Postal Workers Unions Protest Mail Service Cuts
Four postal worker unions united for a national Day of Action November 14 to protest cuts that will cost jobs and slow down mail delivery. The National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), and National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) are urging their members and postal customers to send a message to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and the USPS Board of Governors to “Stop Delaying America’s Mail.”
“The Postal Service is set to make severe cuts in mail delivery service that, if implemented, would cause hardships for customers, drive away business, and cause incalculable harm to its reputation,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said in a statement. A statement from the APWU pointed out that cuts in services, “will frustrate customers, drive away business, and lead to job losses, harm communities, and cause massive schedule changes and reassignments for employees.”
At a rally at the West Oakland processing center, Michael Rodriguez, Assistant Director for APWU Local 78, said, “The Postmaster General wants to close down 82 mail processing and distribution centers nationwide next January. That will mean that delivery times will be two or three days instead of overnight. It could hurt people who get medicine delivered by mail if they have to wait longer to get their medicine, and means when you mail your bills, they might not arrive on time. The postal service is asking the American people to accept less service while paying more for postage.”
Rodriguez said Donahoe had announced earlier on November 14 at the Board of Governors meeting that he would be stepping down in February. “He’ll be leaving behind a huge mess,” he said. “We keep hearing in the media that the Post Office is losing money, when the main problem is the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act.” Congress passed the bill in 2006 and mandated that the Postal Service set aside billions of dollars each year to pre-fund the health benefits of future retirees. No other government agency or private enterprise is required to pre-fund such benefits.
In 2014, the USPS has earned more than $1 billion in profit raised solely by the sale of stamps and postal products, not taxes.
“There is money to be made” from postal services, Rodriguez said. “That’s why Staples and Wal-Mart want to get involved and get a piece of the profits.” Rodriguez said the move to cut back mail delivery from six days a week to five and close post offices would cost thousands of good jobs. “Staples and Wal-Mart want to turn them into minimum wage jobs with no benefits,” he said.
As people marched and chanted, “They say cut back, we say fight back,” Postal Clerk and APWU member Kieu Luong said she had worked at the Post Office for 29 years and was protesting to maintain jobs. She said the Postmaster General and the USPS, “are not protecting our jobs. Instead, they are sending jobs to Staples. We want to stop the privatization.”
NALC Branch 1111 shop steward Ron Jones spoke to the 60 union and community members who rallied in Oakland. “The four postal unions are standing together, because an attack on the clerks is an attack on the letter carriers and an attack on the mail handlers is an attack on the letter carriers,” he said. “The four crafts are combining forces to defeat corporate America.”
Retired clerk Susan Hammer, who still serves as a shop steward and delegate to the Alameda County Central Labor Council, said, “It is rewarding to see the alliance between the four postal worker unions and from other unions.” She pointed out that members of the Oakland Education Association, Machinists, and other unions attended the rally. A rally was also held in San Francisco at the Fox Plaza/Finance Station on Market Street.
APWU’s Michael Rodriguez said legislative action is needed to prevent closures and maintain jobs. He said Congresswoman Barbara Lee has been supportive and attended rallies supporting postal workers and opposing the sale of the post office in Berkeley. “Unfortunately, Congressman Darrell Issa is Chair of the Ways and Means Committee and wants to privatize the Postal Service,” Rodriguez said. The postal unions have gained the support of more than half of the members of the Senate and 160 U.S. Representatives who have called for a moratorium on the reduction in service standards and the plant closures.
For more information and updates, and to send a message to the Postmaster General and the Board of Governors to stop using “losses” as a pretext for delaying America’s mail, check www.StopMailDelays.org.
- Paul Burton