JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: With the contract for United States postal workers set to expire in less than a week, more than 100 locals across 44 states are taking their message to the streets.
MARK DIMONDSTEIN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION: We’re certainly fighting to protect and expand good living wage jobs and good wages and benefits, because that helps our–it not only helps postal workers and our families, it helps our communities and it helps our country. Secondly, we’re fighting for the people of the country in terms of the best possible service. So we’re talking to the Post Office about doing things like postal banking, where people aren’t going to get ripped off by payday lenders and check cashing places. And the Post Office is everywhere and it’s trusted.
DESVARIEUX: Ideas like postal banking are not foreign to the U.S. During the first part of the 20th century, post offices provided many financial services. But almost 60 years later, it was phased out under President Lyndon Johnson after the amount of deposits diminished drastically. According to USPS records, by 1947 the Postal Savings System had the equivalent of about $36 billion in today’s dollars, but in 1967 it had the equivalent of $3 billion.
Higher interest rates from private banks, the passage of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act in 1933 which enabled private banks to guarantee deposits, and a strong bank lobby all contributed to the demise of the Postal Savings System. With this history, we asked how postal workers today plan to fight the banking lobby.
DIMONDSTEIN: Look, the banks have abandoned these communities. They should have no beef. And their resistance to, where it is–and we think some banks may be for this. But where the resistance is, we’re just going to expose that they’ve abandoned these communities. And they’re probably behind the payday lending industry and funding it, and so on and so forth. So some of it’s education, some of it’s getting out in the streets and fighting for it.
DESVARIEUX: The postal service is also fighting its own public image. With many post office closings and the rise of email, the public narrative is that the Post Office is broke and a drain on the government. But in reality, although the Post Office is part of the U.S. Constitution it is not funded by taxpayers, but instead by its users.
The president of the American Postal Workers’ Union says the true drain is the current retiree payment structure.
DIMONDSTEIN: The 2006–called the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act–was a bipartisan law passed in Congress that actually had created a manufactured financial crisis in the Post Office. It made the Post Office pre-fund retiree health benefits. Not retirement benefits, but retiree health benefits, 75 years into the future. They had to do it in ten years. No other company, no other agency has to do that. $5.5 billion in a year taken out of the treasury of the Post Office, put into the Federal Treasury, and then people saying, well look, the Post Office is failing, they’re broke. Well, everybody would be broke like that.
DESVARIEUX: Actor and activist Danny Glover was also on hand showing his support for a robust postal service. For Glover this struggle is personal. Both his mother and father worked for the postal service. His brother was a letter carrier and his sister was a postal clerk. But he says this fight goes beyond his family, since a weak postal system will affect all everyday people.
DANNY GLOVER, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: We see these jobs, we see the responsibility, the hours cut back. The services cut at the post office. We see also not only the services cut at the post office, you see distribution, mail distribution centers close down. There’s an attempt to create a Post Office that’s not a Post Office of services that it has been traditionally, but a Post Office of greed. A Post Office, those who want to privatize it. Those who want to make a profit off the Post Office.
DESVARIEUX: A message these workers say they will continue to stand up for.
For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.