Postal workers have seen us at a huge cost to their own health and safety by 2020. “The USPS has more than fulfilled its mission 23,000 postal workers test positive for COVID-19 and tens of thousands of additional workers, some days up to 19,000, who are quarantined and unemployed due to exposure, ”reported the American Postal Workers Union At the end of a pandemic year, more than 100 postal workers were killed from COVID-related symptoms.
Despite all of the challenges and demands of the pandemic and despite the tireless efforts of the Trump administration and Postmaster General Louis DeJoyTo disable and tear down this essential service, the postal workers delivered the medicines that saved lives and the ballots that saved democracy to more than 160 million American addresses in 2020.
However, the postal service enters as a vulnerable facility in 2021. “As this pandemic expands and we overcome the challenge of processing and delivering tens of millions of postal ballots on time, it is easy to forget the postal workers and believe that they will be there every day, constantly delivering billions of items of mail, medicines , Ballot papers and packages, ”says APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “The fact is, however, that we can only continue our mission with public support.”
In 2021, President-elect Biden and Congress cannot just save the postal service by accepting Representative Mark Pocan’s urge new USPS leadership and by providing funds to keep the service going in this moment of the pandemic – but try to expand it dramatically.
To put the USPS on a solid financial footing, Congress should lessen the heavy burden of requiring that retirees’ health care costs be prepaid in the billions of dollars over decades. “This,” recalls the APWU, “is an expense that is not required by any other public or private employer and which accounts for nearly 90 percent of the USPS’s structural deficit.”
Then Biden and Congress should work to implement bold proposals from strong defenders of the USPS – like Pocan and Senator Bernie Sanders – so that the postal service would provide better service.
You can start with “Postbank” reforms that would allow the postal service to provide basic financial services – something the USPS did until 1967 and postal services in other countries continue to do today. A robust Postbank program would benefit underserved communities and the general public 14.1 million American adults who are “bankless” due to poverty, isolation and the systemic injustices that define the private banking system of this country.
Biden and the Democrats should also allow the USPS to develop new services. As Sanders notes, it is absurd that “it is currently against the law for post office workers to copy documents, deliver wine or beer, and wrap Christmas presents”. Sanders and Pocan would also resume overnight delivery and improve service standards as part of a smart and necessary modernization program.
Sanders argues that “the beauty of the postal service is that it provides universal service to every corner of America six days a week, no matter how small or how far away,” and that Congress should “save and strengthen the postal service, not reduce it. ”
The need to strengthen the USPS is not new. But after we’ve all seen the importance of postal workers to the health and safety, economy, and democracy of the United States, there should be no debate about the importance of recharging the postal service in 2021.