Separating Fact from Fiction: The Truth About the Right-Wing Attacks on the Postal Service


Posted on 08 November 2011

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by email

By Rebecca Greenberg Band
California Labor Federation

The US Postal Service is the second largest employer in the United States, after the Department of Defense, employing more than half a million workers in good union jobs. It’s also the second largest employer of military veterans; more than 22% of all postal employees have served in the U.S. armed forces. But if Republicans in Congress get their way and succeed in ending Saturday mail delivery, as many as 200,000 Post Office jobs would be lost. With Veterans Day coming up, it couldn’t be a more fitting time to draw attention to this deceptive effort by the right wing to strip thousands of our brave service men and women of their jobs, and leave our troops returning home from war with even fewer employment options.

Not surprisingly, the right-wing politicians seeking to gut the Postal Service allege that the USPS is “bankrupt,” and eliminating Saturday mail delivery (a large source of revenue) would magically save money. But the fact is, these claims are misleading, short-sighted and just plain wrong -- and it’s time we expose the truth.

“Labor’s Edge” sat down with John Beaumont of the National Association of Letter Carriers to help distinguish fact from fiction in the debate around the Postal Service.

L.E.: Is the US Postal Service really draining taxpayer dollars?

J.B.: The Postal Service is one of the most successful and profitable programs our government has. People think that somehow taxpayers are “bailing out” the USPS, but that’s just not true. The Post Office is a completely self-sufficient entity, funded entirely by the revenues it generates through the sale of stamps and package delivery services. In fact, the USPS hasn’t used a dime of taxpayer money since 1971. Right up until this year, we’ve actually been quite profitable.

L.E.: Why are Republicans saying that USPS is “in the red”?

J. B.: Despite its long track record and regular surplus, the USPS is now on the chopping block because of a new policy that puts an extremely unfair financial burden on the Post Office. This law requires the Post Office budget to cover retiree health benefits not just for current postal employees, but also for future employees – so far into the future, in fact, that most of them haven’t even born yet! USPS is the one and only federal department that has this undue obligation. Few people realize that Congress could simply pass a bill to relieve this obligation and preserve our postal service. And they should.

L.E.: How would that sort of legislation affect current postal employees?

J.B.: It wouldn’t. All of our existing workers are completely covered under our retiree pension and health care programs. Getting rid of the unnecessary burden for future workers wouldn’t have any impact whatsoever our current workforce.

L.E.: Would eliminating Saturday delivery really save money?

J.B.:  This right-wing claim is extremely short-sighted. Although there could be some small initial cost savings, in the long run, cutting mail delivery from six days to five days would mean at least one-sixth of our revenue would be lost, hundreds of thousands of workers would be laid off, and postal customers would be forced to use a more expensive and less reliable private service for Saturday deliveries.

L.E.: What’s the deal with HR 2309?

J.B.: HR 2309 (Issa) would completely dismantle the Postal Service, piece by piece. Not only would it cut Saturday delivery, it would slash pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights for postal employees, and it would eliminate a number of other basic mail services, including your ability to have a mailbox at your home!

L.E.: What can supporters to do help save the USPS?

J.B.: Please take a moment to sign our petition and share it with your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. We’re trying to gather as many signatures as possible before November 14th, when we’ll be delivering them to Congress. You can also call Rep. Issa directly at 202-225-3906 and tell him you oppose HR 2309.

For more information, visit www.saveamericaspostalservice.org.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Band (formerly Rebecca Greenberg) works for the California Labor Federation. This piece was originally featured on the Labor's Edge blog.