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News :: Labor
Non-Union Staples Plucks Postal Jobs
13 Feb 2014
Post Offices staffed by unionized postal workers are being replaced with Staples stores with low-wage workers.
Staples’ latest ad slogan is “What the L?” That sounds like what postal workers said when they found out the retail chain planned to steal their work.

The Long Island, New York, local of the American Postal Workers Union didn’t waste any time after the news broke in November. Members voted to boycott Staples and ask their friends and neighbors to do the same.

“The ball started rolling then,” said President Pete Furgiuele—and APWU soon launched a national campaign.

Across the country, local delegations visited Staples stores in January to threaten a boycott unless the retailer’s new “postal units” are staffed by actual postal employees.

The pilot program opened postal counters inside 82 Staples stores in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, staffed non-union by the big-box retailer. They offer many of the “most popular” (that is, most profitable) services APWU members provide at post office windows, including stamp sales, first-class domestic and international mail, and priority and express mail. Other services aren’t offered—money orders, media mail, and P.O. boxes, for instance.

The union doesn’t oppose making postal services available in more places and for longer hours. In fact, APWU and the other postal unions are in an ongoing battle to stop USPS from closing down post offices and cutting back hours at the ones that remain.

At one time, “we had, in almost any city of any size, air mail units that were open 24 hours a day,” said new APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “Those have been pretty much shut down.” In Greensboro, North Carolina, where he previously worked, a post office located in a mall used to be open seven days a week until 9 p.m.—staffed by postal union members.

That’s the key. Workers say the new jobs have to be union and live up to the standards in their contract, not undermine them.
RACE TO THE BOTTOM

The Postal Service is known for providing stable union jobs, a good salary and benefits, a hiring preference for veterans, and strong protections against discrimination. It was a job you could make a career.

Though standards have eroded in recent years, they’re still much better than what you’ll find at Staples.

A recent online petition by a Staples employee calling herself “Sue Whistleblower” garnered more than 200,000 signatures protesting a new company policy to cut part-time workers to fewer than 25 hours per week so they won’t qualify for health insurance.

Is that the future of postal work? USPS management’s “constant refrain,” said Dimondstein, “is that the post office has to be competitive—which means, from their point of view, it has to engage in the race to the bottom for minimum-wage work.

“My answer is, why don’t we just put the children back into the textile mills and skip the in-between steps? That’s where this race to the bottom is going to end up.”

There’s also the matter of whether you want to trust Staples with your mail.
‘STAPLES DOESN’T CARE’

“Staples doesn’t care about the mail; they care about selling computers and pens,” said LeRoy Moyer, president of the Charlotte, North Carolina, local. “The person at Staples could be selling you a pen one minute, then trying to tell you how to send your package to a location overseas the next.

“It may be convenient, but if you give it to them and it doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go, it wasn’t too con-venient, was it?”

“We take pride in our work,” said steward Venus Abaoag, a member of Moyer’s local. “A Staples employee would not be held to the same standards that we are.”

She joined the delegation that visited three Charlotte-area Staples stores January 14. A store manager said they’d been warned to expect the union—one sign the message is getting through to corporate.

APWU aimed to complete a few hundred such visits by mid-January. If the retailer doesn’t back off, the next step will be a national day of protests at Staples stores, likely followed by “sustained activity” such as leafleting at the pilot sites and asking other unions to join a boycott, said Dimondstein.

He and the Members First Team swept into leadership of the APWU in November, promising a grassroots fight against concessions, closures, and service cuts. This looks like their first skirmish.
PUBLIC-PIRANHA PARTNERSHIPS

An ominous report from the USPS Office of Inspector General last summer recommended cutting costs through “public-private partnerships.” One area it called ripe for expansion: retail.

USPS was already on the case, having asked 80 retail chains in 2012 whether they’d be interested in offering postal services. Apparently Staples was first to bite.

Private franchisees also offer certain postal services at 500 “Village Post Offices” and 3,300 “Contract Postal Units,” often located inside gas stations or grocery stores in small towns. Though these aren’t a big hit with the postal unions either, they’re seen as small potatoes.

But it’s easy to see how the scope of outsourcing could swell if Staples expands its program from the 82 pilots to its 1,600 locations nationwide—and if its competitors start getting into the game too.

Make no mistake: the point is to substitute Staples counters for brick-and-mortar post offices, not supplement them. That’s how the plan reduces costs: by closing post offices and subcontracting unionized postal jobs to low-wage retail employers.

The Inspector General’s report was blunt about this. “The Postal Service has attempted several times to rationalize its retail infrastructure with mixed results,” it said. “Stakeholder opposition and regulatory hurdles have prevented aggressive consolidation.”

Got that? For “stakeholder opposition” read “community protest.”
CUT LABOR COSTS

Franchising would kill two birds, the report said, bringing down both labor costs and the “fixed costs of owning retail facilities.”

What are these “regulatory hurdles”? For one, the closure of a post office can be appealed to the Postal Regulatory Commission. But a bill being pushed by Representative Darrell Issa—postal workers’ biggest foe in Congress—would nix the appeal if the post office were located within two miles of a contract postal unit.

