Why We Endorse Obama,
Support Democrats in Congress
(This article first appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
As election day nears, I hope all APWU members understand one fundamental truth: Our future depends on our ability to change our nation’s politics. With the Postal Service in the grips of a congressionally-manufactured financial crisis and the country struggling to overcome the Great Recession, APWU members must become soldiers in the battle over the political future of our country.
For postal workers the record is clear: According to Politico, a draft of the Republican Party platform calls for privatizing U.S. Postal Service operations. The GOP has attempted to keep the platform under wraps, in an effort to avoid the firestorm its many controversial planks are sure to generate.
But the section on the USPS tells postal employees all we need to know. It says, “In light of the Postal Service’s seriously underfunded pension system, Congress should explore a greater role for private enterprise in appropriate aspects of the mail-processing system.”
There it is in black-and-white. The Republican Party favors privatizing the Postal Service. That means GOP leaders will work to take away your job and give it to someone earning a fraction of your pay.
It means they will work to take away your healthcare and retirement benefits.
If the consequences weren’t so serious, the statement in the platform would be laughable. “In light of the Postal Service’s seriously underfunded pension system… ?” Really? Even casual observers of the USPS know the Postal Service has overpaid billions of dollars into federal pension accounts.
Of course the Republican platform fails to explain how privatization would better serve the American people. The fact is, privatizing the Postal Service would leave large swaths of the country un-served or underserved; it would cause postage costs to skyrocket, and it would deprive the nation of an essential component of its infrastructure.
Not Just the Platform
Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, doesn’t simply advocate postal privatization. He brags about his opposition to unions — especially federal employee unions — and claims federal employees are overpaid.
Speaking to workers at a steel fabrication plant in November 2011,
Romney said, “We have to cut back on the scale of federal government,
and for me that will start with reducing federal employees by 10 percent.” He
went on to say he would “make sure that people who work for the
government don’t get better pay and benefits than people who work
in the private sector.”
By contrast, President Obama has pledged to push back against the assault on unions and to preserve the USPS and jobs.
“We’re fighting to make sure the Postal Service keeps delivering for the American people,” the president said in a videotaped message to the APWU convention last month. “I know we can do it, and as long as you stand with me, I promise to stand with you.”
Is it any wonder that delegates to the 21st APWU National Convention voted unanimously to endorse President Obama for a second term?
The contrast between Democrats and Republicans in Congress is just as stark.
In April 2012, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the 21st Century Postal Service Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide the USPS with short-term financial relief. The legislation is not perfect, but it would limit the impact of the unfair and unreasonable mandate to pre-fund retiree benefits — which is imposed only on the Postal Service. The bill also would allow more community input into decisions about consolidations.
But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives hasn’t been in any hurry to address postal reform. A year before the Senate vote, in April 2011, a Democrat, Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, introduced a bill (H.R. 1351) that would allow the USPS to use the billions of dollars in pension overpayments to meet its financial obligations, including the multi-billion dollar pre-funding mandate that is bankrupting the Postal Service.
Working with other postal unions and our allies in the business community and in our neighborhoods, we persuaded more than half of the members of the House — including 33 Republicans — to co-sponsor the legislation.
But the Republican leaders of the House committees with jurisdiction over the USPS refused to allow a vote on the Lynch bill. Instead, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Dennis Ross (RFL) introduced their own legislation, H.R. 2309, which would destroy the Postal Service as we know it and lay the groundwork for privatization.
The Issa-Ross bill would do nothing to correct the causes of the financial crisis. Instead, it would create a “solvency authority” with the power to nullify our contract, and would gut collective bargaining. The legislation also would result in the layoff of 120,000 employees, and would force the Postal Service to make over $3 billion in cuts by closing plants and post offices.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line: The party that controls each chamber of Congress determines which bills are voted on — and when. For postal workers, it is crucial that we do everything in our power to replace anti-postal Republicans in the House and help Democrats retain control of the Senate. In the 2012 election we have three major goals:
As Election Day nears, we must continue to remind APWU members to evaluate candidates for office by their positions — and actions — on the issues that are important to postal employees and other working people. Of course, APWU members are free to vote for whoever they wish. We must all get involved and vote!