Skip to main content

By Richard Kirsch, originally published on Next New Deal

The U.S. Postal Service is making changes that will add low wage jobs to our economy, rather than the middle-class jobs it's known for that we really need.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has just come out with its latest report on the wage-levels of jobs added as the nation has emerged from the Great Recession. As with NELP’s previous reports, which continue to garner national attention, the news was pretty simple: we’re only adding low-wage jobs. Some 1.85 million more low-wage workers—defined by under $13.33 an hour—are employed by low-wage industries now then in 2008. About the same number, 1.93 million workers—fewer workers are now employed in mid-wage and higher-wage industries. 

Protest by AFGE against postal service outsourcing to Staples
The U.S. Postal Service has historically been one of those higher-wage industries, with average pay just under $25 an hour. For generations, postal jobs have been a ticket to the middle-class, including as one of the few employers who hired African Americans at good wages earlier in the 20th Century. But the post office is accelerating a new strategy to increase sales and shed labor costs by opening up mini-post offices at Staples stores.

Staples is one of those low-wage employers, with Staples workers reporting that retail clerks average around $8.50 an hour. After piloting the mini-post offices in 82 Staples stores, the post office announced it would expand the program, prompting the American Postal Workers Union to organize more than 50 protest rallies outside Staples stores around the country.

Of course, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that no postal jobs would be lost because of the Staples program and that the motivation was “growing our business.” But the same Wall Street Journal article with Donohoe’s statement revealed the real motivation. It quoted an internal postal service memo, which said that the Staples pilot program was to determine “if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail window at Post Offices.” Oops!

The Staples arrangement is a huge expansion of the arrangement with retailers like Walmart and CVS around the country to sell stamps and other limited services. If the Staples pilot takes hold, it could pave the way for a huge collapse in the number of post offices outside rural areas. 

It’s good to see that the American Postal Workers Union is loudly protesting the Staples deal. Workers in 27 states carried signs saying “Stop Staples: The U.S. Mail is Not for Sale” at the protests held on Thursday. The postal union is looking for allies. The California Federation of Teachers, which has 120,000 members, is considering a resolution to boycott buying school supplies at Staples.

What’s at stake is not just the jobs of postal workers; it’s the American economy. We built the economy with middle-class jobs and the more we destroy them, the bleaker the prospects of economic prosperity for all but the richest of us.

I’ll be looking for a new source of office supplies, too.

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Economics on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 11:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Labor and Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I'm of mixed feelings on this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katesmom, misslegalbeagle, VClib

    Our local grocery store has had a mini post office in it for as long as we have been here. It is staffed by store employees - much as I would assume the Staples miniposts would be. Our local post office which is about a 15 minute drive for me closes at 5pm. The mini post office in the grocery store is open till 10pm and is less than 5 minutes away. I can do almost everything at the minipost as I can at the regular post office (except apply for a passport or rent a P.O. box). My wife mails lots and lots of packages for her business. This has been a great convenience for us.

    I don't see any way the regular post office would stay open till 10pm. I'm sure there simply wouldn't be enough business to justify it.

    However, as you indicate, this continues the erosion of wages. We might just have to accept that the tradition job of the postal clerk is going to be obsoleted.

    •  Neocon politicians want to destroy (9+ / 0-)

      all Federal agencies...the USPS, IRS, NIH, DEC, etc.  They've privatized the prison system and their greedy rich corporate cronies are "cleaning up" by arresting schoolchildren if they're late for school...and their political stooges are cleaning up with hefty campaign donations.

      Get rid of the USPS and private corporations will know all your mailing and shipping habits...all that you write and all that you buy.  Get rid of Federal agencies that protect our water and air and then get rid of Obamacare.  The corporate gulag will own you and you'll be their slave.  Try going to the Koch brothers to complain, for example.  Ryan wants to get rid of all Federal agencies and social programs except the police, military and judicial branches.  Try living in a country like that.

      Might be worth your wife's planning her schedule to get her mailings done on USPS time, since she might not have anything to mail in a corporate gulag.

  •  You cannot expect any business to (5+ / 0-)

    voluntarily choose to pay high wages when there is a lower cost alternative available.

    If USPS pays $25 per hour and FedEx/UPS don't, they will be put out of business.

    Capitalism will not stop the race to the bottom that began so long ago with outsourcing, offshoring and automation.  

