COMMENTARY: Postal workers kept the public safe. Why does the White House want to get rid of them?

COMMENTARY | Mark Dimondstein

During a tense week recently, pipe bombs mailed to former President Barack Obama, actor Robert DeNiro, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, the offices of CNN and at least a dozen other targets dominated the news. These overtly political acts of domestic terrorism originated in South Florida and were intended to maim and kill. Fortunately, none of the identified 16 package bombs detonated.

As the country held its collective breath, there were three aspects of this story that got little coverage.

First, these criminal acts put tens of thousands of postal workers in harm’s way.

Second, despite the threat of injury or death, 500,000 dedicated, trained and accountable postal workers continued to carry out their mission contained in the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act: “The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the nation together. … It shall provide prompt, reliable and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Postal employees continued to serve customers at retail windows, sort letters and packages, drive mail trucks and deliver mail daily to 157 million addresses.

Third, in many cases it was conscientious and alert postal workers who identified suspicious packages and took action to protect not just their own safety, but also that of their co-workers and the public. The leadership of the four postal unions and postal management cooperated to ensure that postal workers were on high alert and vigilant, helping lead to a positive outcome.

It’s little wonder that the Postal Service remains the most trusted federal agency. It does not use a dime of taxpayer money for its operations and is the crucial anchor of the successful e-commerce revolution. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows that 88 percent of the population has a favorable view of the Postal Service. Every person, household and business is a postal customer, and the post office remains central to the fabric of neighborhoods and communities.

Yet, in its June 21 report, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” the White House Office of Management and Budget announced its intent to privatize the U.S. Postal Service and sell it to the highest corporate bidder. If allowed to move forward, this would enrich some Wall Street investors and a few powerful corporations. For the rest of us, the “99 percent,” it would result in diminished postal services and higher prices.

In addition to this proposal, add a soon-to-be-released report from a presidential task force on the future of the post office. There is little doubt that this task force, of which OMB is an integral part, will make proposals harmful to the Postal Service and detrimental to the rights and benefits of those who move the mail.

These plans from the highest levels of government demonize and degrade postal workers’ contributions and are part of an attempt to convince the public to support postal privatization. These privatizers want to drown out the quiet, unsung postal workers’ heroism in the recent moment of crisis. They ignore the real-life stories of how the Postal Service and postal workers are consistently on the front lines in returning normalcy to our communities after devastation such as from hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, flooding in Texas and North Carolina, fires in California and volcanic eruptions in Hawaii.

We are all postal customers and undoubtedly appreciate the outstanding efforts of dedicated postal workers in the face of these recent crimes. But our appreciation is not enough to defeat the efforts of those who would destroy the Postal Service and loot the public good for private gain. Join the effort to guarantee that the postal service remains owned by, and in the service of, the people.

Ask your member of Congress to co-sponsor House Resolution 993 and Senate Resolution 633, opposing privatization of the U.S. Postal Service. Let’s ensure that the postal eagle, symbolizing its public ownership, is never sacrificed on the altar of private profit, replaced by the vulture of corporate greed.

Mark Dimondstein is president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO. His column was published in the Miami Herald.