Unions Back US Postal Service’s $75 Billion Pandemic Appeal

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Above photo: From Patch.com.

Washington — Faced with a crash in mail volume and revenue due to closures to battle the coronavirus pandemic—right when the country needs the Postal Service the most to help get vital food, medicine, and other life-saving goods to everyone—Postmaster General Megan Brennan asked Congress for a combination of $75 billion in cash and credit to keep going through the financial disaster.

Her April 9 video briefing request, to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which handles postal legislation, drew immediate support from the nation’s two big postal unions, the Letter Carriers (NALC) and the Postal Workers (APWU).

And even GOP President Donald Trump’s Postal Board of Governors backed it.

“It is vitally important to the American people that the next stimulus package provides funding to the Postal Service sufficient to maintain a revenue stream that allows them to continue operations through this pandemic crisis,” NALC President Fredric Rolando e-mailed on April 10.

APWU posted a petition on its website for consumers and USPS customers to sign. It predicted that without an infusion of cash, the USPS could run out of money by June. Brennan told lawmakers it would run through its cash and line of credit before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The USPS “is the emergency distribution system when our country is in crisis,” APWU’s petition says. “But at this unprecedented time, that work is under threat. The coronavirus shutdown is plummeting postal revenues while increasing costs…. Loss of the USPS would shatter our response to the coronavirus pandemic, hit already weakened businesses, and ravage communities.”

Preservation of the USPS is vital to everyone in the country because it’s the only door-to-door delivery service to every address nationwide. Private delivery services often shun unprofitable areas, most of them rural, or rely on USPS to deliver “the last mile” of routes for their packages.

Brennan and the board want the $75 billion to be in the next stimulus bill Congress considers when it returns from a three-week break. It would be split into thirds, with $25 billion each in emergency money “to offset coronavirus-related losses,” for a grant for “shovel-ready” modernization projects, and for a new line of credit.

In their version of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law last month, the House’s ruling Democrats included $25 billion in cash and forgave the USPS’s prior yearly $5.5 billion payment for pre-funding future retiree health care costs—permanent red ink a GOP-run Congress imposed in 2006.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., didn’t even bother with the House measure. His version, which became law, extended USPS an extra $10 billion line of credit. GOP President Donald Trump said the solution is for USPS to raise its prices—a process that both takes time and that would lessen USPS’s financial advantage over private delivery services.

His right-wing backers want to privatize the agency and rip up USPS’s collective bargaining agreements with the unions, which represent 630,000 workers.

Trump’s and McConnell’s solutions aren’t enough, Brennan, the postal unions, and congressional USPS backers say.

“We cannot allow the Postal Service to collapse,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “To do so would deepen our nation’s economic crisis and eliminate an important lifeline to individuals who receive lifesaving prescription deliveries and eviscerate the very infrastructure we need to administer the upcoming elections.”

“We are at a critical juncture in the life of the Postal Service,” Brennan told the committee by video. “At a time when America needs the Postal Service more than ever, the reason we are so needed is having a devastating effect on our business.”

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

  • Big Brother Sam Other

    Imagine an agent in a trench coat going door to door in the old days and taking a photograph of each piece of your mail, and then writing down every detail of that piece of mail for databases. That has now been automated with military-industrial-complex mail sorting machines and computers, and you can even now get pictures of your mail via their website. Doesn’t it create not security but vulnerabilities and potential for abuse that never existed before on that scale? What’s the cost of all that additional surveillance? How is that data used? Are there any other scanning technologies at work that penetrate the envelope and read and store the contents of everyone’s mail? Maybe these questions should be answered before they get any more money. There might be a way to reduce cost there.

  • iowapinko

    The USPO serves as a foundational component of many communities. When I worked as a community-based social worker, the neighborhood postman was a valued partner in monitoring for problems. He was as familiar with the residents and their daily routines and dramas and acted as a reliable advocate for their interests.

