USPS

WANTED: HELPING HAND FROM UNCLE SAM: These postal workers outside the Planetarium Station on the Upper West Side of Manhattan were among those who turned out June 23 to dramatize the possibility of the U.S. Postal Service running out of money before summer's end unless Republicans in the U.S. Senate drop their opposition to a $25-billion funding infusion that has already been approved by the House of Representatives.  

Thousands of U.S. Postal Service union members and their supporters launched a national ''day of action" June 23 to pressure the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for its continued operation.

Without it, the agency, which employs 600,000 people, is projected to run out of money by September. The USPS relies entirely on the revenue it generates to fund operations but has been particularly hard-hit by the economic and public-health fallout from the coronavirus.

House Authorized Aid

On May 15, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which includes the $25-billion USPS cash infusion along with a $10-billion line of credit for the mail service. It also would fund a hazard-pay premium for postal and other essential workers.

It has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Members of the New York Metro Area Postal Union rallied at 16 locations in the five boroughs, while colleagues delivered a petition with two million signatures on it to the Senate on Capitol Hill. In other parts of the country, the day of action featured motor-vehicle caravans.

In a national online video presentation, American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein said there had been a 30-percent drop in mail volume during the pandemic, in which at least 70 postal workers were among the 125,000 killed by the disease in the U.S. 

He warned, "And what is going to happen is the Post Office is literally running out of money because the revenue is not going to be there. In this situation, because of the crisis the Post Office does need congressionally-appropriated relief to get through this crisis and get back on its feet."

Big Firms, Yes; UPS, No

He noted that when Congress passed the original $2.2 trillion CARES Act as part of its response to the crisis, $500 billion of that went to support private corporations, with nothing allocated to help the USPS.

At a lunch-time demonstration on the steps of the Farley Post Office, Jonathan Smith, the president of the NY Metro, said that his local had lost 15 people to COVID-19 and that hundreds of other members contracted the virus.

The local represents 4,600 postal workers in Manhattan and the Bronx, as well as two mail-distribution facilities in Hudson County, N.J.

"The HEROES stimulus package is up at the Senate, and the Postal Service is hurting just like everybody else due to the COVID pandemic. And we are asking the American public to support their postal service," Mr. Smith said. 

He added that postal workers deserved the hazard-pay premium provided under the HEROES Act.

Praise for Other 'Essentials'

"But it is not just us but all of the other essential workers like the grocery workers and truck drivers, the people we don't usually think about; that we didn't even want to give $15 an hour to and now seem to be the most important," he said.

Mr. Smith said the pandemic was a source of stress for his members, who beyond their own health feared infecting their families.

"That's what I have been talking about---the psychological and emotional effect because you are putting yourself at risk because you have to do whatever you have to do for your family," he said. "But what if you live with an elderly mother or you live with your children and you have to live with the risk of bringing this home to them?"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dismissed the HEROES Act as "grab bag" and "not a serious effort." He has conditioned any additional aid package to extending liability protections for corporations.

Trump Also Hostile

President Trump has opposed additional financial support for the Postal Service, which he called a "joke" in April. He also refused to follow through on establishing the $10-billion line of credit for agency approved in the House unless it hiked its package-delivery charges by 400 percent.

Earlier this year, he dismissed the USPS as "a delivery boy" for Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, whose critical coverage of the President has led him to label the paper "fake news."

The pedestrian flow along Eighth Ave. during the union rally consisted mainly of construction workers, who took the union's flyers.

Mr. Smith and MAPU members were joined by David Lippman, a satirical songwriter who brought his guitar. He led them in a rendition of "Please Mr. Boastman", a parody of the Motown hit by the Marvelettes, that took aim at the President's animus toward the USPS.

"All these attacks are totally fake," he sang. "It's the unions that they want to break. They want to put democracy up for sale and to be sure they hate vote by mail."

Fighting Privatization

For several years, the postal unions have campaigned against a privatization drive by Republican officials, which has picked up momentum under the Trump Administration.

On June 3, the AFL-CIO New York City Central Labor Council passed a resolution supporting Senate action on the aid package, noting that the Postal Service provides universal mail service to 159 million addresses and delivers 1.2 billion medical prescriptions a year.

The group, which includes more than 300 unions with 1.3 million members, urged them to call their two Senators and request "immediate financial relief for the Postal Service, and ask their friends, relatives and co-workers to do the same with their two Senators, especially those who live in rural states."

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