COVID-19: We Can’t Allow Trump to Destroy the Postal Service: Union Official

Donald Trump is threatening the Post Office’s vital services during a pandemic in which 900 postal workers have tested positive and over 35 have died, writes Chuck Zlatkin.

Detail of AFLCIO poster. (Artwork by Favianna Rodriguez)

By Chuck Zlatkin
The Indypendent

Donald Trump is an enemy of public mail service. He made it clear that he would not approve the so-called stimulus package passed by Congress last month if there was any relief for the U.S. Postal Service.

Trump has no idea what the Postal Service means to everyday Americans. He has no idea how many people depend upon the Postal Service to get medications that keep them alive, keep them sane or keep them from excruciating pain. The answer is that it delivers 1.2 billion prescriptions annually.

Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on April  9 that if the Postal Service didn’t receive relief, it would run out of money by September. Most people don’t realize the Postal Service receives no taxpayer money. It supports itself on the sale of stamps and other services.

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the economy and with it, the income of the Postal Service. It is not the first time this has happened. In 2008, the economic crisis created by the greed of Wall Street and the banks brought about the closing of post offices and more than two-thirds of mail-processing centers, and a reduction in delivery standards. The Postal Service was already reeling from the financial burdens placed on it by Congress with the passage of the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act of 2006, which requires it to put about $5.5 billion a year aside to cover the costs of retirees’ healthcare 75 years in advance.

The virus poses an immediate threat to postal workers’ health and safety. There are 600,000 postal workers who sort, transport and deliver the mail, who sell stamps and money orders in over 31,000 post offices. When Covid-19 hit, the Postal Service wasn’t much better than Amazon or McDonald’s in supplying personal protective equipment for its workers.

Postal Workers Are Unionized

U.S. postal worker on strike, 1970. (APWU, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The big difference is that postal workers are unionized and have collective bargaining agreements. The unions, particularly the American Postal Workers Union, took up the fight. The Postal Service eventually moved to get its workers the equipment necessary for their safety, but it took too long and isn’t yet universal. This may explain why over 900 postal workers have tested positive for Covid-19 infection and over 35 have died from it.

Much of Trump’s animus for the Postal Service stems from his anger at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ ownership of The Washington Post. He falsely claimed that the Postal Service doesn’t make money on its agreement with Amazon. But privatizing the Postal Service has been a goal of the far right for generations. Not surprisingly, the task force that Trump created to study the postal system, headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, came up with a report in December 2018 calling for the eventual sale of the Postal Service to private corporations. Six months earlier, the federal Office of Management and Budget came out with a plan to make it more attractive to potential buyers by eliminating collective bargaining for postal workers’ wages. 

Postal workers won that right because of the Great Postal Strike of 1970. It was memorialized with the creation of the APWU in 1971 and in the national agreement that the union has as the representative of workers, just as the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association have in their contracts. This is a great irritant to Trump because other federal workers don’t have these rights.

The push for privatization brings together two forces on the right: the anti-government ideologues who are at war with the Postal Service because it is consistently the nation’s most popular government agency, and the private corporations who want to get their piece of the $80 billion in business the USPS does each year. Of course, those corporations have no intention of providing the same level of service. They would almost certainly raise prices and cut or eliminate delivery in rural areas.

Now, with the pandemic of 2020 stifling the economy, the Postal Service is suffering financially again. The original House stimulus bill called for $31 billion in aid, much of it as a grant that wouldn’t have to be paid back. Trump only allowed a $10 billion loan, putting the Postal Service further in debt.

In addition to providing essential services to people all over the nation, the postal service also employs more veterans and disabled veterans than anyone else. It provides living-wage, union jobs for its workers.

Rather than shutting the post office or selling it, the Postal Service’s infrastructure should be used to add more services for the American people. Postal banking can provide a solution for the millions of unbanked and underbanked people who have been abandoned by the commercial banks and preyed upon by the payday-loan industry. 

Voting by mail is becoming increasingly popular. Three states, Washington, Oregon and Colorado, conduct their elections solely by mail and consistently rank among the highest in voter participation. In the age of Covid-19, voting by mail would guarantee voting access to all. The leading opponent of voting by mail is Donald Trump. This could be another reason why he has the Postal Service in his cross-hairs. 

The post office, founded in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin, is older than this country. It is owned by the people and it should stay that way. The U.S. Mail Is Not for Sale!

Chuck Zlatkin is the legislative and political director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, part of APWU.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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6 comments for “COVID-19: We Can’t Allow Trump to Destroy the Postal Service: Union Official

  1. April 27, 2020 at 09:14

    In the early 00’s I had several adjunct courses at UMKC on the web about the web. I had just read a terrific book on the Post Office:
    Spreading The News, The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse, by Richard R. John, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-83338-4 (cloth) ISBN 0-674-83342-2 (paperback) Richard John is an associate professor of history at the University of Illinois.

