Postal workers use video for “U.S. Mail Not For Sale” campaign
apwu.org

WASHINGTON—A man dumps half a dozen peeled potatoes on the post office counter. A preteen comes in twirling her hula hoop. She wants to mail it to a girlfriend. And a bare-chested surfer dude flourishes his board. He wants to put postage on it – to Malibu?

Welcome to the wide range of goods you can send through the U.S. Mail, shown in one of several hilarious ad spots the Postal Workers are running on the web and elsewhere.

The spots, an AFL-CIO-sponsored petition now on its website, and a mass rally on Jan. 6 at U.S. Postal Service headquarters in D.C. are all part of www.USMailNotForSale, the union-designed campaign crafted to forestall the GOP Trump administration’s right-wing scheme to privatize the Postal Service. Other unions have joined the anti-privatization push.

The point of the ads: The Postal Service is cheap, especially compared to private shippers, it delivers to every address in the country, most of them right to your door, it’s six days a week, it doesn’t take a federal dime in subsidies, it employs your friends and neighbors – and you can send practically anything (within reason).

It’s also a key route for into the middle class for people of color, Postal Workers Legislative/Political Director Judy Beard said as she showed two of the ads to a group of organizers and activists on Jan. 18 during the AFL-CIO’s Martin Luther King commemorative conference. NAACP Vice President Hilary O. Shelton made the same point at the Jan. 6 rally.

“We all know unions brought you lunch hours, the minimum wage, overtime pay, health care” and other benefits, Beard told an overflow crowd in an AFL-CIO conference room, where they gathered to discuss fighting for workers’ rights. “Now we have to continue this fight.”

The threat to the Postal Service, and its half a million workers – most of them union members, women, people of color, veterans or combinations of those characteristics – comes from the privatization scheme of the GOP Trump administration, coupled with the fact that USPS’s board seeks a successor to current Postmaster General Megan Brennan.

That gives the Trump-named USPS board leeway to name a new pro-privatization PMG to follow Brennan, a 33-year career USPS worker who was unenthusiastic about Trump’s plan.

Privatization is Trump’s solution to the USPS’s constant red ink – a deficit which exists only because of a 12-year-old GOP-enacted $5 billion yearly congressional mandate to prepay its future health care costs. Without that dictate, the USPS turns a profit every year.

And what would privatization do? Besides putting people out of work and trashing union contracts? Well, that was the point of another ad: Customers looking in empty mailboxes, or finding they couldn’t get their medicines when they need them, or driving to the post office only to see a “Closed” sign permanently posted on the front door.

That doesn’t stop Trump. Hankering to right-wing ideologues who hate workers and unions, congressional Republicans who use federal employees and people of color as political punching bags, and private firms that want to get their hands on the profitable parts of USPS while leaving everyone else out in the cold, he proposes privatizing it.

A panel of three Trump Cabinet officers last year blithely brushed aside both objections and revenue-raising alternatives advanced by the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers, the Mail Handlers/Laborers, postal system users, and their congressional allies. Privatization above all was the Trump officials’ mantra and Beard told fellow unionists she expects a rerun this year.

“Right now, today, the White House wants to sell the Postal Service. How would it affect your parents? How would it affect you, especially if you had to go to a center” miles away “to pick up your mail?” Beard asked.

“You have to think of a creative way to get people engaged in your campaign” be it for saving the USPS from privatization, for better schools for kids, for keeping your health care or for any other cause, she told the group.

And don’t just wait for lawmakers to react, or pass legislation affecting the USPS, she warned. Be proactive, she urged, and lobby your lawmakers to keep the USPS public. “Don’t be scared. We’ve got a script for you.” Go to other groups – civic groups, civil rights groups, religious groups, even Little League parents – with that same message.

“We e-mailed our lawmakers, texted our members of Congress, handed out flyers – and within two days (her emphasis) our members had contacted all 435 members” of the House to stop yet another Trump scheme: Eliminating Saturday delivery.

That was part of the overall message APWU and its union and non-union allies want unionists to take to the streets, just as postal union leaders, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Coalition of Labor Union Women President Elise Bryant did when they delivered 450,000 anti-privatization petitions to USPS headquarters at the Jan. 6 rally.

The succinct message to solons: “I’m opposed to the sale of the Postal Service and I want you to support H.R.2382,” the anti-privatization bill, Beard said. The measure also contains other ideas, from both lawmakers and the unions, for increasing USPS revenues.

“We’re going in with a simple demand,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein told the Jan. 6 crowd. “We need a leader of this organization – a new Postmaster General – who believes, who will uphold, and who will fight for the public mission of the United States Postal Service. We demand a vibrant, public Postal Service for generations to come!”

And there’s self-interest participating in the anti-USPS privatization campaign, added another panelist, Government Employees (AFGE) Vice President for Human Rights Jeremy Lannan. His union, too, battles a Trumpite ideological privatization push, at its biggest unit, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is also heavily female and people of color: “Once they get done with the Postal Service and the federal government, they’ll come after you.”


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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