Letter carriers across the country delivered more than mail today, hoping to bring the “truth” about the Postal Service’s financial crisis to the public, Iowa State President of the American Postal Workers Union Bruce Clark said.
Postal workers held 492 “Save America’s Postal Service” rallies across the country. Members of four employee unions rallied to support a bill that some say could save the Postal Service from certain economic disaster without cutting jobs or shuttering post offices.
Under the current system, the Postal Service faces an $8.3 billion budget deficit. Post Master General Patrick Donahue blames the debt on a decline in traditional mail — snail mail, if you will — as a result of increased electronic and mobile communication.
Donahue has put forth options for shedding that debt, including large personnel cuts, shutting down thousands of offices and slowing mail service. In another attempt to increase revenue, Donahue announced Monday that the Postal Service will start making postage stamps of living people. In the past, celebrities could only get their faces on a stamp post mortem.
A bill sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Dennis Ross, R-Fla., that prescribes cuts similar to Donahue’s passed Sept. 21 in a House subcommittee.
Issa, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, argues that without layoffs, the Postal Service will eventually ask Congress and the American tax payers for a bailout.
Sally Davidow, an American Postal Workers Union spokeswoman, said this is the wrong approach.
“Cutting service is not the way to grow a business,” Davidow said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Both Davidow and Clark argue that the problem at the heart of the matter is not the number of current employees or out-of-date services.
“The postmaster general is being entirely disingenuous about this,” Clark said.
Instead, Clark cites 2006 legislation that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees as the problem. Under that law, the Postal Service must acquire funds for 75 years worth of retirees’ benefits over a 10-year span.
The union wants Congress to allow the Postal Service to recalculate the amount it should pay for pensions and reallocate the excess funds paid in years past towards the future health benefits.
Aside from the fact that this would take money that has already been paid out of the federal budget, an unpopular suggestion at best in this deficit-weary political climate, it would not resolve what Donahue said is a long-term problem: the disconnect between the American public’s communication desires and the product being offered.
But Clark said the Postal Service is still important in Iowa and other rural communities across the country, where post offices give residents access to government services like passport registration. In small towns, “a huge part of those people’s identities is the post office,” Clark said.
Beyond making their case for saving jobs and offices, Davidow said the rallies are meant to “give a pat on the back” to representatives who have supported the bill proposing these changes so far and “pick up a couple more sponsors.”
ABC’s Amy Bingham contributed to this report.