By Alex Henderson, AlterNet, 5/14/14
If USPS in its current form ceases to exist, the results will be harsh.
On April 24, members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and other unions held 56 “Stop Staples” demonstrations in 27 different states. The postal workers, carrying signs that read, “The U.S. mail is NOT for sale,” were protesting against a privatization deal between the U.S. Postal Service and the office supply chain Staples.
Launched in October 2013, the deal allows non-unionized employees of 82 Staples stores to help sort mail. If the program is expanded later this year, that number could increase to 1,500 stores. In a press release, APWU said of the program, “Staples employees, who work for low wages and meager benefits—and who have received minimal training—operate these unsecured postal counters.”
APWU sees the Staples deal as a step toward much greater privatization of the U.S. Postal Service, and they are right to be concerned, not only because of the interests of postal workers, but also, because the privatization or dismantling of the U.S. Postal Service will be terrible for American consumers and small businesses.
It’s no secret that times have been challenging for USPS. The increase in digital communications has resulted in many Americans spending much less on postage than 15 or 20 years ago. In 2006, a Republican-dominated Congress passed a bill forcing USPS to pre-fund future health benefits for retirees for the next 75 years (which Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has characterized as an “onerous financial burden”). To make matters worse, USPS has been facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And a combination of Republicans, Libertarians and neoliberal Blue Dog Democrats have been calling for drastic service cuts and privatization schemes. Ted DeHaven, budget analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has repeatedly called for the total privatization of the U.S. Postal Service.
But if USPS in its current form ceases to exist, the results will be harsh, not only in terms of the job losses and loss of tax revenue (unionized postal workers pay a lot of federal and state taxes), but because of the hardships both businesses and consumers would suffer. The end of the U.S. Postal Service could mean more business for its two main privately owned competitors, Federal Express and the United Parcel Service (UPS). But to think either would offer a better deal to consumers is pure fantasy.
USPS is a government-run operation but is not taxpayer-funded—it is mandated by law to run like a business and turn a profit, but is subject to regulations and price controls and operates as a public service. Because USPS is governed by rules UPS and FedEx aren’t subject to, consumers and businesses benefit. USPS cannot charge more for mail delivery to one part of the U.S. than to another part of the U.S., but in a post-USPS America, all bets are off. And a comparison of USPS and non-USPS prices offers a glimpse into life without the U.S. Postal Service. …
keep reading and see links at AlterNet