Why is Congress killing the postal service?

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Legislators and the rightwing political machine are out to get the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Why?

Not because the Internet has replaced snail mail. It hasn’t. A lot of people don’t have computers, and no one can get real packages via cyber-space.

Not because Fed-Ex and UPS have replaced U.S. mail. They haven’t. Elders, poor and disabled people, small businesses and rural areas need door-to-door delivery and access to post offices. Of the 34 offices targeted for termination in New York City, half are in the Bronx. South Bronx is the poorest Congressional district in the country.

Not because the Post Office is unprofitable. It’s not supposed to be. It’s a non-profit, federal agency.

Not because the USPS has fallen into the abyss of “deficit, “default” or “bankruptcy.” It has not. Its “crisis” is manufactured.

For money and power. The USPS is the largest public employer in the country. Postal workers, about 56 percent of whom are people of color and women, are the strongest unionized workforce in the country. Their decent wages and benefits were hard-won.

The real reasons that postal service is on the chopping block? 1) There is gigantic profit to be made by privatizing the USPS. 2) Selling off publicly owned mail services requires busting the postal unions first.

USPS appears to be broke largely because of a law unanimously passed by Congress in 2006. It required the Postal Service to pre-pay 75 years’ worth of future healthcare benefits by 2016, by annually paying $5.5 billion into the U.S. Treasury. That absurd and unprecedented requirement accounts for nearly all the mail service’s $20 billion “loss” over the last four years.

Additionally, various audits say that the USPS has overpaid from $50 to $90 billion into employee retirement systems. All this was also deposited into the U.S. Treasury, where it may have been used for decades to cover-up real federal deficits.

There’s more. About 25 percent of postal employees are military veterans, but the USPS is the only federal agency to which the Dept. of Defense does not pay its pension share. If the U.S. Treasury refunded all these billions, as it should, it would show just how manufactured the Postal Service “crisis” truly is.

The Post Office is also the only federal agency that is required to cover all its operating expenses.

The current offensive against postal workers is funded by the Koch brother billionaires who bankrolled Wisconsin’s rightwing attack on public workers. In Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) lead the way. They’re pushing a bill that will appoint a “solvency” committee to “reject, modify or terminate” union contracts. They are backed by a massive lobby of big advertising firms who want to stuff everyone’s mailbox with junk, and of delivery companies who would love to wipe out lower-cost Post Office competition.

Self-defense mounting. Campaigns to save post offices are linking up with unions and Occupy demonstrations nationwide. On Dec. 19, hundreds of residents covering 17 zip codes in Oregon protested the plan to close 41 rural post offices. The Rural Organizing Project coordinated. On December 28, the Occupy Tucson movement, postal unions, and Jobs with Justice united to protest the closing of the Cherrybell mail processing plant in Tucson, Ariz.

More and more protests have been organized since the New Year. And they will continue. Contact www.savethepostoffice.com for updated information. Anger intensifies as jobs disappear, workers are transferred and demoted, and the truth gets out. At least 600 post offices were closed in 2011, and 4,000 are targeted. The battle has just begun.

What’s it going to take? Steady rank-and-file cohesion among the four postal unions. Resolve by union members to break past any foot-dragging misleaders. And staunch solidarity from community organizers, Occupy protesters and other unionists.

Tumultuous dissent is exploding worldwide. In the spirit of the Wisconsin public workers, why not take it to our post offices?

Send your feedback to Monica Hill at FSnews@socialism.com.

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