The Post Office Belongs to the Public. Let’s not Give it to Wall Street.

Mark Dimondstein and Richard Koritz July 17, 2020

A USPS worker wheels mail in Brooklyn as New York City moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 25, 2020. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

On June 15, Louis DeJoy of Greens­boro, N.C., began his new job as Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States.

We are postal work­er union activists who also hail from Greens­boro (and are now Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union pres­i­dent and sol­i­dar­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tive, respec­tive­ly). For decades we have defend­ed the inter­ests of the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice and postal work­ers, and we bring a much dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive than that of mul­ti-mil­lion­aire busi­ness­man DeJoy. We are con­cerned that DeJoy, a mega-donor to Repub­li­can Par­ty caus­es and to Pres­i­dent Trump, has been tapped to car­ry out the administration’s agenda.

Trump has shown implaca­ble hos­til­i­ty to the pub­lic Post Office. He has called it a joke” and railed against its low pack­age prices. In late March, Trump and his Trea­sury Sec­re­tary (Steven Mnuchin of Gold­man Sachs) blocked the bipar­ti­san Con­gres­sion­al effort to pro­vide funds to the Post Office in the ini­tial 2.2 tril­lion COVID-19 relief leg­isla­tive pack­age, despite the Postal Ser­vice being so impact­ed by the COVID eco­nom­ic cri­sis that it could run out of mon­ey either lat­er this year or ear­ly next year. 

Trump’s nefar­i­ous plans for the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice are reflect­ed in a June 2018 White House Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get rec­om­men­da­tion to restruc­ture the Unit­ed States Postal Sys­tem to return it to a sus­tain­able busi­ness mod­el or pre­pare it for future con­ver­sion from a Gov­ern­ment agency into a pri­vate­ly held cor­po­ra­tion.” While the pro­pos­al gives lip ser­vice to the first option, all the ini­tia­tives are con­cen­trat­ed on the pri­va­ti­za­tion path. Indeed, the OMB nev­er men­tions any­thing pos­i­tive about the cur­rent, pub­lic U.S. Post Office.

Using the OMB rec­om­men­da­tions as a guide­line, in Decem­ber 2018 the President’s Task Force on the Unit­ed States Postal Sys­tem called for piece­meal pri­va­ti­za­tion, dras­ti­cal­ly increas­ing prices, clos­ing retail out­lets, cur­tail­ing ser­vice and doing away with the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights of the 570,000 union­ized postal workers. 

Much of main­stream media presents Trump’s hos­til­i­ty to the Postal Ser­vice as a feud with Ama­zon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Wash­ing­ton Post. This is mis­lead­ing. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has a clear agen­da — a dag­ger aimed at the heart of the USPS. The USPS is the largest and most effi­cient postal ser­vice in the world. It is the low-cost anchor of a mas­sive $1.6 tril­lion mail­ing and pack­age indus­try, relied upon by small busi­ness­es every­where, and is crit­i­cal to ecom­merce. It also holds a spe­cial place in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties and is cher­ished by the U.S. peo­ple who are its own­ers. With 91% favor­a­bil­i­ty rat­ings among Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats (Pew Research), why would a Pres­i­dent who wants to get re-elect­ed so clear­ly oppose the needs and desires of the vot­ers? What dri­ves his agenda?

The answer lies in cap­i­tal­ist pow­er — the mar­riage between pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics — as an op-ed in the May 5 Wall Street Jour­nal, Phase Out, Don’t Bail Out, the Post Office,” makes brazen­ly clear. Gary Mac­Dou­gal, investor, entre­pre­neur and cor­po­rate exec­u­tive, writes he is afraid that, in an upcom­ing COVID-19 relief pack­age, Con­gress might bail out” the Post Office along the lines pro­mot­ed by the cur­rent USPS Board of Gov­er­nors. As he feared, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed $25 bil­lion in COVID-relat­ed relief for the Postal Ser­vice as part of the HEROES Act.” The Sen­ate is now tak­ing up the issue of new stim­u­lus leg­is­la­tion, includ­ing the ques­tion of whether it will include postal relief.

