Postal workers rallied nationwide Tuesday in support of legislation that they say would address the financial problems of the U.S. Postal Service and save thousands of postal jobs.
The problem is in part due to a 2006 mandate that requires the USPS to pre-fund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits. According to postal union groups, the mandate costs USPS over five billion dollars annually, accounting for the agency’s $20 billion in losses over the past four years. To understand the depth of the crisis facing the agency, take this into account: this year alone the USPS is projected to lose $9 billion. The crisis has even led President Obama to announce new plans to overhaul the nation’s mail service, proposing to even cut Saturday mail delivery.*
In the middle of the gray are postal service employees. Some 120,000 face layoffs, according to CNN. The stakes are especially high for a workforce comprised of large numbers of people of color and women.
Phillip F. Rubio wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the postal workforce is 37 percent female, eight percent Latino and eight percent Asian; African Americans have made up 21 percent of the force’s employees since the 1960s. And as UC Berkeley researcher Stephen Pitts pointed out earlier this year, black female workers make up a large portion of the public sector that’s been under attack by conservatives for decades.*
But workers insist that using surplus pension funds would help the USPS situation without cutting more jobs. They’re backing H.R. 1351, or the United Stated Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011. They believe the bill would prevent post office closures, help retain Saturday mail deliveries, and save hundreds of thousands of jobs. Currently, there are 216 co-sponsors on the bill.
Chicago, Washington D.C., and Milwaukee were just some of the cities where postal workers and supporters rallied to Save America’s Postal Service.
Postal workers rally outside the Thompson Center in Chicago, Illinois as well as other congressional districts to drum up support of H.R. 1351. Workers were part of the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mailhandlers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers Association and the National Association of Postal Supervisors.(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Postal workers participate in the Save America’s Postal Service rally in Washington, DC. Lead representative of the Eastern Region of Amercian Postal Workers Union Fran Owens shouts slogans during the rally (bottom). (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
* This piece has been updated since publication.