Unionized postal workers and supporters in about 150 American cities will hold demonstrations on Friday in an attempt to halt impending cuts to the United States Postal Service (USPS) that threaten to reduce services and lay off thousands of employees.
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) estimates that roughly 100 protesters are expected to convene outside the USPS headquarters in Washington, D.C., where the postal service’s Board of Governors will be holding its last open session of 2014.
The protesters are demanding a moratorium on planned changes to USPS service standards that would reduce the speed with which a particular piece of mail is expected to travel from one mailbox to another. APWU spokesperson Sally Davidow said the planned reductions in service standards would “virtually eliminate any delivery of First-Class Mail overnight.”
If not prevented, the reduction in service standards would take effect on Jan. 5, 2015. A USPS fact sheet claims the change in service standards would increase the average delivery time for First-Class Mail from 2.14 days to 2.25 days. In addition to changing those standards, the postal service is on track to shutter 82 processing and distribution centers around the country. The combined cuts could cause as many as 15,000 USPS employees to lose their jobs.
The impending cuts are part of an effort to close the postal service’s $20 billion budget shortfall. But Davidow said the shortfall itself was “completely manufactured” by a 2006 law that requires the USPS to pre-fund its retiree health benefits, something that costs the service about $5.5 billion per year.
“They need to get rid of that requirement,” said Davidow. The USPS inspector general and some progressives have also floated the idea of funding the postal service by allowing it to offer low-cost banking services, something that it previously did between 1911 and 1966.
But according to USPS spokesperson Sue Brennan, the postal service's budgetary problems have a lot to do with falling demand.
"There are now fewer letters and considerably more packages and the network must reflect that," Brennan told the Huffington Post's David Jamieson over email. "With major volume decreases in First-Class Mail, the Postal Service has significant excess capacity in its network and cannot sit idly by and do nothing. The Postal Service firmly believes that the operational changes being implemented are necessary."
In April, 50 senators signed onto a letter supporting a moratorium on reductions in USPS service standards. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and incoming Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will speak in support of such a moratorium at the Washington, D.C. protest.