Postal and non-postal employee unions rallied Oct. 8 in over 100 locations in support of keeping the U.S. Postal Service public, as the White House looks poised to recommend actions that would turn the service over to private ownership.
The Trump administration’s June 2018 plan for reorganizing the federal government included provisions that would prepare USPS for private takeover.
A White House task force assigned to study the effectiveness of USPS was scheduled to deliver a report of its findings Aug. 10, but that report has not yet been released to the public.
“We’re not waiting to see the task force report. The administration has already indicated where they’re headed,” American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein said in a news release on the rallies.
“Private companies are going to raid the precious resources of the people’s Postal Service, which has only grown more valuable due to the growth of e-commerce. Then these companies are going to raise prices, cut service and leave rural communities isolated, senior citizens stranded and many businesses without a reliable means of reaching their customers.”
The White House plan is based on European models of privatized postal systems, but attendees at a Washington, D.C., rally said that those systems rely on higher costs for poorer service than the current U.S. system.
“Some folks over at [the Office of Management and Budget] think they ought to privatize the postal system, because they’ve looked to Europe. In Germany, you pay twice as much for a stamp to get your letter to a country one-fifth the size. From Frankfurt to Berlin is nothing like from Anchorage [Alaska] to Washington,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.
The plan has already received bipartisan push back in both the House and Senate, but Sherman said that the current supporters of a resolution to keep the postal service as it is aren’t enough.
“An optimist would say the glass is half full, but I’m a little more greedy. I wonder why is the glass almost half empty? I’ve got colleagues running for reelection who haven’t cosponsored H.R. 933. What’s the matter with them?” said Sherman.
But fellow Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., told the rally members that it was highly unlikely the plan would actually make it through Congress.
“I assure you that this plan is not likely to go anywhere, and I’m going to tell you why, because I am on the committee of jurisdiction,” said Norton, explaining that members of the president’s own party probably wouldn’t support the proposal.
“Remember that the constituents of my Republican colleagues need you as much as I need you, and they know it. They know that they are dependent upon postal delivery, they are dependent upon the entire Postal Service. In fact, I predict that Republicans will be even more reluctant to go with this scheme, because they disproportionately represent constituents that live in rural areas.”
She added that private-sector companies, like Amazon and eBay, have already come out in opposition of a privatization plan.
Critics of the Postal Service have pointed to the recent financial challenges, as the service looks unlikely to accumulate enough revenue to address necessary updates, as rationale for privatization. The Postal Service currently does not rely on federal taxes, but rather revenue generated through its services to fund operations.
But rally speakers pointed to a congressional mandate requiring USPS to prefund its retiree health benefits as the reason behind much of the service’s money problems.
“That is what is putting in question the U.S. Postal Service: an on-the-books, B.S. requirement to prefund retiree healthcare that doesn’t work that way anywhere else in the country,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants.
A Senate bill would require USPS retirees to sign up for Medicare to help mitigate those costs, while eliminating the existing statutory payment schedule for the retiree health fund.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.