The Postal Service Under Siege

By Chuck Zlatkin

You can’t blame the average citizen if they believe that the Postal Service is on its last legs. It is not just Fox News that is spreading the hysteria. In the May 18, 2012 edition of the New York Times, Ron Dixon wrote a column on the Postal Service’s desire to close 48 mail-processing centers beginning in July, but neglected to mention that the Postal Service’s problems were directly related to Congressional mandates that had turned the Postal Service into a cash cow. Dixon didn’t mention the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which required the Postal Service to fully prefund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and to do it within a 10-year window. This meant that the Postal Service was required to write a check to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $5.5 billion every September 30 before they sold one stamp or money order. No other government agency, corporation or organization is required to do so. Because of this legislation, the agency was required to fully prefund the retirement health benefits of people who hadn’t even been born yet, let alone worked for the Postal Service.

What Fox News and the New York Times both choose to ignore is the fact that the Postal Service has over-funded the Civil Service Retirement System by billions. In 2009, the Office of Inspector General of the Postal Service commissioned a study done by the Hay Company, which concluded that the Postal Service has overpaid into the pension funds by $75 billion since 1971.

In 2010, the independent Postal Regulatory Commission contracted its own study conducted by Segal and Company, which concluded that the Postal Service had overpaid by only $50-60 billion. The study recommended that the agency immediately get credited with the overpayment. Such an action would mean that the Postal Service could meet all its obligations, pay off its debt, and not have to close post offices and postal processing centers or reduce its workforce by 100,000 workers in the middle of a recession.

The argument that the Postal Service has become irrelevant because of email and the Internet is not born out by the facts. The three years with the largest volume in its 236-year history were 2006, followed closely by 2005 and 2007, well into the Internet era.

What hurt the Postal Service was the economic collapse of 2008 and slowness of the recovery since. Without the Congressional mandates, the Postal Service would have been fine, even with the problems with economy and the advent of email.

The rush to shrink the Postal Service and eliminate 100,000 living-wage union jobs is unnecessary. Congress could have corrected the problems facing the agency without costing the taxpayers anything. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced such legislation last year, H.R 1351, which had 226 co-sponsors, including 30 Republicans. Even though the bill was supported by a majority of Congress it never got to the floor for a vote. Instead, the rightwing chair of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA), and his one co-sponsor, Tea Party-backed Dennis Ross (R-FL), put forth H.R. 2309, which would destroy the Postal Service as we know it, and it passed the committee.

This year in the Senate a bipartisan bill, S. 1789, introduced by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Scott Brown (R-MA) passed the Senate. While the legislation gives temporary relief to the Postal Service by extending the period for payment of the retiree prefunding to 40 years, it ignores the massive overpayments of $50-75 billion into the pension fund.

The prospect of the House and Senate coming to an agreement that will save the Postal Service long term is severely diminished by the deeply flawed S. 1789 and the destructive H.R. 2309 as the starting points. The manufactured financial crisis that has plagued the Postal Service was not an accident. The Postal Service routinely does over $60 billion in business each year and that is very appealing to those who want to privatize it. Some of the earliest “studies” of the financial crisis of the Postal Service were commissioned by think-tanks financed by the billionaire Koch brothers. The Koch brothers also supported the election campaigns of 11 members of Issa’s committee.

The media rarely mentions that the Postal Service is the second largest employer in the United States, second only to Wal-Mart. What is the biggest difference for working people between the Postal Service and Wal-Mart? The Postal Service is unionized and Wal-Mart isn’t.

As damaging as all of this is to postal workers, the media virtually ignores the people who would be damaged most by any cutbacks in the Postal Service. Elderly people, disabled people, poor people and small-business owners are totally dependent upon the Postal Service. They simply can’t afford the alternatives.

Before the moratorium on post office closings, the Postal Service was holding a series of “hearings” to determine which post offices to close. These “hearings” were poorly publicized and held in remote locations, as inconvenient as possible for people to attend.

But no matter how difficult the Postal Service made it for people to attend, the people attended. Even if was pouring rain, the people turned out. Seeing senior citizens with walkers and breathing tubes up their noses struggling to get to the hearings despite the weather made it clear how important keeping their post offices was to them. And when they got up to speak with fear in their voices, dreading the possibility of their post office closing, it was evident that they were the collateral damage in this war on working people.

Chuck Zlatkin

Legislative and Political Director

New York Metro branch of the American Postal Workers Union

18 thoughts on “The Postal Service Under Siege

  1. aMERICANS IN GENERAL COULD CARE LESS AS TO THE EXISTENCE OF A MAIL DELIVERY SYSTEM TO PLACE 98% USELESS AD OR JUNK MAIL IN A PHYSICAL MAILBOX. USALL CLEANOUT EVER2-3 DAYS AND MOST OF TIME IS USELESS JUNK MAIL. save money reduce needless burning gas and paying a carrier to place paper in a mailbox to be trashed to the recycle bin at he trash dump is always full when I place my mailbox paper trash to be recycled.

