, led by Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, voiced their opposition in a recent letter by saying that widespread cuts to the USPS would "have a devastating impact on rural America, small businesses, veterans, the elderly, and our entire economy." The Senators continued:

We believe that the Postal Service should not be required to pre-fund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits over a ten year period. Over the long-term, we believe that the Postal Service must develop a new business model for it to succeed in the 21st Century, just like virtually every other postal service in the industrialized world has already done.

New York's 'Operation Zip Code'

The CLUPJ, along with postal workers unions and community groups in the New York metro area are planning rallies for March 17 to protest the closure plan and what they consider to be an assault on the very foundation of the public mail delivery system.

Working together in the spirit of a "Call for Action" to save 200,000 jobs together with 3600 local post offices and more than 250 mail processing and distribution centers across the nation, the New York-based coalition CLUPJS met this week with the New York Metro Area Postal Union, American Postal Workers Union(APWU, AFL-CIO) to plan rallies for March 17, 2012. The date coincides with the 42nd Anniversary of the 1970 Postal Strike that won union rights, decent wages and benefits for postal workers.

In a press advisory, the APWU condemned the attack on the postal system: "This proposal is a move toward privatization and could also affect other services such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid."

In a similar response to the threat of privatization, Central New Jersey Area Local 149 (APWU) President, Hansell "Hank" Anderson has endorsed the Call for Action on March 17. The New York Metro Area Postal Union Executive Board also voted their unanimous support for OPERATION ZIP CODE, to connect communities and labor citywide.

Stevens explained Operation Zip Code (OZC): "Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe is conspiring to shut down some 34 post offices and facilities in the New York area. Operation Zip Code's response is to organize meetings, rallies and marches throughout the boroughs."

"Our coalition is broad-based, encompassing communities and rank and file workers, organized and unorganized. OZC is the organizing tool to publicize and bring grievances to the March 17th demonstrations." Stevens continues: "We are the 99ers who are under constant attack: police brutality, stop and frisk, poverty, homelessness, and most importantly, unemployment and no income."


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