The public Postal Service belongs to all the people. Its valuable mission is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and mandated in legislation to “provide postal services to bind the Nation together” and to “provide prompt, reliable and efficient services to patrons in all areas.” Incredibly, the USPS provides universal service six-days a week to 156 million addresses and extensive Sunday package delivery. Postal services are provided no matter who we are or where we live – at reasonable rates – without the use of any taxpayer dollars.
During the upcoming holiday season so many of us rely on the trusted United States Postal Service to deliver in a timely fashion and connect family and friends. In this ever-increasing boom in online shopping and massive package growth, no American institution is better positioned to serve the people of our country with the ongoing ecommerce revolution.
So why were postal workers, politicians and their community supporters protesting on November 8 in downtown Des Moines?
Postal workers are dedicated public servants and believe that postal customers deserve the best of service. However, in Des Moines, USPS management plans to slash jobs by more than 20 percent, both inside the facility where mail is processed and at the windows where retail clerks interact with customers. That’s totally unacceptable. So is the fact that many individual customers and businesses in Des Moines are already experiencing mail delays, and further understaffing will only make matters worse.
The problem reaches way beyond Iowa, and it’s not just postal workers and customers who are upset. The US Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency, reported in March 2017 that the USPS is failing to meet its own service goals. First-class mail isn’t being delivered on time, and neither are periodicals nor packages.
The USPS does face new challenges. And, yes, there are some financial hurdles which were directly caused by a 2006 law that forced the Postal Service to “pre-fund” retiree health costs 75 years into the future, draining postal funds by $5.5 billion/year. No other agency or business faces such an unfair burden; a burden that translates to lower customer service and satisfaction. Congress manufactured this problem and could quickly solve it by passing long-stalled bipartisan postal reform legislation.
The men and women of the American Postal Workers Union who work in Des Moines’ post offices can’t wait for Congress to act. We have taken our concerns to the public and will continue to fight for both quality postal services that all our customers deserve and the good jobs our communities need.
Rather than cutting jobs and service, postal management should improve and expand by ensuring shorter wait times at retail counters, quicker mail processing and delivery and providing basic financial and other services. The postal service is indeed a national treasure and is uniquely positioned to serve everyone by delivering letters, cards, catalogs, newspapers, magazines, medicines and packages. Our union and the dedicated postal workers we represent are committed to a strong and vibrant public postal service for generations to come.
Mike Bates is president of Des Moines Area APWU Local 44 Mark Dimondstein is the president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union