    Here is an excerpt from the top of the page followed by a URL (in chopped format)

    The Postal Act of 1792 ~=~=~ Net Neutrality Today
    A Post Office For Democracy
    … and a Model for Net Neutrality Today

    Without information the United States would not be the United States. The Post Office created a national identity we didn’t have at the start. In 1792, the fourth year after the constitution replaced the Federation, the modern Post Office was formed. The existing Post Office was vulnerable to government surveillance, to patronage, to postmasters who were often printers and who might or might not transport a rival printer’s newspaper.

    The Post Office Act of 1792 would be very important to the development of democracy. It had four factors which were central to the role it would play in the nation.

    All postal routes were created and set by congress.
    There was no minimum required revenue to setup and run a post office.
    The privacy of the mail was protected – no government surveilance (23 May 2005 note)
    Newspaper exchange between printers was free.

    When the constitution was created there was almost no sense of a nation. The states were what the average citizen related to. The Post Office became almost the only visible connection with the federal government. By 1831 postal employees made up 74-percent of all federal employees and by 1841 the figure was 79-percent. There was no federal income tax and very few other federal agencies which intruded on average lives. The post office was the federal goverment to most people.

    Percent of Federal Workers Who Were Postal Workers
    1831 – 74%
    1841 – 79%

    In England and Europe at the same time new post offices had to have a return in revenue. France required $200 a year. In the US congress members appointed postmasters everywhere. Often the appointees were part timers but they were a gathering point for information. Although these appointments were made by congress members there was no central plan. They followed the scent trail of settlement. There was a small set of rules which produced an emergent effect which went well beyond the operating rules themselves. Little by little a sense of a national identity emerged. As Ken Burns noted, before the civil war we called ourselves these United States and after the war we called ourselves the United States.

    === url to archived page: This time without the URL

  2. robert e williamson jr
    April 26, 2020 at 18:13

    Now I have a petition so sign,

  3. robert e williamson jr
    April 26, 2020 at 18:12

    I could not agree with Mr. Zlatkin more. In fact I believe that the republicans need to be reminded hourly that since they are in lock step with the “Supreme Leader” , they will be held accountable for allowing this travesty to continue unabated.

    Our government has taken a turn down to road to perdition, led evidently by religious zealots and their hand picked mad-man. These people who present a clear and present danger to others, see Trumps advice on drinking disinfectant.

    The Senate on the republicans side has become worthless as a governing body seemingly trying t0o play this psycho fake president against the public simply because they have the majority. I guess since the democrats are getting paid off our dime they figure they will just run out the clock on this dim-wit’s fake presidency. The results of their inaction, I guess they figure, will hardly be noticed while the county’s economy circle the drain. If I were them I wouldn’t count on that!

    This mess will still haunt us twenty years from now, that is if we make it that long. And why? Because of a hopelessly corrupt two party system. This two party system is a failure of an idea. As Beau at the Fifth Column News says Ideas stand or fall on their own merit.

    The two party system has a fatal flaw, the lobby. As things exist today an activist SCOTUS and an impotent, corrupted prosecutorial and court system has rendered little true justice be served on the SUPER WEALTHY ELITISTS .

    First we had a lying George bush, 43, the avid consumer of fake intelligence that cost us trillions and now this , we have the evidence of a complete failure of the two party system and his name is Trump.

    If we don’t do something to stop this madness we will not have better days anytime soon.

  4. bryan carry
    April 24, 2020 at 23:17

    Please go to to sign petition and get more information. We cannot allow the aristocracy to kill one of our most important institutions.

    April 24, 2020 at 04:12

    “Donald Trump is an enemy of public mail service.”

    Yes, but that’s what he is to everything useful or decent, especially where ordinary people are involved, an enemy.

    “Trump has no idea what the Postal Service means to everyday Americans.”

    Indeed, but he has no idea about anything else that he speaks about either – from coronavirus to Venezuela.

    He is the most stubbornly ignorant and arrogant man ever to occupy his office.

  6. Sam F
    April 23, 2020 at 19:10

    Privatization of the USPS would be a disaster, another attack by corrupt politicians on all Americans. The USPS is a fine model of service to the people without a profit motive, and should be expanded. It would be best to expand Social Security for their healthcare needs, as they may have to raise prices to cover the “$5.5 billion a year [invested for] retirees’ healthcare,” but perhaps they can put that into granting mortgages, at least to USPS workers, rather than buying stocks.

Comments are closed.