This summer, the White House proposed selling off the United States Postal Service to private corporations.
As a 22-year postal worker, I’ll be joining co-workers, our families and neighbors across the country on Oct. 8, rallying in support of our Postal Service. Our message to those who would sell off our national treasure to the highest bidder: U.S. mail is not for sale.
Many may think that in the internet age, the Postal Service has outlived its usefulness, and that the decline of letter mail is the cause of the Postal Service’s financial troubles. But the Postal Service actually turns a profit on its deliveries.
The truth is that the USPS’s problems were largely created by Congress.
A bipartisan 2006 law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, mandated that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits 75 years into the future. That means we have to fund retirement benefits for postal employees who haven’t even been born yet.
It’s a crushing burden that no other agency or company — public or private — is required to meet, or could even survive.
The mandate drained $5.5 billion a year out of Postal Service funds and accounts for more than 90 percent of its losses. In fact, if it weren’t for this manufactured crisis, the USPS would have reported profits in four of the last five years — all without receiving a dime of taxpayer money.
While it’s true that the way people use the mail is changing, the Postal Service still is a vital part of the country’s infrastructure.
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Package volumes have exploded with the e-commerce boom. Companies as large as Amazon and as small as a one-room Etsy vendor rely on the Postal Service. USPS delivers 30 percent of FedEx Ground packages and 40 percent of all of Amazon’s many shipments. The USPS is at the heart of a $1.7 trillion mailing industry that employs more than 7.5 million people.
A recent Pew Survey showed 88 percent of Americans view the USPS favorably. One reason for this success is our commitment to serve 157 million homes and businesses six — and sometimes seven — days per week. Our public Postal Service reaches everyone, everywhere, no matter one’s health, wealth, age, or race. We should never lose sight that it’s veterans, seniors, and people in rural areas who rely most on the Postal Service.
What could we expect if the Postal Service were sold to off to private interests? Higher prices, slower delivery, and an end to universal, uniform, and affordable service to every corner of the country. And who would pay the price? All of us.
Postal services privatized abroad provide a cautionary tale: In the UK, postage is up nearly 80 percent since 2007. Portuguese post has closed nearly a third of its offices.
Our postal system is older than the country itself. And along the way, one fundamental fact has always been true: Our postal system has never belonged to any president, any political party, or any company. It’s belonged to the people of this country.
Postal workers are rallying to urge lawmakers to stop the selling off a public service for private profit — and to remind everyone the Postal Service is yours. Keep it.
• Julie Bates works at the Des Moines post office. Her column is distributed by OtherWords.org.