The full frontal right-wing political and corporate beat down continues on the United States Postal Service and, if anything, it’s getting more vicious and insidious. To put it bluntly, the USPS is barreling toward a virtual collapse before our very eyes.
It all started with HR 6407, a putrid piece of legislation called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, the fault of both Democrats and Republicans. It called for a 75-year pre-funding of retirement health benefits within 10 years, a requirement of no other public agency or corporation. On the plus side for UPS, FedEx, Pitney Bowes and other competitors, it guarantees destruction of the USPS and its unions.
The Senate has recently crafted a bill, S 1486 paying down an obligation of 40 years instead of 75, but, incredibly, it allows for the cutting of health and retirement benefits. In testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month, American Postal Workers Union (APWU) President, Cliff Guffey, excoriated the effort.
Fredric Rolando, President of the National Association of Letter Carriers also testified before the committee with equal negative fervor. PostalReporter.com quoted the additional objections that the bill eliminated Saturday mail delivery and business door delivery, phased out household door delivery and created a two-tier postal workforce. In his opinion (and mine) all designed to “Drive the Postal Service into a death spiral.”
The turncoat Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe urged inclusion in the bill of removal of postal workers from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. He also testified before the committee that he wanted the Postal Service to cut retirement benefits, reduce services and compensation for injured workers and alter the collective bargaining process. “With friends like Donahoe…!!!”
As most people are aware, the postal service is a self-sustaining entity, thanks in large measure to so-called “junk mail.” Taxpayers are largely off the hook with the exception of kicking in a few bucks for voter materials abroad and for the disabled.
What most people are not aware of is a burgeoning population of older postal workers who are closing in on retirement, especially at the EAS (Executive and Administrative Schedule) supervisory and managerial levels. So the great irony is that while these people are heading to the old fishing hole, the USPS has begun offering early retirement to some 15,000 current employees. Contradictorily, higher-ups in certain regions are holding meetings urging employees to apply for EAS jobs. Talk about a cluster-f! That’s after the workforce has already been cut by nearly 200,000 since passage of the 6407. Hatchet man , Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, claims 100,000 more workers will need to go to make a profit.
Politically, Salt Lake City has been the benefactor of the imminent closure of the next-to-the-last of the Data Encoding Centers (DEC) in Wichita, Kansas. A DEC is an imaging center for unreadable addresses. Such addresses are scanned into special technology and an indecipherable scratch or scribble becomes a name and/or address. There were 55 DECs in operation in 1997; SLC will be the only survivor, though the other DEC in Wichita is still operational while SLC strains to find enough qualified bodies. A reasonable question being asked by postal employees is, “What happens if there’s a problem in Salt Lake?” Reasonable because there have been such problems on at least 3-4 occasions in the last MONTH. With Wichita as backup it was business as usual. Without that backup facility???
As other DEC’s dropped like flies, PostalReporter.com revealed that the SLC DEC moved and expanded from 28,000 square feet to 74,000 square feet. A friend pointed out that the Utah capital is certainly not the most practical choice. It’s certainly not. Living expenses are higher than the vast majority of options. The unemployment rate is 4.6 in Utah, 4.2 in Salt Lake City as compared to 7.3% nationwide and two major corporations (and their jobs) moved into SLC this year.
So good luck finding a Salt Lake rental home or apartment that’ll accommodate kids for less than a grand a month. Buying? A recent Zillow Home Value Index listed a range of $150,000 to over a half-million even in these relatively lower-priced housing times. So the SLC location is definitely not ‘P’ for Practical, it’s ‘P’ for Political.
Political being the most important consideration should surprise no one insofar as this wildly Republican state gave empty suit Mitt Romney three-quarters of the presidential vote in 2012 and now features a newly-minted Senator Mike Lee, a witless boob who describes himself as a “Tea Party Revolutionary” (whatever that is). It was Lee who stood by the side of nutzoid Ted Cruz during the latter’s infantile Obamacare-defunding filibuster and even gave him a breather. All we really know is that Cruz can talk for 21 hours and 19 minutes without having to revert to 1 or 2, quite amazing considering that #2 made up virtually all of the Senator’s filibuster.
Barring a right-wing return to political sanity, you get to pay 49 cents for your first-class stamps in the very near future after an increase to 46 cents in January. Same old Republican propaganda strategy. Hate the USPS for something that isn’t remotely the fault of the Postal Service. But in Dumb Right-Wing America (DRWA), it works every time.
There’s a solution. Add services to the USPS roster, especially assorted banking services. Europe is way ahead of the curve on that one with innovative digital services the latest initiative in some venues. The Daily Kos and other intelligent and aware Websites have been proffering reasonable and, in some cases, obvious panaceas for the artificial ailments that Congress has intentionally inflicted on the USPS. Here’s a Salon.com example from earlier this year.
See, it’s an ailment with a relatively easy cure that must, of course, include the repeal of the asinine HR 6407. If we, as consumers, continue to be victimized by yet another corporate-sponsored Republican blockade, we can lose all of our political leverage over delivery services and pricing.
It’s clear that the USPS has zero allies on the Republican side of the aisle and, frankly, not enough ballsy Democrats to make up the difference. What’s that old saying? “Vote the bums out?”