The American Postal Workers Union has rallied for support before, but never inside their vehicles due to a pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, is what prompted workers to sound the alarm in Des Moines as the United States Postal Service faces a dire financial threat. Without an influx of support from the federal government, labor unions and Postal Service leaders say there is a “strong possibility” USPS will be out of money by September.
“It’s just like any other company. When things shut down, business mail shuts down,” said Mike Bates, president of APWU Local 44. “We’ve lost around 35% of our revenue when it comes down to letters and advertisement mail. Right now, that’s kind of being offset a little bit by packages because people are sitting at home ordering packages, but then Amazon is starting to deliver their own mail instead of using the post office.”
The Postal Service has asked Congress to provide $25 billion in aid to help it through the coronavirus pandemic, money that was included in House Democrats’ HEROES Act. Though the bill passed the House in May, it is a non-starter in the Senate. President Trump, due to his dislike of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (Bezos owns Trump foe The Washington Post) and a demand USPS raise its delivery prices on Amazon packages, the president has said he will not help the Postal Service.
In March, Trump torpedoed a bipartisan bill to provide the agency $13 billion in aid. And in April, he called the Postal Service a “joke” and said he would not approve fiscal relief unless it raised package prices four or five times above current rates.
Unlike private mail delivery services like UPS and FedEx, the federal Postal Service is constitutionally obligated to deliver mail to every address in the United States.
“I think the biggest difference between the Postal Service and FedEx is, FedEx and UPS are profits over people and the Postal Service is people over profits,” Bates said.
Wearing shirts that say “U.S. Mail Not For Sale” and urging senators with signs stuck to cars to “support our Postal Service now,” the rally of cars began at the union hall on East Euclid Avenue and snaked through town until it reached the Main Post Office on Second Avenue.
In addition to the downturn in revenue due to the pandemic, USPS also faces the financial burden of pre-funding retirees’ pension and health benefits 75 years in advance, to the tune of about $5.5 billion per year, thanks to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2006.
“I’ve always said this,” Bates said; “the Postal Service is nothing but a service to the American public. It’s very simple. It’s enshrined in the Constitution and right now I feel like the Postal Service is being a football, it’s getting kicked back and forth.”
Bates and others in the Postal Service worry the Trump Administration, if elected to another four years, will move to privatize USPS.
In May, Republican donor and Trump loyalist Louis DeJoy — who never has worked for the Postal Service — was tapped to lead the federal agency.
“I blame a lot of it on the Trump Administration,” Bates said, of why Congress has not helped USPS, which is a highly popular federal agency that uses no taxpayer money. “If you go through and read the Trump task force on the Postal Service, it’s no surprise that he and his group would like to privatize the post office and even make it a private industry, which would, of course, raise prices and lower services.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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