An astute map put together by Save the Post Office blogger Steve Hutkins shows that 1,200 of the nation’s 31,000 post offices are within two miles of a Staples—exposing them to heightened risk of closure without appeal.

Staples can, of course, close stores whenever it suits the business plan. The company axed about 40 last year. It’s repositioning itself to focus less on retailing office supplies and more on competing with Amazon in e-commerce.

In contrast to the new Staples counters, the post office in a small town often serves as a “central meeting point,” Furgiuele said. “Part of people’s daily routine is to go to the luncheonette, stop by the local post office, and get the news.”

When he was a clerk working the post office box section in Farmingdale, New York, “I knew kids from the time they were born, to the time they got married and they had kids,” he said. “I would have a standing height measure on the side of the door and would measure them for years.

“Staples could never provide—or wish to provide—that.”
SOLD TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR

The New York Metro local visited Staples stores in Manhattan, New Jersey, and the Bronx—where it’s also fighting the impending closure of the Bronx General Post Office. WPA-era murals grace the walls there, celebrating laborers in various industries. Developers envision a big-box store or restaurant.

Chuck Zlatkin, the local’s legislative and political director, said 90 percent of customers at the Bronx GPO are African American or Latino. “You can’t escape the impact of racism on this situation,” he said. “You have to understand what the postal service has meant historically for people of color, in terms of the opportunity to get decent jobs, to get into the middle class, to be able to buy homes and send their kids to college—and also the people who are served by it.

“At these hearings, the people who show up are the people most dependent on the post office: elderly people, disabled people, poor people.”

A similar fight is raging over a historic Berkeley post office—less than a mile from one of the Staples pilots. Activists who maintained a tent city on the post office steps for 33 days last summer are pushing for a city zoning change that would prevent its being sold for private profit.

Developers and business association people want to put a high-rise hotel or mall there. “Berkeley has more than its share of boutiques,” said retired letter carrier Dave Welsh. “We don’t need any more! We need a public space.”

A well-connected real estate firm called the CBRE Group has the exclusive contract to sell off post offices like these; more than 600 are already earmarked. CBRE’s board chair, Richard Blum, is married to Senator Dianne Feinstein. Its CEO, Robert Sulentic, sits on the board of Staples.
RE-RUN OF SEARS FIGHT

The Staples battle looks like a re-run of one the union fought—and won—25 years ago. In 1988 Sears announced a similar pilot program at 11 stores.

Union members sent the corporation thousands of protest letters. Some cut up their Sears credit cards and sent in the plastic shreds. The company backed off, abandoning the program.

“Sears perceived, ‘we’re losing all this business for something peripheral to our main mission,’ and threw in the towel,” said David Yao, vice president of the Greater Seattle Area local.

“Think about it, if Sears had become the post office,” Dimondstein said. “Sears was the thriving retailer that had the reach into more cities and towns in the country—but Sears is basically gone now. The post office would have gone with it.”

He’s confident the public will take the postal workers’ side against Staples, too. “This is a time when the demand for a living wage has captured the imagination of the people,” he said. “I don’t think people are going to want their postal services performed by people forced to make $8.25 an hour.”
- See more at: http://www.labornotes.org/2014/01/staples-plucks-postal-jobs#sthash.YUdc
See also:
http://www.labornotes.org/2014/01/staples-plucks-postal-jobs#sthash.YUdcCcrI.dpuf

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Re: Non-Union Staples Plucks Postal Jobs
14 Feb 2014
Modified: 04:39:29 AM
SCORES OF postal workers and community allies marched on Martin Luther King Day at U.S. Postal Service (USPS) headquarters to dramatize the dangers of delivery after dark.

A recently released USPS report showed that deliveries after 5 p.m. had jumped from 20 percent in 2005 to over 40 percent last year. "We have carriers working over 12 hours [a day] every week," said Ken Lerch, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 3825 in Rockville, Md. "More than half of the carriers in our branch are in the dark, carrying mail every night. It is much worse in Branch 142 out of D.C."

On November 23, 2013, city carrier assistant (CCA) Tyson Jerome Barnette was shot and killed while delivering mail in the dark in Prince George's County, Md. Letter carriers everywhere were outraged at the senseless, unnecessary death. To this day, carriers across the nation are still being forced to deliver late into the night.

Organizers of the march, the Communities and Postal Workers United, say this tragedy was set up by the dismantling of mail processing plants and the understaffing of sorting clerk positions, which has forced letter carriers to start later in the day. The killing was also set up by a flawed automation implementation, which has overburdened mail routes.

Carriers working after dark not only are subject to increased risk of random violence, but face unsafe and hazardous walking conditions due to unseen hazards. Customers can have dogs out or mistake carriers for prowlers, not expecting mail to be delivered late in the evening.

Seven members of Barnette's family made the 425-mile trip from South Carolina to Washington, D.C., to take part in the rally. "Make changes. Don't let another life be taken with something that can be fixed as easily as pushing the time back in the morning and getting [the letter carriers] started earlier," said the slain carrier's mother, Bridget Barnette.

