Senate sends comprehensive postal reform bill to Biden
Morry Gash/AP

WASHINGTON—After years of work, and a lot of squabbling over details, Congress passed a comprehensive postal reform bill that will eliminate the yearly tide of red ink that has engulfed—and endangered—the U.S. Postal Service for more than a decade.

Postal union leaders hailed the measure, which is expected to save rank-and-file workers’ jobs while ending the $5 billion yearly drain, for prepaying future retirees’ health care costs. That led to 85% of USPS’s red ink during the last 15 years of a prior GOP “reform.”

“This is a monumental victory for Letter Carriers and all Americans who depend on the Postal Service for affordable and high-quality universal service,” National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said in a tweet.

“I want to congratulate and thank all the NALC members who lobbied their members of Congress to win passage in the Senate and the House. Thanks to your support, dedication, and action, bipartisan postal reform, that was 12 years in the making, has finally passed in both chambers,” his follow-up tweet added.

The measure, HR3076, also writes six-day pickups and delivery—including Saturdays—into federal law, and imposes more and more public accountability on top Postal Service brass.

But unions and their allies didn’t get everything they wanted. To gain bipartisan votes in the House—342-92 in late February—and the Senate, 79-19 at  630 pm March 9—Democrats were forced to drop plans to let the Postal Service engage in other businesses, notably postal banking, to help bring in more money. All “no” votes in both houses were from Republicans.

DeJoy plan left intact

And Trumpite Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s “reorganization” plan was left intact, even though it includes slowdowns of first-class mail delivery nationwide and closure of postal sorting centers. The slowdowns have especially hit Baltimore and Detroit.

Also left intact: DeJoy, a GOP big giver, though more than a million people have signed citizen petitions demanding postal board members fire him.

In essence, the new legislation repudiates a 2006 “reform” law, pushed by right-wingers, especially at the Heritage Foundation. Those ideologues later became GOP Trump regime staffers. They wanted to first basically let the USPS go down the financial drain, then sell off its most profitable pieces to Wall Street financiers and corporate titans. Their boss agreed.

In the ensuing 15 years, the continuing forced red ink led postmasters general, including DeJoy, to slash costs by closing distribution centers, slowing deliveries, and letting workers go, whole also raising postage rates.

One GOP-named chieftain started letting non-union low-paid Staples clerks sell stamps, robbing USPS of that money. The Postal Workers (APWU), saying his plan violated the union contract, stopped it.

That combination of higher prices and decaying service led to demands, including from lawmakers—including Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., a longtime Postal Worker—that DeJoy and his management “team” be axed.

The threats to workers’ jobs were important. Most of the USPS’s rank-and-file workers are women, veterans, workers of color, or combinations of those characteristics. In the Black community, in particular, postal jobs are and were viewed as a path to join the middle class.

And, setting supervisors aside, more than 85% of USPS workers are union members, with the Letter Carriers, the Postal Workers, the Mail Handlers/Laborers, and the Rural Letter Carriers.

HR3076 also eliminates another pending big ticket medical cost by ordering new retirees aged 65+ to sign up for Medicare coverage. The retirees have been contributing to Medicare anyway. That shift will save millions of dollars more.

To be fair, DeJoy agreed to six-day delivery, supported eliminating the $5 billion charge, and also shifting the new retirees to Medicare. But he still imposed cuts via a 10-year “reorganization” plan.

  • “No. 1, it (HR3076) does not appropriate any new funds to the U.S. Postal Service—period,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a key negotiator, told his colleagues in the final debate.
  • “No. 2, it does not change the accounting or costing structure for packages and letters. So it does not disadvantage private sector carriers. That is very important.
  • “No. 3, it does not allow the Postal Service to enter into new commercial services like postal banking–period. Those are important things that have sometimes been misrepresented as I have heard people talking about this legislation.” Postal banking ended in 1967,

The postal unions and their leading advocate for postal reform, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., pushed all those methods, and more, to increase USPS revenues and save jobs. Sanders had no immediate comment on those changes. He voted for the legislation.

People “count on the Postal Service to deliver essential mail, including medications, important financial documents, and other critical supplies,” said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., whose committee handled HR3076. “We have all seen firsthand how veterans and seniors, small businesses, rural residents, and others who rely on the Postal Service face serious hardships when the Postal Service is focused on cutting costs by making changes to delivery.”

“In the last three weeks, APWU members placed more than 12,000 calls to the Senate, demanding the bill’s passage,” that union tweeted. “Our unwavering solidarity and bold collective action have paid off, and secured the passage of the most significant piece of postal legislation in a generation.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

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