EPI’s research has found that without federal aid to states and local communities, 5.3 million workers will likely lose their jobs by the end of 2021. That’s on top of the tens of millions of workers who have already lost their jobs as a direct result of the pandemic.
The U.S. Postal Service plays a critical role in our economy—and our democracy. The Biden administration and Congress must act swiftly to protect and strengthen this critical public service.
The Postal Service is still digging out from under an avalanche of mail from the holiday season, a problem caused by two key factors:
- COVID-19 and its impact on the workforce at a time when mail volume surged.
- Mismanagement under the Trump administration, spurred by the president’s opposition to mail voting and his animus toward Amazon, a major USPS customer. (Amazon’s CEO owns the Washington Post, whose coverage was critical of the Trump administration.)
Slow mail isn’t the fault of postal workers—it’s the result of sabotage. The Trump administration revived attacks on the Postal Service by anti-government ideologues and special interests who have long sought to privatize, shrink, or destroy it. The administration explored privatization options and installed a new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, who implemented cost-cutting measures that damaged the Postal Service’s reputation for on-time delivery and threatened the integrity of the November election.
The USPS board currently has three vacancies. President Biden should waste no time in filling vacancies with strong Postal Service advocates, including another vacancy that will open up in December. The new leadership and Congress should work together to loosen constraints on the Postal Service that limit its ability to fulfill its public service mission and prevent it from expanding into new areas to meet unmet needs, including the revival of postal banking.
A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute states, “The social value of the Postal Service extends beyond the economic benefits provided by its delivery operations. It connects family and friends, fosters democracy, and is a key part of our emergency and national security infrastructure.”
It’s critical that the Postal Service continues to perform these essential functions for generations to come. To do this, the Biden administration and Congress need to untie the straitjacket that hinders its ability to fulfill its public service mission, including expanding services.
The Postal Service is bound by legislative and regulatory constraints that limit what it can charge for mail delivery, saddle it with unnecessary costs, and prevent it from expanding into new areas. Loosening these constraints would allow the Postal Service to meet unmet needs and to offset costs associated with maintaining a network of post offices and delivery routes. The high level of public trust in the Postal Service and its brick-and-mortar presence in all but the smallest communities are assets that would allow it to successfully expand the financial and other services offered. This would offer a lifeline to the one in five mostly low-income adults, many living in rural areas and other “banking deserts” not served by traditional financial institutions, who resort to using check cashing outlets, payday lenders, and other predatory services at an average cost of $2,400 per year.
Together, we call on Congress to:
– Work with the Biden administration to ensure the speedy appointment of strong public service advocates to the USPS Board of Governors.
– Loosen constraints on the Postal Service and expand its mission to include a return to postal banking, a service that existed in the United States from 1911 until 1967 and that currently serves people in numerous countries including Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
– Ensure that the Postal Service can continue to provide good jobs for workers, particularly Black workers, workers without bachelor’s degrees, and military veterans who especially benefit from Postal Service employment.
– Oppose privatization and outsourcing caused by high “workshare” discounts for mail that has been processed or transported closer to its destination. These lucrative discounts, the fruit of intense lobbying by corporations, enrich low-wage employers at the expense of the Postal Service and its workers.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Those words are carved into the facade of a post office in New York city, and the phrase has become the unofficial postal worker motto.
By strengthening the U.S. Postal Service and expanding its mission, we can take strides to address racial justice, create good jobs, and provide millions of people with a trustworthy, affordable, and accessible banking option.
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