    I agree that lower and lower wages are a huge problem.  I think the only remedy is legislation, not unregulated capitalism.  We need better minimum wage laws, we need better fair pay laws, we need better laws for minimum benefits, we need better laws to establish and protect pensions, we need better laws across the board.

    No individual company (or union) can or will do this - it has to be regulated by the government as a normal cost of doing buisiness that all companies have to expect and deal with.

  •  Meanwhile Mr. Donohoe gets to enjoy his comfy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Naniboujou

    $245k a year salary. Isn't he something?

    “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

    by 420 forever on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 11:59:54 AM PDT

  •  Postal workers & NELP are correct on this.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mary Mike

    ..and it seems the Post Master General is allowing Darrell Issa's privatization campaign to go forward.
    Don't Forget: Republicans Are Still Trying to Kill the Postal Service - AFLCIO | 10/03/2013

    With that awful 2006 republican law:

    That’s because the Postal Service – unlike any other public or private institution in the United States of America – is bound to pre-fund 75 years of healthcare benefits over a decade. As I’ve reported, that unique requirement – passed on a voice vote, with bipartisan support, in the final days of GOP control of Congress in 2006 – accounts for most of the Post Office’s deficit ever since. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe testified this month in Congress that the pre-funding made up $32 billion of USPS’ $41 billion net loss since the requirement went into effect.
    Get rid of that 2006 law, or at least head in the opposite direction from what the republican corpo shills have been unable to do to strangle and privatize our constitutional USPS - imo - the republicans looking for another way to siphon off even more $money from our "big government" they so hypocritically say they they detest

    And Kudos to Richard Kirsch and the Roosevelt Institute

    •  A fully funded pension? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thomask, Sark Svemes

      If so, they might have the only one in America! Can't have that, can we?

      •  No, it's mandatory pre-funding of health benefits (4+ / 0-)

        It's a poison pill the toxicity of plutonium. The requirement is to compress funding of around 75 years worth of retiree health benefits into less than 10 years while denying the USPS the ability to raise rates to pay for it.

        Darryl Issa, the Republican former car thief, rammed the PAEA (Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act) though Congress on the last day of the lame duck session in 2006. The entire purpose of the PAEA was to kill the USPS, loot its retirement plans and real estate holdings, and allow private businesses to scavenge the corpse.

        Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 401.25 ppm. That is "Climate Cluster Chaos". (hat tip to JeffW for CCC)

        by Zinman on Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:17:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  75 years worth of retiree health benefits for (0+ / 0-)

          employees who have yet to be hired or even born yet.  Thank you GOP and the Shrub President.  GOP must privatize all of the federal govt.

          It began a long time ago with Cheney while in the US House did a study with govt money on the military and came up with his company KBR to privatize the military.  The GOP is just expanding privatizing to all of the govt.

          •  This is a repeated lie (0+ / 0-)
            75 years worth of retiree health benefits for
            employees who have yet to be hired or even born yet.  
            The requirement is for the Postal Service to fund all benefit obligations as it accrues them.  That means if it makes a commitment to a person this year it must put enough funds in the pension fund this year to cover it, rather than assuming that it will be able to pay those benefits later out of future revenues.

            The window the USPS must use is 75 years.  In other words, the pension fund has to forecast existing obligations out 75 years.

            This is actually not enough time given that there may be survivor benefits that may need to be paid out as much as 150 years later.  (Remember - people aren't stupid about good deals.  If a letter carrier who is 20 today lives to be 100 why not ask him to marry his 17 year old mentally retarded great grand niece so she will have a pension until she dies?  In 2012 the US was still paying two Civil War pensions - http://www.usnews.com/...

            •  It's odd (0+ / 0-)

              I don't see where anything you claimed actually supported you calling this a lie. Meanwhile...

              http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/...

              In 2006, the United States Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA).  This bill required that the USPS prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span.

              Under the PAEA, USPS is required to make $103.7 billion in payments by 2016 to a fund that will pay for future health benefits of retirees of the next 75 years.  This health benefit prefunding mandate covers not only current employees that will retire in the future, but employees yet to be hired who will eventually retire.  On top of this, none of the money that the USPS contributes to this fund can be used to pay for current retiree health benefits.  So the USPS must make payments for current retirees' health benefits in addition to its required health benefit prepayments for future retirees.  This is something that no other government or private corporation is required to do and is an incredibly unreasonable burden.

