Workers face loss of more than 100,000 jobs as Obama joins attack on postal service

Posted: March 24, 2012 in News
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The US Postal Service, claiming that it faces annual losses that will mount to $18.2 billion by 2015, has announced that it will go ahead with the elimination of up to 264 mail processing centers around the country, reducing the postal workforce by up to 155,000 jobs, on top of the 130,000 jobs that have been cut over the past three years.

President Barack Obama’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year calls for the destruction of tens of thousands of postal positions, as well as the elimination of Saturday mail delivery as early as January 2013.

Other attacks on the immediate agenda are the end or the weakening of the overnight delivery guarantee for first class mail, and the closure of up to 3,700 post offices around the country, devastating many neighborhoods as well as small towns and rural areas where the poor and elderly are particularly dependent upon their local post office.

The Congressional attack on postal workers and the population as a whole is a bipartisan one. Leading the campaign is the right-wing Republican representative from California, Darrell Issa. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has introduced legislation that will, among other things, create a new oversight board for the postal service with the power to override union contracts and managerial decisions.

Meanwhile Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has secured the signatures of 26 other Senate Democrats who object to the drastic cuts and propose various other measures and less draconian attacks. Sanders, who sometimes calls himself a “socialist,” in fact functions as a loyal member of the Democratic caucus and a supporter of the Obama administration. The Obama White House has itself announced its agreement with many of the cuts, including the elimination of Saturday mail delivery. Obama’s proposed 2013 budget also calls for the restructuring of postal employee health benefits, which will translate into postal workers paying more for their health benefits and receiving less.

The ongoing attacks on the postal service have their origin in the creation of the USPS itself, 40 years ago. As a quasi-governmental agency under Congressional control, the postal service has adopted the for-profit business model. Unlike other government agencies, it must balance its books and pay its own way without government subsidy. This business model was aimed from the outset at suppressing the militant postal workforce, and also at the eventual privatization of the whole mail delivery system.

An example of the ruthless Congressional assault on this vital public service is the 2006 legislation that mandates the USPS to, over the next decade, prepay the health care benefits of current and future employees for the next 75 years. This is a mandate that no other private or public institution faces.

So drastic are the implications of the end of the first-class mail guarantee that the USPS was forced earlier this month to announced a “suspension of the consolidation efforts during the election mailing season to avoid any adverse effect on the November election.” One out of five voters now casts ballots by mail, and delays in mail delivery could lead to confusion, chaos and even disqualification of many votes.

The only response of the unions to the devastating attacks on postal jobs and services has been to organize toothless protests and ad campaigns, while solidifying their alliance with the Democratic representatives of big business. The AFL-CIO Executive Board, including representatives of the National Association of Letter Carriers and American Postal Workers Union, just voted unanimously to endorse Obama’s bid for a second term. The union executives and the Democratic politicians are united in opposition to any struggle for the full funding and expansion of the postal service.

A number of postal workers in the metropolitan New York area spoke to the WSWS about Obama’s call for the elimination of Saturday delivery.

Jason Robinson is a letter carrier with five years service at the Main Post Office in Flushing, Queens. He said, “I am not for the elimination of Saturday mail service because eventually it will lead to layoffs and cutbacks. It will probably eliminate floaters and subs. A floater is someone who does my route on my day off. I work five days a week, and then the floater takes my route on the sixth day. With the elimination of Saturday delivery, then there would be no need for the floaters. All told I think this may eliminate 100,000 jobs.

“I thought the Democrats were supposed to help. They would make things easier and support the working class. This is not helpful. It is harmful. If you eliminate 17 percent of USPS service and lay off a lot of people, you are not helping the economy.

“They should find a way to encourage people to use first class mail. Give people a reason to use it. This means making sure the delivery service is better, not worse. This is like what is happening to the New York City transit system, the MTA. You can’t cut the service, raise the prices and force the workers to do more work for less money.”

 

Read full story >> Workers face loss of more than 100,000 jobs as Obama joins attack on postal service.

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