(This article first appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Clerk Craft Directors
Millions of Americans utilize USPS on a daily basis, yet the public desire for a Postal Service that serves the common good is trumped by the financial wealth and political power of relatively few owners of large corporations that utilize the Postal Service for advertising purposes. Even though the large mailers receive huge discounts for their mailings, they want to decrease their institutional postage costs even further by reducing service to the American public and cutting the wages and benefits of postal workers.
The Large Mailers’ Agenda
The large mailers’ agenda is essentially self-interest: To increase service and profit for them, and decrease service and good jobs to regular Americans. Given that large mailers bypass the plant network by drop shipping most of their mailings, large mailers pushconsolidations and the resulting mail delays in order to reduce overall costs for themselves. They also advocate increased discounts for their mailings and have corporate Democrats like the Brookings Institution’s Elaine Kamarck, arguing on their behalf in an attempt to privatize all mail processing.
Large mailers do not often visit retail windows at post offices and their institutional costs are substantially reduced by having retail work performed by private corporations paying low wages. Therefore, large mailers often push for reduced service at public post offices and encourage the USPS to outsource work to Village Post Offices (VPOs), Contract Postal Units (CPUs), and Approved Shippers in order to reduce overall costs for themselves – at the expense of public service and family-wage jobs.
In addition, a coalition of large mailers is pushing for the reduction of the USPS workforce, as well as lower wages and benefits for postal workers. Ominously, they are also lobbying for legislation that would change the rules of interest arbitration to require a consideration of the financial situation of the USPS in collective bargaining.
Clearly, large mailers do not support a vibrant public Postal Service. Many are bankers or otherwise associated with the financial industry. Therefore, a powerful coalition of them have argued against the Postal Service offering affordable financial services to the American people. They prefer to make profits by ripping off the American people, offering high cost banking services through payday lenders and other corporations such as Walmart.
How Do Large Mailers Exert Influence?
The large mailers communicate directly with USPS on a regular basis and help decide the direction of the Postal Service through their participation on the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC). MTAC has pushed the USPS to implement presorting, drop shipping, automated verification of business mail, service standard changes and more. They also are very influential in selecting corporate-friendly members of the Board of Governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The large mailers pushed Congress to place an unreasonable price cap on postage in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA). The postage price cap along with the requirement for the aggressive prefunding of health care for retirees created a manufactured financial crisis at the Postal Service. This false crisis is now being used to make real cuts in service.
What Can We Do?
The future of the Clerk Craft and the APWU will be determined by how well we fight back against the self-interest of a few relatively wealthy individuals utilizing the Postal Service to their advantage. Postal workers and community members should educate each other and expose the large mailers’ influence over the Postal Service through press conferences, articles and discussions in friendly media outlets, panel discussions, social media, rallies, and other events. Ultimately, we have to address a system that allows the few to benefit at the expense of the many.