              The Stand Your Ground defense is like bleach. It works miracles for whites, but it will ruin your colors. -- Jessica Williams on The Daily Show

              by tytalus on Sun May 04, 2014 at 10:43:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Your source is lying (0+ / 0-)
                Under the PAEA, USPS is required to make $103.7 billion in payments by 2016 to a fund that will pay for future health benefits of retirees of the next 75 years.  This health benefit prefunding mandate covers not only current employees that will retire in the future, but employees yet to be hired who will eventually retire.
                The law is at http://www.prc.gov/.... Go to Section 803.
                ‘‘(d)(1) Not later than June 30, 2007, and by June 30 of each succeeding year, the Office shall compute the net present value of the future payments required under section 8906(g)(2)(A) and
                attributable to the service of Postal Service employees during the most recently ended fiscal year.

                ‘‘(2)(A) Not later than June 30, 2007, the Office shall compute, and by June 30 of each succeeding year, the Office shall recompute the difference between—
                ‘‘(i) the net present value of the excess of future payments required under section 8906(g)(2)(A) for current and future United States Postal Service annuitants as of the end of the fiscal year ending on September 30 of that year; and
                ‘‘(ii)(I) the value of the assets of the Postal Retiree Health Benefits Fund as of the end of the fiscal year ending on September 30 of that year; and
                ‘‘(II) the net present value computed under paragraph (1).
                ‘‘(B) Not later than June 30, 2017, the Office shall compute, and by June 30 of each succeeding year shall recompute, a schedule including a series of annual installments which provide for the liquidation of any liability or surplus by September 30, 2056, or
                within 15 years, whichever is later, of the net present value determined under subparagraph (A), including interest at the rate used in that computation.
                ‘‘(3)(A) The United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund—
                ‘‘(i) $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2007;
                ‘‘(ii) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2008;
                ‘‘(iii) $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2009;
                ‘‘(iv) $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2010;
                ‘‘(v) $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2011;
                ‘‘(vi) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2012;
                ‘‘(vii) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2013;
                ‘‘(viii) $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2014;
                ‘‘(ix) $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2015;
                and
                ‘‘(x) $5,800,000,000, not later than September 30, 2016.
                ‘‘(B) Not later than September 30, 2017, and by September 30 of each succeeding year, the United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund the sum of—
                ‘‘(i) the net present value computed under paragraph (1);
                and
                ‘‘(ii) any annual installment computed under paragraph
                (2)(B).
                I don't think this is particularly hard to understand.
                •  Right, so everyone is lying but you, (0+ / 0-)

                  and you can't explain it, ok. You're right, that isn't particularly hard to understand.  :)

                  The Stand Your Ground defense is like bleach. It works miracles for whites, but it will ruin your colors. -- Jessica Williams on The Daily Show

                  by tytalus on Mon May 05, 2014 at 06:11:59 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Me and the Government Printing Office (0+ / 0-)

                    Did you bother reading the law?

                    If you don't believe it says what I wrote you are free to go to the link.

                    Or do you think I hacked the GPO to fool people here about what the law says?

                    •  I went to govtrack (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Zinman

                      I read it, and I still don't understand it, and you quoting it without an explanation doesn't help. You haven't demonstrated yourself as a more trustworthy authority on the subject. Consequently I find your claim that everyone else is lying about it in-credible.

                      The Stand Your Ground defense is like bleach. It works miracles for whites, but it will ruin your colors. -- Jessica Williams on The Daily Show

                      by tytalus on Mon May 05, 2014 at 08:13:06 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Have you noticed that none of the people who claim (0+ / 0-)

                        that the law requires the USPS to pay for health benefits for staff who will not be hired until 75 years from now actually bother to quote the law?

                        Ever occur to you there might be a reason for that?

