ST. LOUIS - "To eliminate Saturday service would destroy the Postal Service," Tony Harris, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Gateway District Area Local, said outside the downtown main post office here July 12.
The U.S. Postal Service has proposed cutting Saturday delivery service in an attempt to save money. USPS officials also want to close neighborhood post offices and lay off more postal employees. They claim the USPS is expecting huge budgetary deficits.
As around 50 postal workers, community leaders and union allies picketed, Harris added, "The decline in mail volume is a reflection of the economy. As the economy grows the mail volume will grow also."
He continued, "You cannot eliminate service and expect to grow."
"The USPS created this crisis," Harris said. He was referring to the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which requires the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health care costs. As a result the USPS starts every fiscal year more than $5 billion in debt.
"No other company - government or federal agency - has to do this," Harris said. "And this is what has caused the Postal Service to be in the red."
The USPS has laid off around 100,000 employees over the past two years to cut costs.
"It is important that all unions get together and work on this," said Anthony Davis, president of Mail Handlers Union Local 314. "It affects all of us."
He added, "The Postal Service is the heart of America."
David Ware, a member of APWU Local 182, told the People's World, "This will impact everybody - our customers, businesses, and our livelihoods."
He asked, "Who will bring integrity to mail delivery? If we hand this over to private businesses, who knows what the service will be like."
Harris said, "Private deliverers will charge a premium to fill the void if Saturday service is eliminated."
It is estimated by the Postal Regulatory Commission that eliminating Saturday service would only save the Postal Service about $1.9 billion annually.
However, if the Postal Service did not pre-fund retirees' health care the USPS would actually have a $3.7 billion surplus - despite declining mail volume due to increased use of electronic mail and an economy in crisis.
"This is a thinly veiled attempt to privatize the Postal Service," Bradley Harmon, president of the Missouri State Workers' Union - CWA 6355, told the World. "There is nothing more American than the post office," he added.
"My union represents social service workers," Harmon said. "We service low-income people. Many of them don't have a phone or Internet. Eliminating Saturday service will make it more difficult for them to get the social services they need right now."
State Rep. Jeff Roorda agreed and added, "I am sick and tired of folks saying we need to privatize everything. We know what will happen - private enterprise will screw this up. They will charge more and there will be scandals."
"Scab labor cannot do this job," Roorda concluded.
Photo: Workers rally outside the main post office in St. Louis, July 12. (PW/Tony Pecinovsky)