Some 60 marchers, half of them letters carriers, many in uniform wearing head lamps or carrying flashlights, carried a funeral wreath from the Martin Luther King Memorial to USPS headquarters.

A postal representative, surrounded by police, accepted a large placard with a list of demands calling on postal management to end delivery in the dark, start letter carriers early in the day, fully staff sorting clerk and letter carrier positions, adjust overburdened mail routes, and re-open "consolidated" mail processing plants.

The African American community is particularly hard hit by the fortunes of the postal service, which has a 21 percent Black workforce. As well-paid career clerk, mail handler and city carrier jobs are being eliminated, low-paid temp jobs are being created. Barnette, a young Black man, who had worked for years as a "temp" with no benefits, had just suffered a 25 percent pay cut, and was being forced to work in the dark on an unfamiliar route.

"I firmly believe in the importance of preserving a strong U.S. Post Office, which has provided opportunities for our people to have decent, living wage jobs," said Rev. Cortly C.D. Witherspoon of Baltimore NAACP, one of the leaders of Monday's march. "Postal workers are part of the fabric of the Black community. When they suffer, we suffer. They are our sons and daughters, our parents, our neighbors. We must struggle to keep our postal workers safe."

District of Columbia Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, a member of the U.S. Postal Service oversight committee, wrote to the Postmaster General: "I am deeply concerned about the apparent risk of requiring postal employees to deliver mail after dark."

The day after the MLK Day march, the USPS Office of the Inspector General announced it was opening an investigation into after-dark delivery in the D.C. area. D.C. area postal management also announced their intent to hire hundreds more CCAs.

Retired letter carrier Jamie Partridge http://socialistworker.org/2014/01/29/protesting-delivery-after-dark
Re: Non-Union Staples Plucks Postal Jobs
14 Feb 2014
Union Tops Bow to Profit Drive - Postal Workers Face Jobs Massacre -- 9 August 2013

In the past two years, postal workers have been subjected to waves of draconian layoffs linked to service cutbacks and post office closures. As many as 220,000 union jobs are at stake as Washington, goaded by capitalists standing to profit directly from privatization and by ideologues hell-bent on “downsizing” government, takes the ax to this essential social service. Under Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s plans, 211 mail-processing plants will have closed by the end of this year, with more closures projected after that. This alone will eliminate 35,000 jobs while slowing mail delivery. Meanwhile, trucking and custodial jobs are being contracted out to private companies in California, New Jersey and elsewhere. Particularly dependent on the postal service, the poor, the elderly and minorities are hit hardest as post office hours are cut and first-class mail delivery standards are relaxed.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the second-largest employer in the country after Wal-Mart. Its unionized public workforce—some 550,000 workers, down from 683,000 in 2007—makes it a big, juicy target for the enemies of labor. The postal cutbacks are a special threat to black workers, who make up 21 percent of the workforce. USPS is also a significant employer of Latinos and Asians, and 40 percent of its workers are women.

For generations, the post office was one of the few places where black people could get decent jobs, including during the Jim Crow era when even college-educated blacks were systematically excluded from most occupations. At the same time, racist discrimination pervaded the postal service. Letter carriers were usually white so as to present a “white face” to the public, and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) continued to have separate black and white locals in the South until that practice was banned by the federal government in 1962, at the height of Southern civil rights struggles. Black postal workers’ struggles against racism in the workplace and inside the unions in the post-World War II era were an important component of the early civil rights movement. This made them a particular target of the purges of reds and union militants during the McCarthy period.

Universal postal service and national post offices were integral to industrial development under capitalism. The need for speedy mail delivery was a factor in the development of railroads in the 19th century and air transport in the 20th. In the past quarter century, however, postal workers have been hit by privatization, outsourcing and job slashing in a range of advanced capitalist countries, particularly in the European Union and Japan. In the Netherlands, privatization has progressed so far that, in conditions redolent of Charles Dickens’ time, mail sorting and delivery are done out of private houses by casual workers denied contracts and benefits and paid measly piecework wages. In Britain, the former Labour government opened the way to privatizations and forced through tens of thousands of job cuts, longer workweeks, speedup, effective pay cuts and office closures. The current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition is poised to sell off the Royal Mail outright. In response, the Communications Workers Union has threatened to ballot its members for a national strike.

In the U.S., the pretext for closures and layoffs is the deficits in the postal services budget. The “free market” apostles leading the attack scream that the postal service needs to make a profit. But mail is a basic public service, like garbage collection, running water, public transit, education and health care. The requirement that the post office generate all its own revenue dates back to the 1970 Postal Service Reorganization Act. In order to expose postal workers to “market discipline,” the Post Office Department was reorganized as the self-funded, semi-independent agency USPS, which nevertheless remained subject to Congressional oversight.

In 2002, the government declared that USPS was “overfunding” pensions paid into the federal Civil Service Retirement System to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Postal union officials argued that this money—in actuality, deferred wages—be used by USPS to stave off rate increases and otherwise keep the postal service “competitive.” Workers saw the question differently: they wanted full funding of their pensions and health care!

