USPS delivers much more than mail

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For our citizens, for our democracy, for our livelihood, we must support the USPS in every way we can.

America’s postal service has been an essential institution that has connected every one of us as Americans even before we were a nation independent of Great Britain.

Benjamin Franklin was appointed our first postmaster general in 1775. This democratic treasure, which has proven as reliable as it has self-sufficient, was a model for how government service should work.

Its rich history is America’s history of adaptability, ingenuity and grit. And true to its roots, the revitalized United States Postal Service (USPS) knew how to make a buck.

But then HR 6407 came along in 2007. The act mandated that the post office calculate its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including workers to come, and set aside enough over the next 10 years to cover them.

An article appearing in Business Insider put the impact of the requirement this way: “To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.”

Not Ben’s USPS

The bill and its contents have proven devastating. The long and the short of it has meant that the USPS has had to contribute about $5.6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the amount for current retirees.

No business is forced to operate like this, and I dare to add that no business could operate like this.

Also, the new bill took away the ability for the post office to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other post office products have all been tied to the consumer price index, and therefore the post office could not increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation.

All told, the post office has incurred a loss of $78 billion from 2007 through 2019 and owes $55 billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations. Add in lost revenue related to COVID-19 and politically charged controversies over reductions in equipment and attendant slowdowns, the USPS is now in dire straits.

Since the emergence of COVID-19, USPS workers have been on the front lines, delivering millions of personal protective equipment and vital supplies to hospitals.

They’ve made sure shelters, food banks, and businesses have the supplies they need. In addition, they’ve made deliveries to home-bound, highly susceptible individuals.

Protecting American voices

Then think about the importance of the post office in ensuring that the people’s will in our democracy will be accurately and duly noted. In November, the postal service will play a crucial role in allowing Americans across our land and in foreign countries to cast their vote in our upcoming presidential election.

So many of us will be turning to the USPS to deliver our ballots safely and securely.

And please also think of the USPS and those in its employ. The postal service has delivered a solid, secure, middle class life style to a more than 600,000 workers and to an especially high number of Latino and African Americans.

Save the USPS

Fortunately, there is a way forward. The Delivery for America Act (H.R. 8015) can help make this happen.

This legislation will deliver urgently needed funds to the postal service and reverse detrimental policy changes that are currently restricting postal workers’ ability to deliver mail and packages on time.

The act has passed the House of Representatives. The Senate must follow suit immediately.

Across the nation, delivery of mail has slowed dramatically due to the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent decisions.

Eliminating overtime and cutting down on late trips has created massive mail backlogs, leading to late deliveries of critical prescription medications, and threatening the integrity of the upcoming November election. This bill would help address the backlog by remedying the impact of these policies and prohibiting “any change that would have the effect of delaying, deferring, or curtailing mail, allowing for the non-delivery of mail to a delivery route, or increasing the volume of undelivered mail.”

The Delivery for America Act appropriates the $25 billion that the USPS requested to sustain the level of service all Americans depend on.

We must protect postal workers’ jobs. And we must ensure a safe and secure election.

In the coming weeks, voters across the country will prepare to exercise their civic duty to elect their government, and Congress must do everything in its power to ensure that voters will be able to do so safely.

For our citizens, for our democracy, for our livelihood, we must support the USPS in every way we can.

Ray Curry is the secretarytreasurer of United Auto Workers (UAW). 

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