Pictured above: 215 People’s Alliance, NE chapter, and friends rallied at the Roosevelt Mall post office.
With the Covid19 pandemic still in full swing, many people prefer to vote by mail in order to avoid potential exposure to the virus in lines and in voting areas. A fully functional and reliable postal system is necessary for fair, safe, and accessible balloting during this November’s election. But Trump, who seems to believe that he will lose if people can vote by mail, is doing everything he can to undermine the system. He is not only claiming that there will be massive fraud, a baseless claim, but also, via his new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is actively working to cripple operations.
Coupled with the effects of the pandemic, DeJoy has made things worse by removing vital equipment and post office boxes and by disrupting work processes and rules. As a result, mail is way behind schedule, reportedly at times by more than a week. Packages are piling up. Life saving medications arrive late, bills arrive past due, and vital medical equipment is delayed. (And it seems even baby chicks are sent in the mail, and sadly, they are arriving dead by the hundreds.)
Trying to reduce mail balloting by damaging the postal system is another despicable chapter in this country’s long history of voter suppression, especially of Black voters. But it’s also part of a larger scheme to privatize the USPS, which would remove competition from giant for-profit corporations like Amazon, Fedex, and UPS. Any of these three are potential buyers. Right now the USPS delivers mail to every remote corner of the country, including by mule to an Indian tribe in the Grand Canyon.
A little known fact is that these three corporations use the USPS to deliver “the last mile” of their delivery routes. In 2018 USPS handled an estimated 55% of Amazon’s final stretch and 30% of Fedex’s final ground deliveries, including many suburban areas. It’s hard to believe that any private company would continue the same delivery service to the more expensive remote and rural routes.
The USPS employs over 600,000 people and these are mainly good union jobs with predictable family-sustaining wages, health insurance and a pension, plus a voice in working conditions. It’s also a significant employer of people of color, who comprise 40% of all workers. Nearly 30% of the workers are Black, and 45% are women.
There are many additional services that support low income Americans and rural America, such as banking functions. Black families are five times as likely to be unbanked or underbanked than white families and Latinx households four times. In many rural areas there are no banks, and skimpy broadband access means no on-line banking. So the post office becomes the place to get money orders (the fee is small), pay the bills, and receive social security checks. Veterans, of whom nearly a quarter live in rural areas, get at least 80% of their medications in the mail. Many rural areas have no polling places and have always relied on the mail.
The USPS is self-sustaining and receives no tax dollars. The financial status is complex but revolves around a 2006 law requiring a massive pre-funding of retiree health, 50 years into the future, of $72 billion. There is no corporation or other government agency required to do this ridiculous financial practice. While the reasoning behind the creation of this law is a story beyond this article, the effect has been to rob the system of money for innovation, modernization, and basic operating expenses.
The American Postal Workers Union website states, “The burdensome prefunding of retirement health benefits is the cause of 92% of the United States Postal Service net financial loss since 2007.” They call for support of the recently passed H.R. 2382 and the proposed S. 2965, both of which rescind the prefunding requirement. There is enough money in the fund to pay retiree health for at least the next 10 to 15 years. Of course, this complicated financial picture, where the system is portrayed as a financial debacle, allows Trump and others like Senator Toomey to complain about the USPS and push privatization.
The United States Postal Service, its workers, and our communities who depend on the service need our loud and impassioned support. The USPS is not a business but a public good that provides a service to the greater society. Decreased revenue due to the pandemic has severely stressed its finances, yet it received no stimulus money from the Congress even though Congress appropriated billions for corporations and CEOs. The postal unions are asking for $25 billion now to survive the pandemic, which the House of Representatives has done, but so far the Senate has refused. We need to pressure the Senate to act.
In the bombardment of crises we are facing, we cannot let this vital public institution disappear.
Actions you can take to stand of the the USPS
- Demand the minimal $25 Billion for Covid emergency funding – Call the PA Senators and demand $25 Billion now 844-402-1001 (central number, connects to all Senators)
- Demand the Firing of Postmaster General DeJoy
- Vote Trump Out Of Office
- Put a Sign in Your Door Supporting Your Mail Delivery Person
Submitted by Patty Eakin, 215 People’s Alliance, member of executive board; August 31, 2020