Mac­Dou­gal served for 34 years on the board of Unit­ed Par­cel Ser­vice of Amer­i­ca (UPS), a com­pa­ny with over $75 bil­lion in sales and more than 495,000 employ­ees. He has served as chair of the Finance Com­mit­tee and chair of the Nom­i­nat­ing and Gov­er­nance Com­mit­tee. UPS is a main com­peti­tor of the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice. Indeed, the Postal Service’s pub­lic mis­sion, and uni­form, rea­son­able rates, is a major hin­drance to UPS’s cor­po­rate prof­it maximization.

No won­der Mac­Dou­gal lies in his op-ed, feign­ing con­cern about sav­ing tax­pay­er dol­lars. The fact is, that since the ear­ly 1970’s, the pub­lic Post Office has not run on tax dol­lars. It has oper­at­ed as a self-suf­fi­cient enti­ty that is financed by the pur­chase of postage stamps and oth­er postal ser­vices pro­vid­ed at uni­form prices across the Unit­ed States.

In his op-ed, Mac­Dou­gal push­es for the com­plete liq­ui­da­tion of the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice. He writes, The bot­tom line: 13 straight years of loss­es, almost $9 bil­lion in fis­cal 2019.” But those years of loss­es have all come since 2006, when Con­gress passed a law that required the USPS to fund future retiree health ben­e­fits an incred­i­ble 75 years into the future, an oner­ous finan­cial bur­den not imposed on any oth­er gov­ern­ment agency or pri­vate corporation.

Mr. Unit­ed Par­cel Ser­vice even­tu­al­ly lets the cat out of the bag: The com­bi­na­tion of UPS, FedEx, DHL, Ama­zon and count­less local deliv­ery com­pa­nies would pick up the slack left by the wind-down of the post office. Small­er deliv­ery com­pa­nies may…handle last-mile deliv­ery in remote areas. If that isn’t enough, Ama­zon and oth­ers could charge more for deliv­er­ies to extreme­ly remote loca­tions.” (Our emphasis.)

This was not MacDougal’s and the Wall Street Jour­nals first effort to impose their pri­va­ti­za­tion stamp on the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice. In an Octo­ber 2011 op-ed Junk­ing the Junk Mail Office,” Mac­Dou­gal had already exposed his true moti­va­tion, Entre­pre­neurs will see the demise of the USPS as an oppor­tu­ni­ty, and new com­pa­nies will emerge. Indeed, this tran­si­tion can be one of the bad­ly need­ed bright spots in a trou­bled Amer­i­can econ­o­my.” (Our empha­sis.) It is no sur­prise that his cur­rent edi­to­r­i­al appears in the midst of an even deep­er eco­nom­ic cri­sis than in 2011.Taking seri­ous­ly his exec­u­tive loy­al­ty to Unit­ed Par­cel Ser­vice, in his recent 2020 Op-Ed Mac­Dou­gal con­cludes: The respon­si­ble course is to set the Postal Ser­vice on a care­ful path to liquidation.”

The Way Forward

The COVID Pan­dem­ic has cre­at­ed a fork in the road for the future of the pub­lic Post Office: Either the peo­ple will defend and strength­en their pub­lic Postal Ser­vice, or Trump and finance cap­i­tal will use the cri­sis to cause its demise.

Like Mac­Dou­gal, the auto­crat­ic Trump régime is all about fol­low­ing the mon­ey.” In 2019, the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice gen­er­at­ed over $70 bil­lion of rev­enue used to serve the peo­ple on a break-even basis. Postal pri­va­ti­za­tion, bet­ter termed prof­i­ti­za­tion,” will turn over this vast trea­sure to Wall Street investors and a few pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions. In turn, com­pa­nies could raise prices, elim­i­nate a demo­c­ra­t­ic right of the peo­ple to uni­ver­sal postal ser­vices no mat­ter who we are or where we live, and destroy liv­ing-wage union jobs in the midst of the COVID-induced eco­nom­ic crisis. 

