A Grand Alliance
Task Force: No Fire Sale, But Privatization Threat Looms
(This article first appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
The long-awaited report of President Trump’s Task Force on the future of the Postal Service was released Dec. 4, months after its original August deadline. While the task force stopped short of proposing an immediate, full-scale fire sale of the Postal Service, it’s no wonder the White House held the report until after the midterm elections – its recommendations would slow mail service, stop the Postal Service from innovating and would, indeed, privatize vast swaths of the Postal Service’s operations.
Pushing Back on Privatization
For months, postal workers, their unions, and other members of A Grand Alliance have worked tirelessly to ensure lawmakers in Washington, D.C. understood the stakes of postal privatization. By the time the task force report was released, a majority of members in the House and close to the majority of the Senate had signed onto resolutions opposing postal privatization.
It’s clear that the Task Force was eager to push as hard as possible on privatization. In June, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a member of the task force, released a separate report that explicitly called for the privatization of the USPS. It’s plain that the hard work of public postal advocates paid off, as the Task Force had to slow walk on the OMB’s proposals.
But are we out of the woods in the fight to save our public Postal Service? Not by a long shot.
What’s in the Report? The Privatization Two-Step
The task force report is full of recommendations that would radically transform the public nature of the country’s postal service. First are recommendations that the Postal Service increase their use of third-party processing and transportation partnerships. This would drive even more traditional postal work into the hands of low-paid private contractors.
The report even suggests doing away with the mailbox ‘monopoly,’ by selling franchise rights to private firms to be able to access the mailbox. While the report dresses this up as an opportunity for USPS to generate additional revenue, it doesn’t address the loss of public trust this would lead to. Especially during the e-commerce revolution, the public relies on the fact that only a trusted postal employee will have access to their mailbox.
Perhaps the most dramatic proposal in the Task Force recommendations is the suggestion that various postal products be classified as “essential” or “non-essential” based on their value to the public, and whether private sector companies could provide a similar service. That’s a slippery slope that could quickly lead to drastically higher prices for lots of mail that customers – both businesses and individuals – would rightly think of as “essential.” It could even lead to the conclusion that, given the nature of communications technology and an already competitive package delivery market, there’s no longer a need for a public, universal service provider at all.
So, while the Task Force recommendations stopped short of calling for the immediate sale of the Postal Service, it’s clear that the work of those in A Grand Alliance and other allies is far from over. The OMB report in the summer made clear the administration’s goal was to pursue “the implementation of significant reforms prior to sale to show a possible path to profitability.” As we head into the new year, advocates for a public Postal Service will have to remain vigilant to ensure that the task force’s plans to break up, slow down and fatten up the Postal Service are dead on arrival. We’ll redouble our efforts to invest in our national treasure and ensure USPS is able to deliver the affordable, reliable and essential services the people of this country deserve.
A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service is a broad coalition of national, state and local organizations including the NAACP, Vote Vets, Jobs with Justice, National Council of Churches and Rainbow PUSH. These groups have come together to take a stand against the unprecedented assaults on the Postal Service including efforts to dismantle and privatize it. To join A Grand Alliance, visit www.AGrandAlliance.org.