On March 18, 1970, New York postal workers went on strike against the U.S. government over wages and working conditions- at that time, the postal service in this country was a cabinet level department known as the Post Office. While the strike gained support nationwide, the workers didn’t win any immediate concessions, it did lead to the forming of unions and an eventual negotiation with the government over contracts.
Later the same year, President Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act, which disbanded the Post Office and created an independent entity, the United States Postal Service, which took effect in July of 1971. This made the Postal Service a government-run corporation instead of an actual government department. This also meant it was self-supporting, with no public money to help support it.
Then came the Reagan years, and like so many other things we’ve discussed recently, they didn’t bode well for the Postal Service. His administration’s report from 1988, Privatization: Toward More Effective Government, recommended that the Postal Service more actively pursue contracting out opportunities in all of its functions. At the same time, the Postal Service released the USPS Procurement Manual, which made it easier for management to outsource without worrying about “full and open competition.”
The Postal Service had $12 billion in outside contracts in 2010, with the largest being FedEx (those FedEx boxes outside the post office? Yep- that was part of the outsourcing due to the new procurement manual). And, because it’s outsourced so many of its functions, the quality of the service has suffered; the classic “too many cooks” syndrome.Then, the icing on the cake. In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006. This law requires the Postal Service to prefund parts of their employee pension fund for seventy five years into the future; something that neither any government entity or privately held corporation needs to do. This, of course, has led to budget shortfalls and the Postal Service losing money. The proposed solution? In 2011, the Postmaster General stated that the Postal Service will close half of its 32,000 post offices over the next few years, selling off the old buildings. He also proposed stopping Saturday mail delivery as a necessary cost reduction.
But, you might ask, why all this focus on the Postal Service. The answer’s simple- the Postal Workers Union. The Postal Service is the third largest employer in the nation after the Federal government and WalMart, and it’s the largest unionized employer. Breaking the union’s always been the main goal behind all this focus.
Which brings us to now. Earlier this year, Staples and the USPS announced a deal, where postal service offices would be placed in selected Staples locations, and if successful, would spread to more locations. The catch? The locations would be staffed by Staples employees, and not Postal Service employees. For obvious reasons, this doesn’t sit well with the union.
Occupy World Writes stands in solidarity with the American Postal Workers Union. We call on Staples to respect the union and its members, and we call on Congress to stop imposing the undue and unique hardship that the pension funding requirements places on the USPS. We categorically reject any further moves towards privatization of the Postal Service. The postal service in this country was once a model for the whole world; its duties are even defined in the Constitution. But these days, we and Somalia are the only countries where the postal system isn’t underwritten by the government; the Founding Fathers would be screaming bloody murder over what we’ve done to it.
We can do better than this…