Jim Hightower opens new front in fight to save postal service

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Progressive broadcaster Jim Hightower is opening a new front in the multi-union, multi-organization fight to save the U.S. Postal Service from its privatizing management and Wall Street interests.

In a March 24 nationwide conference call with activists, Hightower and Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein outlined avenues people can use to save the embattled agency and the union jobs-of Postal Workers, Letter Carriers, Mail Handlers and Rural Letter Carriers-threatened by shutdowns and the privatization push.

The new avenues include starting a petition to the White House, where 100,000 signatures will force President Barack Obama to address the issue and joining the 70- organization effort, http://agrandalliance.org/ to fight for better, expanded service, not cuts.

“Get to your city councils and your mayors-and not just in places where post offices are closing-to say what the post office means to you,” Hightower said.

“To get a letter to the middle of nowhere costs 49 cents. As soon as we get into the privatization-profit model, it could cost $5 — or maybe not get sent there at all. And if you write down the wrong address, they send it back, for free. Where else can you get all that?”

“The Postal Service takes in $68 billion a year in revenue and Wall Street wants it,” Dimondstein added. “Postal management has been playing along.”

The campaign comes as Congress’ ruling Republicans, with some Democratic help, prepare to renew legislation to close local post offices, eliminate Saturday services, kill door-to-door service for new customers and replace well-paying unionized postal employees with low-paid part-time no-benefits, non-union workers, especially using Staples stores.

USPS management claims it needs to make those moves, on top of mail distribution center closings that began in January-and that eliminated overnight delivery even within major cities-to close a multi-billion-dollar yearly deficit.

Hightower and Dimondstein pointed out that USPS actually ran a $1.4 billion surplus on operations for the year that ended Sept. 30 and another $1.4 billion surplus for the first three months of the current fiscal year, through last Dec. 31.

The deficit comes from a $5.5 billion yearly pre-payment of future retirees’ health care costs that USPS must fund under a 2006 postal “reform” law pushed through a lame-duck GOP Congress and signed by then-President George W. Bush, the two noted.

The unions have been lobbying for elimination of the pre-paid health care, but lawmakers have so far turned a deaf ear. As Hightower also pointed out, activists and citizens should join another union campaign-to allow the nation’s 31,000 post offices to become banks for underserved and unserved urban and rural areas.

Doing so would provide competition for the big banks, who hate that, he said. It would also provide banking services for the 38 percent of the U.S. zip codes, covering more than a quarter of the population, with no bank branches.

“The post office is well set-up to bring in more revenue” that way, Dimondstein said.

The campaign for post-offices-as-banks and to eliminate the health care prepayment is part of an overall postal reform package that the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers and other postal unions have been pushing for several years. They also would let post offices serve as notaries and ship alcoholic beverages, among other revenue-raising measures.

More immediately, Hightower and the union leader also urged listeners to support a measure, House Resolution 54, a non-binding measure that says lawmakers want to keep 6-day service. The unions calculate that eliminating Saturday pickups and deliveries could cost approximately 80,000 middle-class jobs.           

 

 

 


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

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.

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