During a May 14 Day of Action by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the union and a broad coalition of supporters called for a new collective bargaining agreement that improves customer service.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on May 20, and the union and the US Postal Service (USPS) have been bargaining since February for a new agreement.
APWU has put forward a number of contract proposals to improve customer service, including halting post office closures, expanding post office operating hours, bringing back overnight delivery of first class mail, and expanding services available at post office.
“What we are fighting for . . . is good postal service, living-wage jobs, and a good contract, now!” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein at a Day of Action rally in Washington DC. “The American Postal Workers Union and all of you are fighting for the people of this country, for a vibrant public Postal Service for generations to come. That’s what the people deserve and that’s what the people should have.”
The Washington DC rally was one of 130 Day of Action events in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Postal workers were joined by supporters from a number of community and labor organization who are standing with postal workers in their fight to protect and improve postal services.
“We are sending a clear signal that we are fighting a struggle and we plan to win that struggle,” said the actor Danny Glover at the Washington DC rally. “We are not just supporting postal workers. We have the chance not only to save the post office, but to change the nature of how we deal with the public.”
Glover also talked about one of the union’s contract proposal–postal banking.
The union is proposing that USPS provide basic banking services such as check cashing, bill paying, and small loan lending at post offices.
Banks have largely abandoned communities with high concentrations of low-wage workers.
Banks in these communities have been replaced by payday lenders, which charge high interest rates, and check cashing companies, which charge fees.
Postal banking would provide a banking alternative in these under served communities.
The union’s fight to expand services and protect the ones that many of us take for granted comes at a time when the Postal Service is under attack.
According to its critics, the US Postal System is in a state of crisis that demands cuts in services rather than their expansion.
But this so-called crisis is one that has been manufactured by those who want to dismantle the Postal System and privatize its most lucrative services.
It began in 2006 when Congress passed a law that required USPS to pre-fund its retiree health care benefit for the next 75 years with billions of dollars of payments over a ten-year period.
Pre-funding retiree health care, a practice that no other private company or government entity does, has siphoned away an average of $5.6 billion a year away from postal services.
Without this unique and unprecedented pre-payment requirement, USPS would have generated a $1.1 billion surplus in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015. For fiscal year 2014, the surplus would have been $1.4 billion and for fiscal year 2013, it would have been $600 million.
But instead of surpluses, pre-funding has burdened USPS with deficits, which have led to cuts in services.
In January USPS implemented a new round of cuts that among other things virtually eliminated overnight delivery of first class mail.
Previous cuts caused the closure of 140 mail processing centers and under staffing, both of which have slowed mail delivery.
Eighty-two more mail processing centers are scheduled for future closings.
Critics say that the internet has made the Postal Service irrelevant and that most of the work it does can be done better by private companies.
But USPS, which provides service to every community regardless of whether it is profitable to do so, remains an important catalyst for commerce and communication.
In 2014, USPS delivered 155 billion pieces of mail. In January 2015, letter volume increased by 7 percent and package delivery increased by 14 percent over January 2014.
USPS provides these services efficiently and effectively. A test conducted by Consumer Report in 2014 found that USPS outscored Fed Ex and UPS, its privately-owned competitors, in convenience and reliability.
USPS also was less expensive than its competitors 92 percent of the time in next-day and second-day deliveries.
The importance of the Postal Service to the everyday life of the American people is one of the reasons that people like Danny Glover are joining the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.
“We have a Grand Alliance that is saving this national treasure that belongs to us,” said Glover referring to the Postal System. “We will make sure that it remains in our domain.”
Glover urged people to show their support for postal workers and the public Postal Service by signing and sending a postcard of support to the Postmaster General.