In 2006, Congress and the Bush White House cooked up a scheme, codified in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), to shuffle retiree health care funds onto the Treasury Department’s balance sheet, where they could be used to help offset the federal deficit. Originally supported by the NALC leadership, the measure gave USPS until 2016 to pay 50 years’ worth of projected health care benefits—as much as $100 billion—into a new Retiree Health Benefits Fund. This has led to the massive postal service deficits that have put wind in the sails of the union-busters and profiteers who want to break up USPS and sell it for a song.

The drive to ax postal jobs, while long in the making, accelerated in recent years as part of the bipartisan, one-sided class war against public employees unions, as working people and the poor are made to pay for the bosses’ economic crisis. Donahoe was elected in 2010 by a USPS Board of Governors packed with corporate lobbyists appointed by the White House. At every turn, Donahoe has sought to bust the postal unions and undermine the service while corporations such as Pitney Bowes, FedEx and UPS jockey for the profits they expect to get if USPS is privatized. When he demanded that Congress invalidate the clauses in union contracts that prohibit layoffs of workers with at least six years of service, he complained that he could not get rid of enough workers fast enough through attrition, buyouts, etc.

The latest attack originating from Capitol Hill is the “Postal Reform Act,” which was submitted on June 13 by California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, a point man for the right-wing Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute. The bill would end Saturday delivery for first-class mail and begin to phase out door-to-door delivery. Putting USPS under a “temporary governance authority,” the measure would ban layoff protections from union contracts and target 30 percent of post offices for closure in favor of contracted retail outlets.

1970 Postal Strike Defied the Law and Won

Facing these attacks, postal workers are crippled by union misleaders who have all but relinquished labor’s own weapons, not daring to even threaten a strike in defense of their members’ jobs and benefits. It took hard class struggle—not begging Congress or the White House—for labor to wrest real gains from the capitalist masters. This lesson is part of the postal workers’ own history, as seen in the 1970 national postal strike. Defying the government’s anti-strike laws, the strike won huge gains for postal workers and their unions and advanced the cause of the entire labor movement.

By 1970, the struggle for black rights and the U.S. rulers’ counterrevolutionary war in Vietnam had polarized society. While students and others staged mass antiwar demonstrations, workers’ wages were being rapidly eroded by inflation caused by the war. Exemplifying the dramatic rise in rank-and-file labor militancy, in March 1970 the New York branch of the NALC walked out in defiance of their national leadership. Like all federal workers, postal workers were banned from striking. On March 23, President Richard Nixon declared a national emergency and ordered 23,000 troops to occupy the post offices in New York. But the wildcat spread throughout the country, mostly against the will of the union leadership. With young and black militants taking the lead, postal workers defied back-to-work court injunctions. All told, over 210,000 workers struck nationally in the largest strike ever against the U.S. government.

It is not accidental that the action started in New York City, where a series of public workers strikes in defiance of the bosses’ laws had taken place, including the victorious 1966 NYC transit strike. In 1968, Mayor John Lindsay backed off from his threat to use the National Guard against striking sanitation workers after the Central Labor Council, under pressure from the city’s workers, threatened a general strike.

When the NYC letter carriers went out, the Spartacist League issued a leaflet on March 23 headlined: “Postal Strike Aids All Workers! Answer Any Troops’ Use by General Strike!” The leaflet pointed out: “The same army that Nixon is threatening to use in breaking the postal strike is being used to suppress the Vietnamese workers and peasants in order to keep Asia safe for American business.” It went on:

“To win this strike, the postal workers need an aggressive leadership, capable of bargaining hard against the government, going to jail if necessary, organizing mass support rallies, and appealing to other groups of workers. More than that, the postal workers need the active support of the entire labor movement.... If troops are brought in, the entire city labor movement must go out on strike.”

The leaflet concluded by demanding the right to strike for all workers and calling for the working class to break with the Democrats and Republicans and build its own party.

Nixon figured out quickly that you can’t sort the mail with bayonets. The Post Office Department quickly conceded wage increases and collective bargaining rights, with no reprisals. Not only was the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) formed out of the strike, but the postal wildcat helped spur the rapid growth of public sector unions in the 1970s. However, strikes by federal workers remained banned, and union officials increasingly used federal and state anti-strike laws, often including the threat of big fines and jail time for union leaders, as an excuse for shelving the strike weapon.

The labor bureaucracy’s subservience to anti-labor laws led to a crushing defeat for all workers when the 1981 PATCO air traffic controllers strike was smashed. PATCO members were among those unionists who had been inspired by the 1970 postal strike, carrying out a number of job actions to win union recognition and better pay and working conditions prior to the decisive 1981 showdown with the government. Using plans drawn up by the Democratic Carter administration, Republican president Ronald Reagan moved to crush the strike he declared illegal. PATCO leaders were dragged off to jail in chains and military personnel were dispatched to help run the system.

