Postal Workers launch campaign against anticipated Trump privatization scheme
APWU President Mark Dimondstein blasted Trump plans to take away the Postal Service which he called a "national treasure." | APWU

PITTSBURGH — Anticipating the Trump administration will propose privatizing the U.S. Postal Service – eliminating services and killing well-paid union jobs – the Postal Workers (APWU) launched a mass campaign to derail Trump’s scheme even before the pro-corporate president unveils it.

And at a rally in downtown Pittsburgh on August 21, during the second day of the union’s convention there, APWU picked up strong support from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., who promised to introduce legislation to stop Trump’s plan in its tracks. Dozens of U.S. House members, from both parties, support a resolution – which doesn’t have the force of law – against privatization, too.

The rally and the convention occurred just before a postal “reform” commission, headed by Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, sent its still-secret report to the president on how to privatize the USPS. That’s what Trump ordered – along with service cuts – when he set up the panel.

That drew the ire of the convention’s 2,000 delegates, Sanders, other speakers, and APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Now we are facing the battle of our lifetimes,” Dimondstein declared in his keynote address. Other speakers included Government Employees (AFGE) President J. David Cox and the Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the National Poor People’s Campaign.

“Last month the White House Office of Management and Budget dropped the bombshell proposing to totally sell-off and privatize the public postal service. These troubling and stormy times underscore that those in power mean business and think their time is now to seize the $70 billion of postal public revenue for their private profit!” Dimondstein said.

Trump uses the excuse that USPS’ current business plan is “unsustainable,” shown by billions of dollars in yearly red ink. His solution is privatization.

The solution APWU, the Letter Carriers and the Mail Handlers-Laborers offer is to let the USPS enter new lines of business – like postal banking – and to get rid of the main cause of the red ink: The $5.6 billion yearly GOP-Congress-mandated Postal Service pre-payment of future retirees’ health care costs.

Without that spending, unique to USPS, it runs in the black. With it, it runs in the red and gives Trump the excuse to advocate ending the USPS as a public but independent agency.

“Sisters and brothers, privatization threats are not new. But we have never faced outright plans to sell the entire Post Office, destroying the democratic right of the people to universal service, reasonable rates, and aimed at annihilating our union and decent postal jobs. Postal privatization is about the profits of a few at the expense of the many – period!” Dimondstein said.

Delegates on the floor of the APWU convention. | APWU

Dimondstein laid most of the blame at the feet of and “billionaire-backed think tanks like the right-wing Heritage foundation, with extensive influence in this White House,” and congressional Republicans, who imposed the health care pre-funding mandate on USPS in 2006. But he didn’t let the Democrats off the hook, criticizing influential “party functionary” Robert Shapiro and 2016 Democratic convention heavyweight Elaine Kamarck, a Hillary Clinton delegate, by name for pushing privatization, too. APWU was one of only five unions to back Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the 2016 party nod.

“Since the people need and trust the public Postal Service and postal workers, the path for the privatizers is through what I call the ‘Four Ds,’” Dimondstein said. One, defunding, refers to the health care pre-funding mandate.

The other “Ds” Dimondstein referred to are degrading services by cutting delivery frequencies and shuttering post offices, demonizing the workers and then, after all that, dismantling USPS with privatization. Then the APWU president added a fifth positive “D” of his own.

“The fat cats always underestimate the power of the 99 percent.  Their attacks present a great opportunity to educate and unite with the people, defend this wonderful national treasure and DEFEAT our enemies,” he declared.

Even before the convention opened, Trump had already signaled what he wanted from the task force. Mnuchin and his allies heard presentations from the three USPS unions – APWU, the Letter Carriers and the Mail Handlers-Laborers – along with postal customers, big shippers and others. None favored privatization. The task force held its recommendations close to the vest, but it knows what Trump wants.

That’s because Trump’s executive order setting up the task force and his “government reorganization” plan said to privatize the USPS. His budget, preceding both, demanded cut in services to its customers, eliminating Saturday delivery and individual mailboxes, instead going to mass “curbside” service, among other cuts.

“No other company or agency faces, or could survive, such an onerous financial burden” as the $5 billion annual health care pre-payment, Dimondstein added in a pre-convention op-ed in the Boston Globe. “Without this manufactured pre-funding crisis, the Postal Service would have shown a positive net income in four of the last five years averaging close to $1 billion annually — again, without a dime of taxpayer money.”


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.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR