Republicans, corporate interests intentionally destroying Post Office

Privatization is a polite word for corporate self-interest. When calls for privatization arise, it is always useful to see who’s interest is being served.

Take the United States Postal Service. The Republican Party is doing its best to destroy a national institution that provides hundreds of thousands of unionized jobs. (The Democratic Party is doing nothing, perhaps waiting for a signal from its corporate benefactors.) Merely reading “unionized” in front of “jobs” leads to the conclusion that ideology is behind this latest attack on working people, and surely a Right-wing desire to eliminate large unions and drive down wages further is a significant motivation.

Not the sole motivation, however. Privatizing the Postal Service would mean big new business for delivery services and companies that supply postal products. Advocates of privatization recently sought to inject more wind into their sails with the release of a study by a “think tank” with the bland-sounding name of National Academy of Public Administration. The “study” has yet to published in full, but its four authors, described as “postal industry thought leaders,” have published their conclusion — a call for a near total privatization.

Just who are these four “postal industry thought leaders”? With one exception, they are people who have a vested interest in privatization. Surprise! Here they are:

  • Ed Gleiman, a former member of the Postal Rate Commission, has since become a lobbyist for the Direct Marketing Association, a group representing large mailers.
  • John Nolan, a deputy postmaster general during the Bush II/Cheney administration, is currently a board member for Streamlite, a business-to-consumer lightweight package delivery service. He is also a senior advisor to The Western Union Co., another corporation that stands to benefit from dismantling the Postal Service.
  • Edward Hudgins is a director of the Atlas Society (“Atlas” as in Ayn Rand) and previously worked for the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation. The latter two organizations are manically dedicated to destroying all protections for employees, while the phantasmagorical absurdity of Ayn Rand’s novels bear as much relation to reality as an elephant that flies.
  • George Gould, a former political director for the National Association of Letter Carriers union, doesn’t appear to have an ideological axe to grind as do the other three “leaders” and perhaps is guilty of nothing more than absorbing neoliberal ideology. Critics of the NALC say that the union has failed to fight for its membership, and Mr. Gould’s participation in this “study” might provide those critics additional fuel.

Direct funding by a corporation that stands to benefit

To round out the picture, the major funder of the postal privatization “study” is Pitney Bowes Inc., which stands to directly benefit. Greg Bell, executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union, writes:

“Pitney Bowes, the company that is funding the review, stands to be a major beneficiary. The company is widely known as a provider of mailing equipment, but it is also a major mail ‘pre-sorter.’ The company takes advantage of generous pre-sort discounts offered by the Postal Service to provide outsourced services to high-volume mailers. In 2011, Pitney Bowes operated 41 mail processing facilities and generated $5.3 billion in revenue. Pitney Bowes would certainly snatch up a major portion of USPS revenue if it were given the chance.”

FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., the two largest U.S. private delivery services, also stand to benefit from the destruction of the Postal Service. FedEx is one of the heaviest spenders on political donations and lobbying, and employs several dozen lobbyists who formerly worked in government, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. UPS is also a heavy spender on donations and lobbying, while employing its own team of lobbyists who formerly worked in government.

The National Academy of Public Administration “study” advocates a bizarre “hybrid” scheme in which all postal activities will be privatized, except for the “final mile” — a Postal Service worker would deliver mail and packages to mailboxes and other final destinations. The paper states:

“In the ‘final mile’ package strategy, private sector consolidators compete to pickup, process, and transport hundreds of millions of packages. Shippers pay the consolidators to prepare and transport the mail for ‘last mile’ delivery by USPS letter carriers. The consolidators pay USPS a delivery charge. Upstream competition among private sector providers promotes efficiencies that lead to better service and lower overall prices.”

Private oligopolies are not known for lowering prices, however, and the paper’s assertion that regulation counter excesses is refuted by the many industries in which regulation is toothless, and in which agency chiefs routinely cycle back to their primary roles as corporate executives. We need only look at vastly inflated pharmaceutical prices, runaway financial legerdemain and a lack of resolve in food safety to know that private delivery companies will easily evade any serious scrutiny, piling up profits while cutting jobs, wages and benefits. The only certainty is that large numbers of jobs will be lost.

Who can fund 75 years of pensions in 10 years?

A government institution painted as financially troubled is easier to be targeted for corporate plunder than one on firm footing, so, voilà, congressional Republicans cooked up a devastating scheme. A congressional bill signed into law in 2006 requires the Postal Service to pre-fund its pension costs for the next 75 years in only 10 years. This is unheard of; certainly no private business would or could do such a thing. This preposterous requirement — why do I keep seeing sneering villains twisting their mustaches like in those movies of a century ago? — has saddled the Postal Service with a $16 billion deficit.

