‘A power grab’: Postal union slams Trump for holding USPS funds hostage to force ‘draconian cuts’

‘This administration is committed to fulfilling the decades-long pursuit by some to sacrifice our public Postal Service at the altar of private profit.’

The 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union accused President Donald Trump of plotting to “sacrifice our public Postal Service at the altar of private profit” after the Washington Post reported late Thursday that the White House is considering using a $10 billion relief loan approved by Congress last month to impose long-sought changes on the popular agency.

“It’s a power grab to destroy the public Postal Service. Shame on them,” Mark Dimondstein, president of the APWU, said in a statement.

According to the Post, “officials working under Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who must approve the $10 billion loan, have told senior officials at the USPS in recent weeks that he could use the loan as leverage to give the administration influence over how much the agency charges for delivering packages and how it manages its finances.”

The $10 billion loan was authorized by the CARES Act, which President Trump signed into law last month after threatening to veto the bill if it included a $13 billion direct grant that Democratic lawmakers proposed. The loan is a fraction of the $75 billion the Postal Service has requested to avert total collapse by September.

Trump has openly dismissed calls to prioritize emergency funding for the Postal Service, whose finances have been shaken by a precipitous decline in mail volume caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Analysts have stressed that Congress is largely responsible for the popular agency’s financial troubles: In 2006, lawmakers approved legislation that requires USPS to prefund its retirees’ health benefits through the year 2056.

Dimondstein said Thursday that the Post‘s reporting confirms that the Trump administration is attempting to take advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to fundamentally transform USPS and force “draconian cuts.” In 2018, a White House task force released a proposal that, if implemented, would eventually privatize the Postal Service and roll back postal workers’ collective bargaining rights.

As the Post noted, “if Mnuchin were to gain greater control through the new loan, a slew of Postal Service management decisions, including the terms of major contracts and collective bargaining strategy, could require Treasury’s approval.”

“Postal workers provide an absolutely essential service to everyone in the country—no matter how rich or poor we are or where we live,” said Dimondstein. “During this pandemic, postal workers have continued to bind the nation together and deliver essential medicine, supplies, and information to a public that is confined to their homes.”

“At a time when the country needs us now more than ever,” Dimondstein added, “Mnuchin and his Wall Street cronies are attempting to exploit the crisis to raise prices, demonize heroic postal workers, and cut service, all so private delivery companies can profit.”

An explosive report in @washingtonpost tonight shows that while postal workers are literally putting their lives on the line, the White House is coming after their jobs.

We need EVERYONE to take action to #SaveThePostOffice #SaveTheUSPS https://t.co/z4xxdrmmFH

—APWU National (@APWUnational) April 23, 2020

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told the Post that he hopes USPS will tell Mnuchin that “they’re not going to agree to unacceptable conditions, and that means Mnuchin will have on his hands the disruption of services this fall.”

“I think it’s time to stare him down and this White House down, and for Congress to decide [if we are] going to stand with the Postal Service as we know it,” Connolly said. “This is an essential service and it needs to be treated as such. My hope would be that the Postal will stare him down. If they don’t, it’s tantamount to handing over day-to-day management to the Treasury Department.”

In an email to supporters on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that if Congress “can bail out large corporations, we can damn well help the Postal Service—the most popular government agency in America—from going bankrupt because of this horrific pandemic.”

“The USPS is expected to lose about 50% of its revenue due to a loss of mail volume during the pandemic. And what most people do not know is that the USPS does not run on taxpayer dollars—it relies completely on revenue created by postage and postal services,” Sanders wrote. “If the Postal Service goes under, universal and affordable delivery would no longer be a guaranteed public service.”

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Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep

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