    In small rural communities, the USPO serves as as an anchor. It is a link with the outside world that provides access to critical resources as well as stability. If the PO is allowed to be dismantled, many small rural communities will follow.

    The right wing have been scheming to destroy the PO for decades because it is an efficient nationalized service that serves all people equitably; the workers are unionized; and the PO competes with privatized delivery services who could extract more profit in a monopoly context.

    Save and expand the PO, a fine example of the the best of U$ socialist tradition.

  • Cab Driver xxx

    Dear Cab Driver xxx:

    “Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about the U.S. Postal Service. I appreciate hearing from you and am grateful for our nation’s postal workers who continue to serve our communities during this difficult time.

    Since 2006, the Postal Service has been required to pre-fund its employees’ future retirement health benefits through contributions to the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund , which has posed a significant financial hardship for the Postal Service in light of declining revenues. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these problems and caused revenue to plummet. As a result, the Postal Service is projected to lose tens of billions of dollars in the coming months.

    I agree that Congress should support the Postal Service, which provides essential services. You may be interested to know that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, which I supported, included a $10 billion loan for the Postal Service. Please know that I will keep your concerns in mind and support our Postal Service should I have the opportunity to vote on further relief measures.”

    etc…

    Sincerely,
    Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
    United States Senator

    They got us buying g’damn stamps to save the post office. So I bought some. And wrote my reps. I love the freaking post office…

  • didactic1

    USPS has been saddled with a rule to prepay retirement and health costs for years. It is a rule large corporations, including UPS and Fed Ex, don’t have. Ratepayers pay higher rates for these
    costs, much of it on debt incurreD on these non operating, noncapital costs. USPS has been a leader in automation of manufacturing and delivery. It must maintain by law unprofitable routes. It’s well being has primarily been concern of black congresspeople, a non influential lobby. Obama did little for USPS. The workers need to consider wildcat strikes to preserve the organization. The leadership are bureaucrats of the get along with Congress and management type, This has been building since Reagan appointees on postal board steered contracts to friends and federal courts led by Robert Bork left Reagan cadres of criminal hook. Joseph Di Genova, current Trump DC lobbyist backer was involved. Pathetic Democrats do nothing too.

  • didactic1

    Forget privacy. Consumers wanted affordable mini computers. So they have smartphones. Don’t expect privacy.

  • Jon

    “USPS’s prior yearly $5.5 billion payment for pre-funding future retiree health care costs—” Am I the only one calling for repeal of this monstrosity–pre-funding 75 years ahead? Make it a central demand!

  • jho blho

    I’ve put that in both emails and calls to my so-called representatives. I’ve received no responses from anyone, although Feinstein’s office was the only one who had a live human being answer the phone, rather than voice mail.

  • jho blho

    I really don’t know what people in my community would do without the Postal Service. We all vote my mail, and I am able to live without a car because of package delivery (it is a 3 hour drive to the closest Walmart, not that I want to shop there.) If the Postal Service shuts down, Trump will lose support in rural communities. This is one step too far, but his supporters won’t realize what they’ve lost until it’s gone.

  • kevinzeese

    We have worked with the Grand Alliance of three postal unions and others to repeal that absurd requirement. The Post Office is paying for retirement benefits of people they have not even hired!

  • chapdrum

    Sen. Whitehouse’s statement here has, I’d think, far more to do with the unstable condition of the USPS, purposely created by “The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act,” as introduced by former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Of Course). From introduction to passage, the bill (H.R. 6407) took only thirteen days. Anyone else remember Bannon’s announcement of his party’s upcoming “deconstruction of the administrative state?” He made that at the CPAC convention in Feb. 2-0-1-7.

    “…Since 2006, the Postal Service has been required to pre-fund its
    employees’ future retirement health benefits through contributions to
    the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund , which has posed a
    significant financial hardship for the Postal Service in light of
    declining revenues. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these problems
    and caused revenue to plummet. As a result, the Postal Service is
    projected to lose tens of billions of dollars in the coming months.”