Blame. It’s a heavy word, and far more than just the title of a catchy Calvin Harris dance anthem. Based on a Senate hearing on March 12th of this year, we know that President Trump’s Postal Task Force is quick to blame USPS workers for the Postal Service’s financial woes. However, the Task Force is pointing the proverbial finger in the wrong direction. While the Trump administration and the media keep attacking postal employees and their unions, we think it’s time to stop blaming USPS workers for USPS’ growing money problems. The real issue here is that dreaded “P” word: pre-funding…but first, let’s get both sides of the story, shall we?
Why Trump’s Postal Task Force Blames USPS Workers
“It’s the unions’ fault!” the fictional CEO said to his fictional board of directors, beads of translucent sweat forming at the top of his furrowed brow. “They keep sucking up all the money!”
All jokes aside, whenever corporations or governments face financial difficulty, their first reflex is typically to blame workers’ unions. When it comes to the Trump administration and the US Postal Service, that’s exactly what’s happening.
There’s no question that USPS workers receive more privileges than other workers in the private sector, such as the ability to collectively bargain over better wages and benefits. This is due to Congressional reform following the Great Postal Strike of 1970. However, Trump’s Postal Task Force argues that postal workers don’t deserve these rights because they don’t face “the same level of risk that their company will go out of business” as workers do in the private sector. The Task Force’s logic is that without the ability to collectively bargain, USPS workers will receive fairer (aka lower) wages, which will place the organization on the path to better financial health.
Walking a Mile in USPS Workers’ Shoes
USPS workers do in fact have more rights than other federal workers to bargain over wages and benefits. However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies on their side of the fence, either. According to a Postal Service Workforce Submission to Trump’s Postal Task Force, the organization is far from on solid footing. Over the past decade, 485 of the Postal Service’s 685 mail processing facilities have closed or consolidated. This has resulted in more than 200,000 job cuts and reduced hours of operations at 13,000 post offices. Call us party poopers, but those statistics don’t paint USPS as “risk-free” as the Postal Task Force claims it is. What’s the reason for all this financial chaos, you ask? The answer boils down to pre-funding legislation.
What is Pre-Funding?
Great question! Pre-funding describes the process of setting aside money for future Postal Service employees’ benefits. Currently, a Congressional mandate enacted in 2006 requires USPS to pre-fund future employee’s health and retirement benefits as far as 75 years in the future! Plain and simple, pre-funding is the reason why USPS keeps losing so much money each year. We’re talking billions of dollars. In fact, pre-funding accounts for over 90% of the Postal Service’s annual losses, and is the main reason for the $3.9 billion loss USPS posted in fiscal year 2018. It’s hard for USPS to fight for a better financial future when federal law has the organization’s hands tied behind its back. Unless pre-funding legislation changes, USPS is just going to keep losing more money year after year.
Without Pre-Funding, USPS Would Have Made Money From 2013 Onward
The above title speaks for itself, folks. It’s true. Without pre-funding legislation that USPS is forced to abide by, the organization would have been profitable every single year since 2013! Fixing any “problems” with USPS workers’ unions and their ability to collectively bargain would be about as effective as plugging up a bullet hole with chewing gum. The only hope the Postal Service has for a healthy financial future is to rid itself of the pre-funding problem—and the only power to make that happen lies with Congress.
During the March 12th Senate hearing, Vice Chairman of USPS’ Board of Governors David Williams spoke out on the severity of the pre-funding issue, and why it needs to end.
“It’s been devastating,” he said. “[Pre-funding] wiped out our entire ability to make capital investments. We’re having to cut back so fast, we can’t understand fully the impact of what it is we’re doing. It’s been very, very serious.”