With additional reporting by Torri R. Oats
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is facing massive shutdowns because it is $10 billion in debt. As it is a main source of good jobs for black people, particularly black women, this could deeply impact our community. CNN reports that 120,000 jobs are on the line as the government considers layoffs and other measures to make up this billion dollar difference. Twenty-one percent of USPS workers are African-American and 37 percent are women, showing its potential impact on our community. Currently, USPS workers are fighting to stop these tremendous losses. As black unemployment is already twice the national average at about 17%, this is not a fight we can afford to lose.
How did this happen? The problems facing the USPS didn’t start overnight, and they are not related to the decline in people sending mail as is being promoted by the GOP. In fact, one can point to a burdensome 2006 law that mandates the USPS to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of future retiree health benefits in just over ten years. It is worth noting that the USPS is the only federal agency affected by the law. The current struggle is the culmination of this ill-conceived legislation.
Critics of this law have compared this to a person being told suddenly that you have to pay your 30-year mortgage in five years, and then being threatened with foreclosure if you cannot come up with the cash overnight. Before the federal government began demanding these prefunding payments, which amount to billions of dollars a year, the USPS was actually profitable. Now, all of a sudden the Postmaster General has been forced to lay out a dire scenario to Congress which could result in the firing of thousands of workers and closing thousands of facilities — not to mention cutting back on basics like Saturday service.
Some activists believe this crisis is being “manufactured,” according to The Huffington Post, with the intention of dismantling the USPS so it can be privatized for the benefit of cut-throat companies with no interest in serving the public good.