With anger in the labor movement mounting against Reagan’s strikebreaking, the SL called for the unions in the industry to shut down the airports in defense of PATCO. But the craven AFL-CIO officialdom refused any such course of action, and the union was busted. The postal union misleaders did their bit by rushing to accept a sellout contract rather than strike alongside PATCO. The government’s smashing of PATCO ushered in a decades-long drive by the capitalists to gut the unions and drive down wages.

As giveback contracts and tiered wage scales increasingly became the norm, in 1984 postal workers were pressured to accept major contract concessions. Meanwhile, horrendous work conditions were leading to several cases of workers “going postal.” Commenting on this phenomenon, a letter carrier wrote to Workers Vanguard:

“There hasn’t been a nationwide strike since 1970, and particularly since PATCO was busted in 1981...management has turned the screws ever tighter, getting more work out of fewer workers.... Forced overtime is a way of life.... Back and neck injuries are endemic.... In the absence of strike action and with our union bureaucrats selling us out in every conceivable way, the intense pressure and exploitation have driven some postal workers to desperate and crazy acts. What we really need is some hard class struggle. It’ll take a workers revolution to sweep away our exploiters once and for all.”

—“The Post Office Drives You Crazy,” WV No. 542, 10 January 1992

Begging Democrats, Rejecting Class Struggle

Postal workers today are weakened by being divided into many unions. The largest, with over 200,000 members each, are the NALC and the APWU, with smaller numbers in the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (part of the Laborers union). In 2011, the APWU agreed to a concessionary contract while keeping a no-layoff clause for six-year employees. The other three unions got similar contracts through binding arbitration.

Faced with a full-bore assault on jobs and benefits, the union officials have readily accepted a framework in which the only two choices posed are dismantling the postal service or keeping the post office intact by screwing the workers! Calling to “Save America’s Postal Service,” they pitch the problem as the postal service being uniquely and unfairly burdened by the legal requirements for funding these benefits. In thrall to the capitalist profit motive, the union tops complain that the mandate to “pre-fund” retiree health care prevents USPS from competing on level ground with private companies like UPS. They also object to the legal ban on developing new products like secure e-mail, which prevents the postal service from grabbing market share from Google.

The kind of “struggle” offered by the leaders of the APWU and NALC is to beg the class enemy in Congress, wooing sympathetic Democrats whom they sell to the membership as “friends of labor,” supplemented by the occasional street protest. Reformists like the International Socialist Organization and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) aid and abet these trade-union bureaucrats in their diversionary schemes. Both groups enthusiastically back Communities and Postal Workers United (CPWU), which was founded in May 2012 at a Chicago conference of Labor Notes, a social-democratic publication associated with the Solidarity organization.

CPWU has mainly organized public-relations stunts and civil disobedience actions in order to pressure USPS, Congress and the White House. Thus a four-day “D.C. Hunger Strike to Save the Post Office” in June 2012, heavily built by the PSL’s ANSWER coalition, was centered on lobbying Congress. The PSL has even created a Web site, Justicefirst.org, where anyone can print out the placard “Saturday Delivery: The People Want It & It’s the Law!”—a fair summation of the labor bureaucrats’ cringing legalism.

To placate postal workers’ anger, the NALC and other postal unions endorsed March 24 rallies to save Saturday mail delivery. Protests against budget cuts, closures and mail delay took place in 112 cities and drew thousands of union members. Held in out-of-the-way locations on a Sunday, when post offices are closed, these rallies exemplified the role of the reformists as water boys for the bureaucracy. At a rally in Maryland that his group helped organize, PSL leader Brian Becker stood shoulder to shoulder with APWU and NALC officials, who were only too happy to let the workers blow off some steam. Giving their efforts a faintly militant gloss, Becker paid lip service to the 1970 strike while neglecting to mention that this was a wildcat strike opposed by most union officials and deemed illegal by the state.

Budgetary shenanigans and outright thievery of workers’ pensions and health benefits by the capitalists are nothing new. In the private sector, bankruptcy has long been a favorite method of airline, auto and coal bosses to dissolve union contracts and discharge pension and retiree health care obligations into thin air. States and municipalities have routinely underfunded pensions or stopped paying altogether in times of budgetary crisis—in Detroit today, this means leaving tens of thousands to twist in the wind. Meanwhile, Wall Street regularly scrapes the cream off the top of massive pension fund investments, to say nothing of profits derived from the 401(k) scam that has largely replaced defined-benefit pensions since the 1980s.

Throughout the labor movement, a new leadership is needed to chart a course of class struggle against the capitalists and their government. Fighting for such a leadership is a key part of building a workers party that can lead all the exploited and oppressed in sweeping away the racist capitalist order through socialist revolution. When those who labor rule, we can begin to rebuild this society through a planned, socialist economy for the benefit of all. 

Workers Vanguard - http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/1028/postal.html
Re: Non-Union Staples Plucks Postal Jobs
14 Feb 2014
Modified: 05:00:42 AM
( Anti-union 'socialists?' Go figure)

US Postal Service announces new attacks on workers
By James Brewer
16 April 2013

The US Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors issued a statement on April 10, calling for “reopening of negotiations with the postal unions,” citing “extreme circumstances and the worsening financial condition of the Postal Service.” At the same time, it announced the USPS was “delaying the implementation” of its plan to discontinue Saturday mail delivery in order to save $2 billion a year.