Hoping to maintain corporate momentum, a leading congressional Republican, Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has pushed a bill that would allow an oversight committee to modify union contracts. Representative Issa’s bill, if passed, would allow unilateral cuts to previously bargained wages.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, however, has already approved wage cuts. The latest contract increases the number of “temporary” mail carriers who have inferior wages and benefits, setting a up a two-tier system in which newer workers have lower pay, not fundamentally different than the new two-tier pay systems at General Motors — taxpayers loaned the money to GM to keep it afloat, and the reward is more austerity. These deals in turn serve to depress wages elsewhere by setting lower standards.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of Postal Service jobs have already been eliminated. A statement issued by Detroit Workers’ Voice, analyzing the attacks on postal unions, says:

“Postal workers are being run over time after time, and the strategy of the leadership of the postal unions has proved completely ineffective in stopping this. Yes, the union leaders sometimes have snappy criticisms against management. But they collaborate with management. Thus, when new contracts with management help the USPS decimate the workforce, the main union officials hide the setbacks or justify them. Insofar as there is struggle against the USPS bosses, it is within strict limits. Organizing the rank and file for struggles within the postal facilities is avoided. Public actions of any kind are rare. Militant action that would really press management is off limits.”

Postal Service unions, of course, are hardly unique in their timidity. Fightbacks are possible, as the Chicago teachers’ union demonstrated last year. The Chicago teachers spent months preparing parents and the city as a whole for a possible strike as neoliberal Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to break the union and replace public schools accountable to the public with private, non-union charter schools under corporate control.

There were critics who complained that the teachers didn’t win many advances and ended the strike too quickly, but it is more realistic to analyze the strike in a fuller context — given the totality of the circumstances, the Chicago teachers won as much as they could have and would have begun to jeopardize the massive public support behind them, an indispensable force as the city’s other unions did nothing to help.

No union, no matter how militant, can win substantial gains without a movement that mobilizes sustained support from those unionized, non-unionized and unemployed — a movement that acts on the understanding that an injury to one is an injury to all. Unions aren’t making efforts to create that support, instead at most narrowly attempting to slightly slow down the defeats to their specific memberships. The structural causes of our present-day world of austerity are far larger than any union federation nor are they contained with any single geographical unit. The entire history of capitalism has led us to today’s world.

An injury to one, or to one group of employees, truly is an injury to all. Enormous power is concentrated into the hands of financiers and industrialists, and there are no limits to the injuries they and the politicians who serve them intend to inflict. Putting our heads in the sand and hoping it’s the other person who gets it only delays the injury to one’s self and makes it worse when they come for you.

16 comments on “Republicans, corporate interests intentionally destroying Post Office

  1. Paul Gilman says:

    I love the Post Office! The Post Office is the only government institution I even like.

    Most government institutions, police, army, regulatory bodies, involve some sort of class, race and patriarchal form of oppression. The legal system is the apex of all of this area of oppression. Even social services have Orwellian intrusions into people’s personal lives with all kinds of life sapping pitfalls. Health Service’s are provided along with huge debt and dependency creating pharmaceuticals. On top of all of these inanities and horrors, in a bourgeois state, all of these government functions are warped by not only the need to keep class, race and patriarchal oppression going they are furthered warped by some sort of bourgeois parasitism that is a further burden on the productive forces.

    The Post Office is the only egalitarian, well functioning government institution. For 45 cents a person, not matter what gender, class, or race, can send a letter to anyone of over a billion addresses. The breadth and scope of this amazes me! I have sent thousands of letters, post cards and packages to barely a billionth of these addresses, and only two or three were ever lost. I love the post office.

    Not only are there over a billion addresses to choose from, people pay the same no matter how far the mailed object has to travel. All the people in Hawaii or Alaska are not penalized by the remoteness of their homes from the rest of the US. A letter going from New York to New Jersey costs the same as a letter going from Madawaska, Maine to Pahoa, Hawaii. Pretty egalitarian if you ask me. And this service is not a burden on the economic system, it is a joy!

    When I was kid, my father got me into philaletics (stamp collecting), and I love stamps. The quality of the replications and the art is of the highest quality. Do these Republicans think that a privatized Post Office a profit over service ethic will maintain such high standards?

    Privatization does not make a function more efficient or save the tax payer money. Usually services are cut in the name profits. Then corporation doing the service gains even more economic power in which they can control the politicians (through bribery and threats) and so over site in the name of the public is eroded. Eventually, usually with in a year or even months, the company then demands more money, either from the government (privatized prisons is a big example of this) or from the people paying to use the service privatized public transportation for example.

    From the Post Office’s own website (03/27) https://about.usps.com/publications/pub100/pub100_005.htm
    In June 1788, the ninth state ratified the Constitution, which gave Congress the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” in Article I, Section 8. A year later, the Act of September 22, 1789 (1 Stat. 70), continued the Post Office and made the Postmaster General subject to the direction of the President.

