By MARK GRUENBERG
PAI Staff Writer
Washington (PAI) — Snaking its way from the Washington Navy Yard to the U.S. Senate, a caravan of cars driven by Postal Workers delivered “Save USPS” petitions with two million names on them, demanding lawmakers enact the Heroes Act, including its $25 billion to save the U.S. Postal Service from financial devastation the coronavirus caused to its revenues, and a looming subsequent collapse.
Led by Postal Workers (APWU) President Mark Dimondstein, actor John “Bowser” Bauman and Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, the caravan and its allies delivered the petitions in huge white Express Mail cartons to the foot of Capitol Hill.
Their objective during the “Save The Post Office Day Of Action”: To pressure senators, especially the chamber’s ruling Republicans, to override Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and approve the $3 trillion economic aid measure.
Postal workers and supporters appealed for continuing support from listeners and viewers, by phone and the web, at the hashtag #SaveThePostOffice, at apwu.org/message, or by calling senators toll free at 844-402-1001.
POST OFFICE UNDER THREAT OF GOING BROKE
“The post office is literally under threat of running out of money,” Dimondstein said. Repeating an argument he used before, adding, “The Cares Act” – the prior $2 trillion aid bill Congress passed in March – “generated over $500 billion for private corporations, but nothing for the post office.”
“And if the post office runs out of money, everything else goes up for grabs in terms of service” to the entire nation, since it’s the only delivery service that reaches everyone in the U.S., and cheaply – 55 cents for a first-class letter – he added.
What’s “up for grabs,” Dimondstein said, includes delivery of food, medicines and, importantly, absentee ballots.
INCLUDED IN THE HEROES ACT
The $25 billion for the USPS – included as part of the HEROES Act – would go strictly to offset the crash in postal revenues the coronavirus caused, Dimondstein said.
Among other economic aid, the measure extends federal unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers through Jan. 31 and provides $915 billion to keep state and local governments – including schools – going while the nation combats the Depression caused by anti-coronavirus shutdowns, social distancing and other measures.
But McConnell is sitting on the bill, which the Democratic-run House approved earlier this year. He calls it a “Democratic wish list.” His opposition led the caravan out onto the streets of D.C. Similar processions – all in vehicles to let drivers meet anti-coronavirus social distancing standards – occurred in every state and Puerto Rico.
‘PEOPLE ARE PASSIONATE’
“The petitions can show you what people are passionate about,” Epting, of MoveOn, explained.
“Hundreds of thousands have signed, and more hundreds of thousands got stickers saying ‘We love the Postal Service.’”
The stickers and petitions are not the only evidence of wide support for keeping the USPS up and running and its 630,000 workers, a heavy majority of them unionists and many of them people of color, female, veterans or a combination of those facets, on the job.
OVERWHELMING PUBLIC SUPPORT
Public opinion polls show 91 percent support, including majority Republican support, for the Postal Service – especially in rural areas whose residents depend on it for delivery of food, medicines and other vital items during the pandemic.
And 69 percent of respondents back the direct cash no-strings-attached payment, which is what APWU, the Letter Carriers, the Mail Handlers/Laborers, the AFL-CIO, Jobs With Justice, the Alliance for Retired Americans and other supporters advocate.
The USPS board, all named by GOP President Donald Trump, also supports the aid, and has been very cooperative in providing personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing and other measures to guard against coronavirus spread among USPS workers, Dimondstein said. Nevertheless, thousands have been sickened and 67-70 have died.
TRUMP WANTS TO DISMANTLE, PRIVATIZE USPS
And while the Trump-named board supports the cash, Trump doesn’t. He wants to dismantle the USPS and turn it over to privatizers, several speakers said.
His Treasury Secretary and chief coronavirus aid negotiator, Steve Mnuchin, demands USPS aid depend on firing workers, closing post offices, ending Saturday service, jacking up rates and ripping up union contracts.
The twin threats prompted other speakers to campaign for the no-strings-attached aid.
‘MOST ESSENTIAL ENTERPRISE IN AMERICA’
“The Postal Service is considered the most-essential enterprise in America, and it’s needed now more than ever to overcome this pandemic,” said Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando. Since USPS deficits “have soared into the billions” due to a 50 percent decline in money-making first-class mail, “the Senate leadership must step up and send a clear signal to the entire country” that it supports USPS and its workers, by passing the HEROES Act.
“I live in a small community in Southern New Jersey,” JWJ Executive Director Erica Smiley explained. She telecommutes to her job, but her neighbors “depend on the Postal Service for medicines, food and often personal contact” when quarantined by the coronavirus. The $25 billion “is an opportunity to fully invest in a public Postal Service.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka coupled his support of the money for the USPS with a direct shot at Trump said. “The USPS works at serving us, but they’re under attack not just from the virus, but from their own government. Why is our president trying to drive the agency into oblivion? It’s ideology. It’s privatization... and it’s shameful.”