The last round of contract negotiations already resulted in drastic concessions from postal workers, introducing and expanding the use of two-tier wages, and increasing health benefit expenses from workers whose wages are stagnating. The call to renegotiate the existing contracts means even more draconian attacks on workers’ jobs and living standards.

Both of the largest postal unions, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), have responded to the USPS statement with complacency, sowing illusions that the temporary back down on ending Saturday mail delivery was a victory won by appealing to the Democrats and the courts.

NALC President Fredric Romano said, “NALC is gratified that the Board of Governors has seen the light on the law—but it is time for them to reconsider their entire ‘shrink to survive’ strategy.” After calling the order to reopen contracts, “insulting and unnecessary,” he said the existing agreement already “reduced starting pay by 25 to 33 percent and allows for major health care savings, provides for several labor-management task forces to work on ways to increase revenues and cut costs.”

APWU President Cliff Guffey called on Congress “to oppose USPS plans to dismantle the mail processing network with the same fervor they showed when the Postal Service announced it would eliminate Saturday mail delivery.” Guffey referred to the USPS’s accelerated plans to shut down and consolidate mail processing capacity. He called on his membership to “contact their members of Congress to seek support for real postal reform.”

Both Romano and Guffey accept the premise behind the cost-cutting measure being put forward by USPS management and the political establishment—that workers must sacrifice to ensure that the Post Office is profitable. Postal workers, on the other hand, have shown their willingness to fight these cuts. On March 24, postal workers demonstrated across the country against the plan to end Saturday mail delivery.

The USPS has been the object of budgetary attacks for years. As an independent agency of the US since its reorganization in 1971, the USPS hasn’t received direct federal funding since the 1980s. USPS management, as well as both Democrats and Republicans, are adamant that the government no longer fund the operations of the postal service.

The threat of a USPS bankruptcy is continually held over the heads of employees and the population like the sword of Damocles. This is a patent fraud, used to impose ever-deeper cuts on the conditions of postal workers and retirees and to justify a drive to complete privatization.

The $16 billion shortfall cited by management included more $13 billion in payments to the federal Retiree Health Benefits to prefund retiree benefits for the next 75 years. These payments were mandated by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2006. The mandate—which has never been imposed on any other government agency or private corporation for that matter—meant federal responsibility for postal employee retirement benefits would be transferred to the USPS within 10 years. The aim of this measure was to bankrupt USPS and hand over delivery service to private companies like UPS and FedEx.

This means that the legal requirement for the government to provide efficient postal delivery service to every citizen was established shortly after the American Revolution must be ended. The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970—signed by President Richard Nixon after the wildcat strike by postal workers—was the first step in breaking up the monopoly of post office and opening the door to the privatization schemes currently being championed by the Republicans, with tacit if not open support from sections of the Democratic Party.

Only last February, when Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced the plan for “modified Saturday delivery” he claimed that the USPS did not require the approval of Congress to adopt the cut in delivery service, apparently ignoring the precedent that Congress, which oversees the delivery of mail, has mandated Saturday delivery service for the last 150 years. Now, in its latest statement, USPS management states, “By including restrictive language in the Continuing Resolution, Congress has prohibited implementation of a new national delivery schedule for mail and packages.”

Darrell Issa, the right-wing Republican Congressman who heads the oversight committee that presides over postal delivery, immediately expressed his disappointment on the USPS reversal. In a statement issued the same day, he said, “This reversal significantly undercuts the credibility of Postal officials who have told Congress that they were prepared to defy political pressure and make difficult but necessary cuts.”

Issa continues, “when USPS announced that it would alter Saturday delivery service, it made no mention that this change could only occur if Congress eliminated an old and well-known provision of law. Despite some assertions, it’s quite clear that special interest lobbying and intense political pressure played a much greater role in the Postal Service’s change of heart than any real or perceived barrier to implementing what had been announced.”

The USPS is a prime target for privatization because of its value as a potential acquisition. It is, next to the federal government and Walmart, the third largest civilian employer in the country, with the largest fleet of vehicles in the world. Republicans and Democrats are united in their determination to make postal workers pay for the so-called crisis of the USPS.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/04/16/usps-a16.html
Re: Non-Union Staples Plucks Postal Jobs
14 Feb 2014
Modified: 05:13:40 AM
Who’s pushing post office privatization?
By Joseph Piette on August 11, 2013

Postal and community activists struggling to save the U.S. Postal Service from privatization need to know who they are fighting against.

The Postal Service was established in 1775. It needed government administration as it was so important for communication.

Even in today’s age of Internet communication, 20 percent of the U.S. population lack Internet access and depend on the post office for bills, bank statements and letters. (Gallup World, Aug. 4) The Postal Service is still essential for the $1.3-trillion mailing industry.

The campaign to privatize and de-unionize the USPS threatens the livelihood of every affected worker and neighborhood. Hardest hit will be communities of color that suffer depression-level unemployment.

