By Terry Stoller
The postal service is going to “relocate,” meaning to sell and close this beautiful Venice Main Office; and move across the street to the Annex. There is a line inside and there are only two clerks here today, and they are overworked due to continual understaffing. Furthermore, during each week there are often even longer lines, also due to understaffing.
At the same time, this is going on across the United States. Last September, the postal service announced plans to close 252 mail processing plants, including the plants in Long Beach, Pasadena, City of Industry, Bakersfield, Midway in San Diego and others – each of these plants employs hundreds of people. Also, the postal service has previously announced plans to close more than 3,000 post offices and stations.
A few days ago, the postal service indicated, in its “Return to Profitability” statement, that will not even wait for the advisory opinion of the Postal Regulatory Commission due out in September, and will not only begin closing processing plants in May, but also will reduce service standards this April throughout the country, which will end overnight delivery of first class mail in “local” areas, such as Southern California, and from two day to three day delivery, and so on.
Yet, they are not going to reduce the cost of a first class stamp by half! This is like the CEO of Amtrak coming up with an idea to “restore profitability” by instead of today’s two day ride from L.A. to Chicago, to make it four days instead!
So, for decades mailing a first-class letter from Venice to Long Beach was delivered overnight; but, starting in April, a first class letter will now be delivered in two days. I could walk there, or ride a pony, and deliver it myself in two days! Like in any other type of business, delaying service will hurt business and drive customers elsewhere with their business.
All we hear in the news lately is that the postal service is “nearing insolvency.” This is a manufactured crises!
Many members of congress have proposed that the postal service should no longer have to pre-fund future health care benefits 75 years in advance, and pay for it in just 10 years. And, many pending bills propose to relieve the postal service of this $5.5 billion burden (now estimated at $13 billion). No other agency or corporation must meet this type of unreasonable burden. In addition, there are varying estimates of between $50 to $70 billion the postal service has overpaid to the two retirement funds.
The public may not be aware that the postal service doesn’t need, or take taxpayer money to operate; but is virtually self-supporting, from the sale of stamps and other postal products and services. What other government agency does this?
And, the postal service generated more than $65 billion in revenue last year? What other federal agency can say this – Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense?
While it is true that the postal service had large losses since the near depression that began in 2008, but it is also clear that nearly all corporations had large losses as well, including multi-nationals, the homebuilding industry, the auto industry, to name a few.
But, they want the public to believe that it’s “the internet” and other forms of electronic communication that have “destroyed” the financial viability of the postal service. But, there was an internet in 2006 wasn’t there? The postal service business has been hurt by the internet, but only to a much smaller degree than most of the public has been led to believe. The postal service business is very economically sensitive and will improve as the economy recovers.
The postal service did not “fall apart” when the telegraph came along, or when the telephone came along either, but actually survived and advanced. The postal service can take advantage of new technologies, and will continue to expand as the package business, priority mail and business mailings of letters and flats, increases. But, large and powerful corporate interests do not want the postal service to survive at all, and the postal service must not allow these powerful corporations to destroy it.
If the postal service is so poverty stricken, then why are the great privatizers – the corporations, such as Pitney Bowes, Fed Ex, UPS, pre-sort houses and the large mailers, waiting in the wings, salivating for a chance at the lucrative postal business? They don’t think that the postal service is a “dying business.” The US post office is named in the United State Constitution. Not only is this building up for sale, but so is the entire postal service, to the highest bidders – not to those with the highest purposes.
In 1939 the Venice Post Office was constructed and has been the center of the Venice community ever since. In the same year, 1939, a great movie was released, “Mr. Smith goes to Washington.” When Jimmy Stewart, as Mr. Smith, arrived in Washington DC as a Senator, he wanders around, inspired and in awe at the architecture, especially the Lincoln Memorial. Those structures still stand and are meaningful to all Americans.
This Venice Post Office still stands, and is as genuine and meaningful to this community today, as it was during the great depression when it was constructed. And, in that great movie, Mr. Smith was a new Senator with idealism and strength of character, and because of those qualities, he was attacked and framed. But he didn’t give up, and he rose in the Senate chambers in a marathon filibuster, and told everyone who would listen, that when it comes to “lost causes,” that “they were the only causes worth fighting for.”
In the end, Mr. Smith won what nearly everyone else felt was a lost cause. The saving of the Venice Post Office is not a lost cause either, but is a worthy and noble cause that must be won. Let’s put a stop to this nonsense closure, and embrace this post office, so that it and this community can thrive and prosper for decades, and decades, to come.
Terry Stoller is the President of the California Local of the American Postal Workers Union.