May 15, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – Thursday, May 12, A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service, a coalition of 130 organizations, met at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, and held a hearing in front of a wide range of politicians and activists.
The group aims to examine a range of threats and possible solutions to the problems the Postal Service is facing, and to prevent cuts and layoffs. Attendees and speakers included Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President, Norman Siegel, former Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Michelle Holder, Assistant Professor of Economics from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, and Minister Deirdre Fisher- Kemp, of the New Light Baptist Church. Public Advocate Letitia James had been scheduled to attend but had to withdraw at the last minute because of a personal family emergency.
Testimony was presented by James Parrott, Chief Economist and Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, Mariam Sammons, of Visiting Neighbors, Sarah Ludwig, Founder and Co- director of the New Economy Project, Julio Pabon, Bronx businessman and community activist,
and Jeremy Mohler, Communications Specialist at In The Public Interest.
The presentation began with a brief filmed spot by actor Danny Glover, himself the son of a postal worker, who warned that, “some people are want to bring down the postal service,” which he said was a longtime source of “good, decent union jobs,” and “a public trust, a national
Introductory remarks by moderator Nellie Bailey stressed that “our public good must not be sacrificed for the profit of private investment,” and privatization was a key concern in much of the testimony that followed. James Parrott said that some Washington officials were seeking to
privatize the post office, and that this effort underlay the oft-promoted fallacy that it is losing money. In 2006, Congress required the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree healthcare costs 75 years into the future at a cost of approximately $5.5 billion annually, thus laying the groundwork for financial instability. Mariam Sammons, whose organization Visiting Neighbors helps seniors in New York City, talked about their fear of privatization of the service, as the post office has many important roles in seniors’ lives, among them the dependable delivery of medications and medical supplies. Julio Pabon spoke of the manufactured financial crisis and how it functions to “weaken the Postal Service” and serves as “an excuse for cutbacks.” Small business owners can suffer “devastating” losses when a neighborhood post office closes, he added. And Jeremy Mohler, from In The Public Interest, a research and policy center that focuses on privatization and responsible contracting, said that “across the board, privatization means less public control, less democracy.”
A central tenet of the Grand Alliance is that rather than cutbacks, the Postal Service should seek to expand its services, in such areas as postal banking – an idea advocated by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders among others -- especially in underserved communities, which are mostly communities of color. The services would range from paycheck cashing and bill payment to savings accounts and small dollar loans.
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, said, “The local post office is a pillar of so many neighborhoods – innovations like basic banking services can benefit the community while strengthening the Postal Service for the future.”
The importance of postal service jobs in communities of color is also an issue. As James Parrott said, “For many years, the Postal Service has been a major employer of workers of color.” Cuts and layoffs will disproportionately negatively affect them.
People in the crowd offered their thoughts and reasons for attending. Jim Holland, from the National Association of Letter Carriers, said, “I’m here to support the Grand Alliance and the Postal Service. We’ve come together with our sister unions, the APWU, Mail Handlers and
Rural Letter Carriers and the community and the public to stand up for the Postal Service. It’s a tremendous asset to this country. Over the past few years we have lost up to 200,000 jobs.”
Chuck Zlotkin, who works for the President of the APWU, Mark Dimondstein, mentioned the importance of the educational aspect of the hearing, and said it gave people the opportunity to express opinions and articulate solutions, and also to put pressure on those who make changes.
Tommy Reid, Vice President of the National Postal Mail Handlers, Local 300, said, “We are here to represent the unions, try to get the people involved and informed, and let them know what is actually happening.”