The same pan­dem­ic that is reveal­ing Trump’s shame­less effort to divide and con­quer the peo­ple, is under­scor­ing once again the essen­tial” pub­lic good car­ried out by the women and men of the pub­lic Post Office in bind­ing our peo­ple togeth­er, in unit­ing us, espe­cial­ly in these most dif­fi­cult times. It is note­wor­thy that, along with the pre­vi­ous­ly cit­ed 91% favor­a­bil­i­ty rat­ing, a recent YouGov poll con­duct­ed on behalf of the Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union, indi­cat­ed that over two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion favor Con­gres­sion­al­ly appro­pri­at­ed postal relief to restore lost COVID relat­ed revenue.

The Postal Ser­vice is owned by all the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States, not cap­i­tal­ist entre­pre­neurs. The col­lec­tive we” rely on the Postal Ser­vice for vital sup­plies, med­i­cines, ecom­merce pack­ages, pen­sion checks, finan­cial trans­ac­tions, vot­er infor­ma­tion, bal­lots and a vast exchange of per­son­al cor­re­spon­dence as well as the shar­ing of ideas and infor­ma­tion. Pri­va­ti­za­tion of pub­lic postal ser­vices would end the demo­c­ra­t­ic right of the peo­ple to these uni­ver­sal ser­vices, no mat­ter who we are or where we live, at uni­form and rea­son­able rates.

Hence, our start­ing point is to ral­ly the peo­ple to defend what belongs to them. This is already tak­ing on a vari­ety of forms. Peti­tions to save the pub­lic postal ser­vice have gar­nered two mil­lion sig­na­tures. Tens of thou­sands of emails, let­ters and calls have gone to Con­gres­sion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives advo­cat­ing postal finan­cial relief in the next stim­u­lus pack­age. In times of social dis­tanc­ing, car car­a­vans in var­i­ous locales have sent the same mes­sage. Both the Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Let­ter Car­ri­ers have pro­duced pos­i­tive social media and TV ads. And actor-activist Dan­ny Glover, the pub­lic face of A Grand Alliance to Save Our Pub­lic Postal Ser­vice,” has pro­duced a pub­lic ser­vice radio announce­ment now airing.

Crises, even trag­ic ones, bring oppor­tu­ni­ty. We have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to not only defend but strength­en the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice and the com­mon good. We have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ensure that peo­ple have access to the bal­lot box through vote-by-mail and a vibrant Postal Ser­vice. We have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand the finan­cial ser­vices offered at the Post Office and counter the preda­to­ry pay-day lend­ing and cash check­ing indus­try that preys on the work­ing poor.

More­over, the pub­lic Post Office has his­tor­i­cal­ly been con­nect­ed to decent union jobs for Black Amer­i­cans and oth­er com­mu­ni­ties of col­or as well as mil­i­tary vet­er­ans. We have the oppor­tu­ni­ty at a time of mas­sive unem­ploy­ment to defend over half a mil­lion postal union jobs that build rather than tear down work­ing class com­mu­ni­ties This is an impor­tant front in the fight for the prac­ti­cal real­iza­tion that Black Lives will mat­ter in the Unit­ed States today and tomorrow.

Even if the new Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al were to become a people’s cham­pi­on of the Postal Ser­vice (and DeJoy’s ini­tial steps have been to under­mine the postal ser­vice) the tra­jec­to­ry of U.S. monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism makes it nec­es­sary for the postal union move­ment, the gen­er­al labor move­ment and social jus­tice move­ments togeth­er to take to their phones and to the streets as the Move­ment for Black Lives is now doing. Pro­gres­sive and nec­es­sary change is only won with the pow­er of the people.

Final­ly, in the course of mobi­liz­ing the suc­cess­ful defense of the pub­lic Postal Ser­vice, we advance the oppor­tu­ni­ty to win health care for all as a human right, and oth­er fun­da­men­tal social ben­e­fits that will move us in the direc­tion of a soci­ety where we are tru­ly our sis­ters’ and broth­ers’ keepers.

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