  2. Nationwide general strike for a month. This will crush stock market and the rich finally get POORER.


  4. Where is Obama and the Democrats. They don’t care about us. Send a message and stay home on November 6th.


  6. I have always maintained usps charge for items like forwarding your address say same price as a initial stamps .45 a piece and charge a special-to-door-delivery premium for door to door delivery!!!!!!!!!!!!as does the paperboy!!!!!!!!!!!if you want the paper in a special location tube container porch you pay for it as with doorstep deliveries!!! long gone are those flimsy tin flip-up 1944 wall mailboxes!!!! and the elim of saturdays these three items alone will sustain losses for a good number of yrs say 3-5 before better in-line with other country postal-rate other country has min delv charges less than a $1.00 a we should not .45 a buck a mail-piece and $1.25 to fwd that piece to you running away from everything’
    canada charges $1.30 per mail-piece to forward that article to your newer hm or on the lam rent-to-rent..they also charge $1.00 just to mail it! and you can bet it won’t be delv’d to that on the porch wall 1944 tin flip-up either rather to a neighourhood croner cluster locker that u must walk to!

  7. Just only one comment about the overpayment, that money probably has already been spent , or if not , to return it to the postal service would probably increase the debt by 50-60 billion dollars (small but imagine how that knowledge would go with the politicians). Look at the overpayment as in a locked box like social security benefit for individuals until they retire (need I say more).

  8. If the law don’t mandate the post office must prefund for retiree, then those money should become bonus of those management. congress is smart , we love you.

  9. Chuck this you morons who agree with any one representing the APWU!
    the Union cannot do anything right, the CBA was a bust, give credit to all the other unions who fought till the end, if any one of those contracts comes out better than the APWU’s, the sheep who voted for No Balls Guffey, will vote for him again, sheep led to the slaughter again !, while No Balls sips his expensive bottled water and buys his boyfriend gifts from your union dues, and wait till the party in LA, that’s all the scum in the National APWU can think about now, not you, but your dues and the big party, while your battered at the hands of Gestapo supervision, the APWU boys will party hearty!
    In Reference to Chuck Zlatkin the moron speaker for the APWU.

  10. That’s the beauty of the Teagbaggers. They actually think they are wealthy and in the top 1%. Just like those rusted out beater vehicles you see with all the right wing bumper stickers on them being driven by a guy dressed in rags!!

  11. Funny when you read posts from obvious Tea Bags, Privatize!! Socialism!! Get rid of the Unions !! etc They don’t have a pot to piss in but they’ll defend to the death the right of Millionaires, Billionaires and their Corporate Butt Buddies to screw us over on a daily basis…………………

  12. Zlatkin sounds like just another hot winded tea-bagger, Privatize, Privatize, Privatize the tea partys propaganda while they get rich off us.

    People really hating on the tea party, sure would hate to see it come down to a civil war.One can see how the civil war started in the eighteen hundreds. This one would be the 99% -Vs-1% of the two thousands.

    Could make for some good movies, books, history channel, like the eighteen hundreds civil war did. Always a bright side

    On the BBC i heard the voices of another countrys people that are really pissed off with their so called leaders, Saying… Were here, Were armed and Were angry. Not good.

    IMO, leaders in this country need to stop listening and being influenced by the rich asses like the Koch brothers and others who feel its all about them and what they want, along with fools like Issa in their back pockets ready to sell America out.

    listen and do for all American People as it started “WE” not just the rich tea party propaganda lies, with their little tommy fox news channel beaten the drums of war on the working people and their post offices.

    Little tommy come out to playa, Little tommy come out to playa.

  13. I am SORRY I meant the negative feedback for the person responding as TOM ZLATKIN ( really clever ASSHOLE! ) not CHUCK ZLATKIN ( A REAL ORATOR) the author of this article!
    I still feel that the Postmaster General should just refuse to pay the 5.5 billion and let the problem go to COURT! Then the OVERFUNDING and DISPARITY of this TAX ( yes it is a Postal tax as NO OTHE ENTITY has to pay it) can come to LIGHT! But that won’t happen because he is a SHILL and more worried about his wallet then doing the RIGHT THING!

  14. I think this article is the BEST written, informative and educational editorial put on this Website to date! Mr Zlatkin must have a personal axe to grind against the APWU in his response to this article in so much as his comments DO NOT even deal with the editorial and the facts it brings to light. THANK YOU for the GREAT article!

  15. Well now… maybe collateral damage legislation is just what the doctor order?

    When Fox News the New York Times the Koch heads, Issa and other who choose to ignore fact’s that the Postal Service has over-funded the Civil Service Retirement System by billions and start spreading the hysteria that hurts the Postal Service by a manufactured financial crisis that has plagued the Postal Service which was not an accident, maybe we the people need another kind of Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$… called pay back is a bitch.)

    Just a thought….XOXO.


  17. This is propaganda from the APWU, more bull, the bottom line for APWU is to keep the dues rolling in, to keep Chuck Zlatski’s job and Cliff “No Balls Guffey”s” jobs intact, these national and large local officers, who forgot what the daily battle on the front lines is like, say like National Business Agents telling you,”Management can do that”, having thier own agenda’s like Chuck who wrote this amazing ? article,
    the APWU is a paper tiger, no teeth, no bite, file the grievance, try the internal union struggles, where union officers pull rank on others and make deals, change things to make their lives easier, and hell for fellow union members and harass non union members ,take this union corruption and add abusive and inept management and a living hell is created for APWU represented craft employees,Privatize and get rid of both of these ( Management and Union) abscesses.
    APWU members want to go , and now screw your dues and Cliff “No Balls” Guffey!

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