While the post office clearly provides a vital service, can it withstand attacks from privatizers set on eliminating universal delivery in their search for profits?

Who are the privatizers?

The USPS has 522,144 workers and 31,272 retail stores. Its 2012 revenue was $65 billion. Mandated to deliver mail at affordable prices to over 150 million U.S. addresses, it holds a statutory monopoly on the delivery of first-class mail.

Under congressional control, the USPS is prohibited from lobbying Congress or contributing to political campaigns.

Corporate executives consistently resist workers’ demands for even nickel wage increases yet spend millions to influence politicians. The penny-pinching owners of capital and exploiters of workers demand favorable results from their “investments” in politicians. With $3.31 billion spent on congressional lobbying and $6 billion contributed to election campaigns in 2012 alone, the U.S. holds the title of the most corrupt political system in the world. (Center for Responsive Politics – OpenSecrets.org)

United Parcel Service has 322,100 employees and 5,722 retail locations. Its 2012 revenue was $54 billion. It delivers only when and where it can make a profit. UPS pays the USPS to deliver 100 million to 300 million parcels annually to less profitable locations, according to the industry watchdog group, Courier Express and Postal Observer. Clearly it has a stake in eliminating its main U.S. competitor — the Postal Service. In 2012, UPS spent $5 million lobbying Congress and another $3.1 million on ­candidates.

FedEx employs 300,000 workers worldwide and logged $45 billion in revenue in 2012. It also delivers when and where it is profitable and uses the USPS for 30.4 percent of its ground mail delivery. The USPS pays $1.4 billion annually to move letters and parcels via FedEx air cargo planes. Fed­Ex spent almost $12 million in 2012 lobbying and another $2.5 million in campaign contributions.

Pitney Bowes has 27,000 workers worldwide. Its 2012 revenue was $5 billion. It paid for a “White Paper” in 2013 that recommends the privatization of postal trucking, retail and mail processing. Operating 36 processing plants — the largest U.S. pre-sorted mail network — PB would vastly increase its profits if those recommendations bore fruit. PB contributed half a million dollars to campaigns and spent another $1.25 million lobbying Congress. (savethepostoffice.com, March 15)

These aren’t the only companies that would benefit from postal privatization.

Boston Consulting

Boston Consulting Group, the world’s largest management consulting firm, plays a major role preparing companies for deregulation and privatization. BCG was behind the dismantling of public school systems and the establishment of charter schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans. It is involved in the restructuring of postal institutions globally, including in Switzerland, Canada, Norway and England, whose government just announced its intent to privatize Royal Mail.

BCG, Accenture and McKinley & Company produced a 2010 study entitled “Ensuring a Viable Postal Service for America – an Action Plan for the Future.” The study recommended increased use of part-time workers, as in the Netherlands and Germany, where 40 percent of postal workers work part time. The privatized Dutch post office, PostNL, fired older letter carriers and replaced them with workers paid per item or part time, many earning less than minimum wage. (ernstseconomyforyou.blogspot.com, March 28)

Both UPS and FedEx belong to the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, an ultra-conservative organization of the well-to-do, the corporations and the politicians that promotes right-wing legislation on local, state and federal levels. (Sourcewatch.org)

Two of the richest men in the U.S. — Charles and David Koch — with combined assets of $40 billion, are ALEC’s largest funders. They also fund the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Freedom Works, the Heritage Foundation, the Tea Party and other right-wing organizations.

ALEC bills undermine environmental regulations, deny climate change, support school privatization, undercut health care reform and limit the political influence of unions. They mandate laws to disenfranchise voters and increase incarceration rates to benefit the private-prison industry. In over 20 states, ALEC helped pass “stand your ground” legislation, which right-wingers used to justify George Zimmerman’s racist killing of Trayvon Martin.

For years, ALEC worked to influence Congress to pass the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, requiring the USPS to pay $5.5 billion annually for pension health care benefits 75 years in advance. No other agency carries that burden. In 2006, before the PAEA, the USPS profit was $0.9 billion.

Under pressure of this substantial red ink, postal management in the last year closed 30 percent of its processing and distribution plants; reduced hours up to 75 percent in half of the post offices; put 10 percent of buildings up for sale; subcontracted trucking and mail handling; cut thousands of mail routes; and eliminated 60,000 living-wage postal jobs. These cuts all slow down the mail system.

Tea Party House Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the richest man in Congress with a net worth of $448 million, heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (KSBW.com, Dec. 27, 2011)

Issa is the congressional pitbull most insistent on passing postal privatization. Issa’s HR2748 bill would end Saturday delivery, replace door-to-door delivery for 40 million homes with neighborhood cluster boxes and eliminate 100,000 postal jobs.

The use of cluster boxes not only inconveniences mail recipients but would de-skill jobs that require stamina and a good memory, allowing the USPS to follow the anti-labor example of the Netherlands in hiring part-time, low-paid workers.

