Losing Our Public Postal Service Is No Laughing Matter

Issue 255.5

Chuck Zlatkin May 21, 2020

On April 24, Donald Trump called the Postal Service a “joke.” But what Trump has planned for the millions of Americans who depend upon a public Postal Service is no laughing matter.  

Trump threatened to veto the stimulus package, if there was direct financial relief for the Postage Service. He would not tolerate anything like the $25 billion given to Boeing with no strings attached. However,  he allowed the Postal Service to borrow up to $10 billion. 

The overwhelming majority of the American people want to retain a public Postal Service.

But this wasn’t enough of a shot against the Postal Service for Trump or his consigliere, Secretary of the Treasury Stephen Mnuchin. They decided that before the Postal Service would be “allowed’ to borrow that money, it would have to agree to increase the price of packages 400-500 percent. Power to control the Postal Service would be taken from the Postal Board of Governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission and placed under the control of Mnuchin’s Treasury Department.  

Mnuchin would have the power to decide who would serve in the Postal Service’s top management positions, the prices that the agency would charge for products and services, and to go to war with the postal unions that protect the wages benefits and working conditions of the postal workers they represent. It was an absurd power play wish-list and a giant step toward the total politicization of the Postal Service in the goal of bringing about privatization. 

Losing a great advocate

Trump was far from done. On April 30, David C. Williams, the Vice Chairman of the Postal Board of Governors resigned. Since Williams had issued no written statement, nor reached out to the press, or to the postal unions, his resignation went under the radar. 

David Dayen announced the resignation in his column at the American Prospect. Dayen reported that Williams may have resigned in protest. Williams saw what was about to happen and he couldn’t tolerate it. Others believe that Williams was intentionally forced out by the Trump administration. 

Williams leaving was a great loss, he was the most forward-thinking member of the Postal Board of Governors. It was under Williams’ reign as Inspector General of the Postal Service that a report calling for the expansion of postal financial services was released in January of 2014. The report, and subsequent white papers, initiated the call for postal banking that in time morphed into a movement. He was scheduled to continue to the end of his term in December and there was the very real possibility that he would have been given an additional term. 

“As one of the most respected leaders of the USPS and a longtime advocate of postal empowerment and postal banking, Williams’ leadership is desperately needed to guide the post office through what may be its most precarious moment in modern times,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) told American Prospect. “Congress must investigate the circumstances here and guard against Donald Trump’s efforts to use this pandemic to decapitate one of our nation’s crown jewels and endanger the USPS’s over 600,000 employees.”

On May 6, the plans of the Trump Administration became a bit clearer with the announcement that the now Williams-less Postal Board of Governors voted unanimously to appoint Trump crony and major donor, Louis DeJoy as the 75th Postmaster General. The vote included the support of the remaining Democrat on the board, former senior Obama official, Ron A. Blum. 

DeJoy will be the first PMG in over twenty years who does not have a postal management background. He does, however, have a long history of being anti-union. His company, New Breed Logistics, has received a number of judgments against it from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for the mistreatment of employees. He was a proponent of reducing workers at his own company and worker reductions were part of the “logistics” work he performed for his clients.  

How DeJoy will respond to this financial crisis that he will find the USPS in when he takes over on June 15, may please Trump and Mnuchin but it may be a nightmare for the millions of people who depend on the Postal Service and the hundreds of thousands of postal workers. 

Trump continues to make moves

Ronald Stroman, the Deputy Postmaster General, has also resigned and sources have indicated to Dayen that he was forced out. The new PMG will get his pick of a deputy — more evidence of Trump’s plan to dismantle the Postal Service.

In addition to a distinguished 42-year career in public service, Stroman who was appointed Deputy PMG by the Board of Governors in 2011, was the point man for expanding the Postal Service’s Vote by Mail program. So, in addition to getting to suggest the appointment of another crony donor to the new PMG, Trump gets to eliminate one of the driving forces for mail-in voting.  

There is hope, but it will take committed struggle

On May 15, the House of Representatives by a vote of 208-199 passed HR 6800, the latest stimulus package known as the Heroes Act. It includes $25 billion dollars to the Postal Service for revenue forgone due to coronavirus, which remains available until September 30, 2022 and a $10-billion line of credit with no strings attached,.

Sen. Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), dubbed the bill; a “totally unserious effort” and “catalog of left-wing oddities. Trump has threatened to veto it.

The overwhelming majority of the American people want to retain a public Postal Service. People understand and support the relief package needed to make sure the Postal Service survives through this pandemic crisis. The task at hand is to educate, agitate and mobilize people, particularly those who reside in red states to contact their senators and let them know how important it is to them to get relief for the Postal Service now. 

We cannot allow the Trump Administration to exploit the pandemic crisis to bring about the privatization of the Postal Service. It won’t be an easy fight, but we can win this struggle. Save the public Postal Service.  The U.S. mail is not for sale!

Chuck Zlatkin is the legislative and political director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, part of APWU.

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