Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

U.S. Postal Service worker Lou Martini goes about his daily delivery route during the coronavirus pandemic on April 15, 2020 in Kings Park, New York. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

'A Right of the People': Leader of Postal Workers Union Demands USPS Funding in Next Stimulus Bill

"We now need Congress to tell Mnuchin, 'There will be no incentive package that you want without the Post Office in it.'"

Jake Johnson

The president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union is calling on Congress to make emergency funding for the Postal Service a necessary condition in negotiations with the Trump White House over the next coronavirus stimulus package as the prized government institution faces the possibility of imminent collapse.

Mark Dimondstein, who has served as president of the Postal Workers Union since 2013, told In These Times in an interview Thursday that "we had bipartisan support in the House and Senate" for direct USPS funding in the CARES Act, a multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed into law last month.

But as the Washington Post reported last weekend, Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stepped in and threatened to tank the legislation if it included the $13 billion direct grant that congressional negotiatiors originally agreed to. A $10 billion loan for USPS was ultimately included in the final package, but the Treasury Department has yet to approve the funds.

"We've had over 30 postal workers die from the coronavirus. Thousands have been sick, thousands more have been quarantined. And they're gonna talk about coming after our wages and benefits? No way."
—Mark Dimondstein, American Postal Workers Union

"A Wall Street, Goldman Sachs Secretary of the Treasury said to both parties, 'You will not have an incentive package that the Post Office is in.' Even though they gave $500 billion to the private sector," Dimondstein said. "So we have to flip it. We now need Congress to tell Mnuchin, 'There will be no incentive package that you want without the Post Office in it.'"

The Postal Service—which runs on revenue from stamps and other products and hasn't taken federal funding since the 1980s—has been hit hard by the steep decline in mail volume caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Postmaster General Megan Brennan told lawmakers earlier this month that USPS will "run out of cash" by the end of September without congressional action.

USPS also remains bound by a 2006 congressional mandate requiring it to prefund its retirees' health benefits through 2056, a law analysts say is at the heart of the agency's current financial turmoil.

"The Post Office is not taxpayer funded, so it normally runs on revenue from postage and services," Dimondstein said. "And if 40 to 50% of that dries up in this pandemic—which is what looks like it's happening, in a very quick and precipitous way—then that money has to be made up."

"So the Postal Board of Governors is asking for $25 billion for relief, and another $25 billion for modernization, which gives them money to modernize the fleet," said Dimondstein. "This is a relief for every single person in the country. It's not a relief for a private entity."

Dimondstein warned that Republicans and the Trump administration could be attempting to use the coronavirus crisis to advance the conservative movement's longstanding goal of privatizing the Postal Service.

Asked about the Postal Service's crisis in a press briefing earlier this month, Trump dismissed calls for USPS funding and said the agency should simply "raise prices."

"The underlying thing is, they're coming after a right of the people."

"I think it's pretty straightforward," Dimondstein said of Trump's agenda. "In June of 2018, an Office of Management and Budget report—that's the White House—openly called for an opportunity to sell off the Post Office to private corporations. Their agenda is to enrich a few of their private sector friends at the expense of the people of our country... The underlying thing is, they're coming after a right of the people."

One of the central components of the White House's proposal, which it touted again in February as the Postal Service warned of looming financial disaster, was rolling back postal workers' right to organize.

"The presidential task force that Mnuchin headed up actually called for an end to our collective bargaining rights," Dimonstein noted. "So that's on their agenda too."

Dimondstein vowed to "vigorously oppose" any effort by the Trump administration to gut workers' wages or union rights as a condition for desperately needed coronavirus relief funds.

"You've got postal workers on the front lines, doing essential work," said Dimondstein. "We've had over 30 postal workers die from the coronavirus. Thousands have been sick, thousands more have been quarantined. And they're gonna talk about coming after our wages and benefits? No way."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo