Killing the post office

After months of speculation, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced last week that it would be eliminating Saturday delivery beginning in August. Postal officials claim the step is necessary in order to save some $2 billion a year in revenue and close a supposed "budget crisis."

But postal workers point out that the crisis facing the USPS was manufactured--by, among other things, a congressional mandate that postal worker retiree health benefits must be fully funded 75 years in advance. They also note that the post office is legally barred from raising prices with inflation, but is still forced to compete with companies like UPS and FedEx.

The cuts will not only impact ordinary Americans--especially those in rural areas--but postal workers, thousands of whom will face job losses and increased workloads as a result. Given the USPS's historic role in employing African Americans and veterans at higher-than-average rates, the cuts have the potential to be particularly devastating to those groups.

Postal workers organized in Communities and Postal Workers United have been mobilizing for actions against the coming cuts for months, including hunger strikes by current and former postal workers, the latest of which was in December. In a statement, the group responds to the plans to eliminate Saturday mail service and elaborate on what it will mean for postal workers.

Missouri postal workers and their families campaign for public support against the cuts  (Samantha Sunne)Missouri postal workers and their families campaign for public support against the cuts (Samantha Sunne)

Postal coalition calls for national day of action, in the spirit of the 1970 strike

"The postmaster general should be fired. The Congress needs to block these cuts and closures. The president should issue an executive order," said Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier and West Coast organizer with Communities and Postal Workers United (CPWU), in response to the announcement that Saturday delivery would end in August.

The CPWU is calling for a national day of action on March 17 to save the postal service, opposing all closures, cuts and delay of mail.

Cutting delivery to five days will eliminate 25,000 jobs, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers. The U.S. Postal Service has already cut 168,000 jobs since 2006 and projects the outsourcing of most postal trucking, closure of 30 percent of mail processing plants and hundreds of post offices by June, cutting another 100,000 jobs and slowing delivery standards.

"We will not stand by as our beloved postal service is destroyed," said Tom Dodge, a postal truck driver and East Coast CPWU organizer. "We urge all Americans who care about our constitutionally mandated postal service to organize dramatic actions on March 17, the anniversary of the great postal strike of 1970. We must increase the pressure and turn up the heat on the decision makers."

The CPWU, a grassroots network of coalitions in 20 cities, staged several sensational actions in the past year, including post office occupations, hunger strikes, marches and rallies. They are urging the postal unions to call for a "March on Washington" to save the postal service.

"Not the Internet, not private competition, not labor costs, not the recession--Congress is responsible for sending the postal service into a death spiral," said Partridge. "Corporate interests, working through their friends in the legislative and executive branches, want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions then privatize it."

According to CPWU, a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the postal service to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, is bankrupting the service. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, says CPWU, the USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds.

The activists are calling for the postmaster general to reverse the cuts and closures and allow Congress to fix the finances by repealing the pre-fund mandate and refunding the pension surplus.