The Koch brothers contributed $107,000 to 13 Republican members of the HOGRC — $12,500 just to Issa, who sent staff members to a Koch brothers’ think tank. (Press Enterprise, Feb. 27, 2011)

Issa appointed staffers to the HOGRC who are linked to lobbying firms that accepted $1.2 million from Pitney Bowes and $240,000 from FedEx.(opensecrets.org)

On Aug. 2, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released Senate postal reform bill S1486. American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey said: “This bill is fatally flawed. It betrays the working men and women of the USPS; it slashes service to the American people; and it fails to protect the USPS from the impending financial disaster Congress set in motion in 2006 with the passage of the PAEA.” (APWU Web News, Aug. 2)

Over the last two years, Carper accepted contributions from UPS ($59,000) and FedEx ($72,500). (opensecrets.org)

Bankers’ role

Barclay’s, UBS, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs were recently selected by the British Parliament to lead a banking syndicate overseeing privatization of the Royal Mail, valued at $4.8 billion. Goldman Sachs also supported privatization campaigns in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

Not coincidentally, Issa hired former Goldman Sachs vice president, Peter Haller, to serve on the HOGRC. Bank of America was Issa’s fifth highest campaign contributor at $21,850 (2012). Carper received $56,740 from Bank of America.

These millionaires and billionaires may look powerful, and they’re certainly rich, but postal workers can still win against them if they’re united with the great global working class.

http://www.workers.org/articles/2013/08/11/whos-pushing-post-office-priv/
Re: Non-Union Staples Plucks Postal Jobs
14 Feb 2014
Modified: 05:37:19 AM
Postal workers protest plan to cut Sat. delivery ( 18 April 2013 )

BY NORTON SANDLER
LOS ANGELES—Postal workers and their supporters rallied in hundreds of cities from California to New York March 24 to protest plans to eliminate Saturday delivery.

The actions were initiated by the National Association of Letter Carriers. The protest in the Hollywood neighborhood here drew some 600 participants from Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Among the participants were members of the American Postal Workers Union, which organizes clerks and other post office workers, and other trade unionists.

“We have to fight to keep the six-day mail delivery. If we don’t, where will it stop? Four days, three days?” postal worker Connie Callegari told the Militant at the protest.

The actions were called in response to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s February announcement that six-day delivery for everything but packages would end in August of this year.

Although since 1981 Congress has required the Postal Service to deliver mail six days a week, Donahoe said the law no longer requires that all services be provided because previous language was not included in a new spending resolution. Some legislators dispute this interpretation.

Donahoe says the move will save the Postal Service $2 billion a year. The post office had a $15.9 billion deficit in 2012.

Union officials have tried to argue that the cuts won’t make the Postal Service more profitable. Instead they have lobbied Congress without success to end a mandate on funding retiree health benefits for decades in advance, which they say has cost the Postal Service $32 billion since 2007.

The Postal Service has eliminated more than 193,000 jobs since 2006, according to the Letter Carriers union. In May last year, post office bosses said they planned to close 229 facilities by 2014, 92 this year, most in rural areas or working-class neighborhoods.

“They’ve been attacking other workers drastically and now they are coming after us with guns blazing,” APWU Local 917 President Richard Cantu told the Militant. “They are consolidating mail centers, closing post offices and trying to privatize the post office.”

The cuts “affect the younger generation,” noted Vikki Eady, a Los Angeles mail handler. “I’m almost ready to retire, but those of us who retire, get injured on the job or get fired are not replaced. So there are less people at the same productivity rate.”

In New York some 800 rallied at the main post office.

“This is about American greed,” said James Moore, a clerk at New York’s Morgan post office in Midtown. “Look at how the bus companies and Mayor Michael Bloomberg attacked the school bus drivers. Now we are under attack. They tell workers ‘do more with less.’”

Milagros Cancel, member of Parents to Improve School Transportation, which supported city school bus drivers who recently ended a one-month strike, joined the New York action. “We have to support the postal workers,” said Cancel. “I have three children with impediments. It is important to support services like the post office and school bus drivers.”

Erline McWillis has worked 31 years as a clerk at the Triborough station in Upper Manhattan.

“Contracting out of jobs of tractor trailer drivers, mail carriers and clerks has gone on for about three years,” she said. “They are trying to get old-timers and permanent workers out. They cut the pay of contract workers by half with no health insurance until after one year. The union is here to protect you, to protect our jobs.”

Carmen Ortiz, a letter carrier in Oakland, was one of hundreds at the San Francisco rally. She said that the push for five-day delivery is just the latest of many attacks on post office workers, including attacks on wages, benefits and working conditions that have hit new hires the hardest. “It’s not just what’s happening at the post office, but I’m here in response to all the things they are taking away from us,” she added.

“I’m hoping for larger turnouts in the future,” said Danetta Logan, one of four letter carriers who subscribed to the Militant during the San Francisco protest. “We need more of us involved.”

“Their aim is to lay off 20 percent of the workforce, some 200,000 workers,” said Bob Garron, who works out of the Miami Beach facility.

“In the postal service and in manufacturing they have workers backed into a corner. We can’t just take it. We have to fight back at some point,” postal worker Eric Brown, said at the Atlanta protest.

http://www.themilitant.com/2013/7713/771302.html