    As racists, sexist, and elitist the founding fathers were (in this I declare myself and adopt y orphan) recognized that a government run post office run efficiently served their interests, and helped everyone else. All these legalistic Republicans only care about the law when it suites their own interests. If it weren’t for the constitution the Post Office would have been destroyed a long time ago. El Salvador is supposed have a good post office. If this one is destroyed, maybe I’ll move there.

    • Two decades ago, I was very active in Amnesty International, and would send letters to presidents-for-life, justice ministers and attorneys general all over the world. I received answers surprisingly frequently (two of which notified me that a political prisoner had been let out of jail). I then lived in the city of Garfield, New Jersey; one of the postal workers once asked me about all the very far-away places to which I would regularly send letters.

      I once received a letter delivered to me that had only my name and “Carfelio, NJ” on the envelope. There was no building address nor Zip code, and it was sent from someplace halfway around the world. Yes, it arrived in my home mailbox! Now that’s service. A corporation worried about its profits isn’t going to take the trouble to get such a letter into the right person’s hands through multiple steps. I always use the Postal Service, never private carriers.

      • Paul Gilman says:

        A corporation may even throw letters to Amnesty International and other groups they don’t like in the trash, or worse if they have ties to what ever imperialist oppressors you are trying to liberate a prisoner from.

        People take the post office for granted, or even say it is obsolete. Try sending emails to prisoners, or little kids who are waiting for toys from Santa, or even the fun of getting local cancellations on your post cards to show everybody you actually visited Koolauloa, Hawaii!

        After I post this, I will send a post card to Lynne Stewart.

  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I guess they call it private for a reason.

  3. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I thought you might like to read this, not sure if it’s a stay of execution or permanent concession: http://socialistworker.org/2013/04/16/postal-cutbacks-blocked

    • It appears to be a stay of execution. The congressional mandate to maintain Saturday delivery is rooted in Republican representatives’ obsession with control —– here, Darrell Issa (who is doing his best to permanently retain the crown for “windbag of the year”) has issued an order that Saturday delivery continue, and how dare lowly government bureaucrats attempt to defy him! The tug of war over Saturday delivery doesn’t, in my opinion, rest on anything else, although I wouldn’t rule out that some hope a continuation of Saturday delivery will bring the day of Postal Service bankruptcy closer.

      As the Socialist Worker report correctly states, there will have to a massive grassroots struggle to save the Postal Service, a movement that has to have the demand of reversing the pension pre-funding scheme front and center.

  4. Val Nostdahl says:

    following is links to the usps and its situation” the post office, its past record, its present condition and its potential relation to the new world era, Daniel Calhoun Roper, chairperson of the United States Tariff Commision and First Assistant Post Master General, 1913- 1917, amazon.com, search inside this book or free google books to read, in this era collective bargaining was formed when congress was ignoring the working conditions of the uspo, in 1935 the right to unionize was made law, in 1970 the uspo had a strike on the mails due to congress ignoring the working conditions of postal employee who were dependent on congress for cost of living expenses, and were far behind those in the country that worked privately, so then the stike came about because many were working 3 jobs or on welfare, while working of the uspo, the strike re enforced collective bargaining rights and the no strike law went in to effect while the uspo was changed to the usps. In 2000, 2001 the postal letter carrires and craft employees were made to pay in an extra 15 percent to theiir federal retirement systems, fers and csrs, which was under the 1997 budget reconcilation act, for budget reasons only, which overfunded or overpaid the retirment systems for postal employees, so then due to having too much money in the retirment systems a 3rd retirmeent system by law was set up for postal employees not born or working for the USPS for the next 75 years from 2006 until 2016 taking postal profits that the postal workers helped earned and putting them in escrow, the fers was overfunded or overpaid by 15 billion and the csrs was overfunded or overpaid by 140 billion so now the paea account holds around 47 billion with interest. Meanwhle the paea allowed pay per performance bonus money at the top for 13 of the USPS executives who worked in tandem to help the postal employee craft levels lower due to non replacment of attrition or retirees in the systms and closing of USPS offices, the pmg recieved a 72 thousand a year bonus, and retired in 2010 with 5.5 million dollars ( anually) the following links should help with understanding of the usps situation’ AWPU 3800, first area tricounty local, PA library, stress in the workplace artical, how the ongoing violation of the USPS guiding principles are creating a toxic work environment, http://www.billburrasjournal.org- misc phoney excuses for diverting usps revenues, myths versus facts, search for ALEC/Koch cabal the privitization of USPS for Ups and FedEx, bob sloan, vltp.net, april 2012, Tim McCown dc insider artical examiner.com, behind all the schemes and lies of the privitization of USPS , Michigan American Postal Workers Union, the truth about the postal crisis, and http://www.savethepostoffice.com , USPS widows on facebook

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