The corporate owned media is blindly mouthing the GOP version of the situation with the US Postal Service. Their fairy tale states that the USPS is losing serious money because of declining mail volume due to the Internet – competition from Federal Express and UPS and those ineffective union workers. Since our electorate spends minimal time researching anything of substance they buy this fairy tale as fact.
Let me tell the real story. The USPS is currently in a financial crisis – no dispute on that. It has in fact been caused by a 2006 poison pill put in a postal reform bill by the Bush administration that required the USPS topre fund their future retiree health care costs for the next 75 years in the next 10 years. That is $5.5 billion a year. No other federal agency does this as well as few private companies. Especially during an economic slowdown we are experiencing. Take away this onerous pefunding and the Postal Service has actually made a 7 million dollar profit over the last 6 years despite the effects from the economic meltdown.
In 2005 the last year before that prefunding mandate the Postal Service had no debt. Today it has a 13.6 billion dollar debt virtually entirely created by pre funding future retirees health care costs, including those retirees not yet hired. This has prevented the Postal Service from spending money on their vast fleet of trucks or on retail and mail processing networks.
The House of Representatives that talks non stop about how regulation and government mandates hurt business seems to have no problem placing a 5.5 Billion Dollar mandate on the USPS. They don’t seem to see the hypocrisy of that. They created this manufactured postal debt issue and they can resolve it by lifting the mandate.
The Postal Service delivers millions of parcels for UPS and Fed Ex through the Last Mile Program. Those private companies drop off many of their unprofitable parcels daily at the Post Office for Letter Carriers to deliver. This is the fastest growing division within Fed Ex.
The USPS has adapted to falling first class mail volume and have eliminated 110,000 jobs over the last few years. The NALC has saved the postal service hundreds of millions of dollars by streamlining the route inspection process. This has helped contribute to keeping the US Postal Service rates the least expensive in the industrialized world. While not getting a penny of taxpayer money. Service quality is at record levels and productivity is at an all time high.
The real reason the right wing is hell bent on destroying the Postal Service is because it’s proof that a federal agency with a unionized work force can be highly effective. These facts do not fit in well with the forces that demonize federal and union workers routinely for political gain.
Bill Brickely is a member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, serving on the NH Letter Carrier Executive Board as CD1 Legislative Liaison. Also serves on the NH AFL-CIO Executive Board. Former NH Area Coordinator Amnesty International and Central American Solidarity Activist. This post first appeared on the NH Labor News blog.