                        I read it, and I still don't understand it
                        It's a bit dense, but there's nothing in it that should be unclear to anyone.
                        ‘‘(d)(1) Not later than June 30, 2007, and by June 30 of each succeeding year, the Office shall compute the net present value of the future payments required under section 8906(g)(2)(A) and attributable to the service of Postal Service employees during the most recently ended fiscal year.
                        So they have to calculate the accrued benefits attributable to service in the previous FY.
                        ‘(2)(A) Not later than June 30, 2007, the Office shall compute, and by June 30 of each succeeding year, the Office shall recompute the difference between—
                        ‘‘(i) the net present value of the excess of future payments required under section 8906(g)(2)(A) for current and future United States Postal Service annuitants as of the end of the fiscal year ending on September 30 of that year; and
                        ‘‘(ii)(I) the value of the assets of the Postal Retiree Health Benefits Fund as of the end of the fiscal year ending on September 30 of that year; and
                        ‘‘(II) the net present value computed under paragraph (1).
                        Now they have to calculate the difference in the NPV of all accrued benefits vs. what they have in the Health Benefits Fund.
                        (B) Not later than June 30, 2017, the Office shall compute, and by June 30 of each succeeding year shall recompute, a schedule including a series of annual installments which provide for the liquidation of any liability or surplus by September 30, 2056, or
                        within 15 years, whichever is later, of the net present value determined under subparagraph (A), including interest at the rate used in that computation.
                        ‘‘(3)(A) The United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund—
                        ‘‘(i) $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2007;
                        ‘‘(ii) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2008;
                        ‘‘(iii) $5,400,000,000, not later than September 30, 2009;
                        ‘‘(iv) $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2010;
                        ‘‘(v) $5,500,000,000, not later than September 30, 2011;
                        ‘‘(vi) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2012;
                        ‘‘(vii) $5,600,000,000, not later than September 30, 2013;
                        ‘‘(viii) $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2014;
                        ‘‘(ix) $5,700,000,000, not later than September 30, 2015;
                        and
                        ‘‘(x) $5,800,000,000, not later than September 30, 2016.
                        ‘‘(B) Not later than September 30, 2017, and by September 30 of each succeeding year, the United States Postal Service shall pay into such Fund the sum of—
                        ‘‘(i) the net present value computed under paragraph (1);
                        and
                        ‘‘(ii) any annual installment computed under paragraph
                        (2)(B).
                        Now here they have to make up the deficit in installments until Sept 30, 2016 and then stay current for the future.
                •  Distractions don't get it Beelzebub (0+ / 0-)

                  The real point here is that the PAEA was a means to bankrupt the USPS by imposing huge unprecedented and unnecessary costs upon the USPS without prohibiting them the means to pay for those unprecedented  costs.

                  The PAEA was designed to benefit private delivery companies, primarily FedEx, who are competitors in the USPS market, and to allow looting of the public assets held by the USPS.

                   

                  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 401.25 ppm. That is "Climate Cluster Chaos". (hat tip to JeffW for CCC)

                  by Zinman on Mon May 05, 2014 at 09:23:14 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Oops, please correct my prior post as follows: (0+ / 0-)

                    Strike the word "without" and replace it with "while".

                    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 401.25 ppm. That is "Climate Cluster Chaos". (hat tip to JeffW for CCC)

                    by Zinman on Mon May 05, 2014 at 09:28:14 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Can no longer recommend, (5+ / 0-)

      which is a royal pain and flaw of this site, but I agree with you.  The postal service was considered sufficiently important to the country to be part of the Constitution.  We are privatizing right and left.  There is no reason that package and mail delivery need to be privately held, for profit businesses.  Any more than the military, prisons, parks, health care or education should be for profit enterprises.

    •  Why are you calling it a Republican law? (0+ / 0-)

      As your source says, it was passed with bipartisan support.

  •  This is a deal that begs for an investigation by a (0+ / 0-)

    special prosecutor.

  •  We need a new Postmaster (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    writeofwinter, divineorder, Zinman

    How soon can we get a new one?

    "Get away from me, Padre. You stink of the irrational.” - Lex Luthor

    by Sark Svemes on Sat May 03, 2014 at 07:14:05 PM PDT

  •  Ummmm....Staples? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    writeofwinter, arlene

    Worried about them?  Staples MIGHT last a few more years.  Wouldn't be shocked if they filed before the year is out.

    That being said, and brought by a few above, many other retail or grocery store outfits offer mail service.  Not much to sell stamps.  As for me, I have not mailed a letter in 4 years.  Everything's electronically done.  Autopays, autofiles, autoeverything.  Just need to check on things on my droid to make sure it is done, if not my home laptop.

    •  Everything is electronically done, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thomask, divineorder, arlene

      and the fraud and theft we've personally experienced in the last year is enough to make one go back to paying cash in a brick and mortar store and never purchase online again.

      In the past month I've received 4 notices from major, reputable companies alerting me to the fact that their electronic systems have been breached and my personal info (dob, address, credit card numbers, medical info, etc.) are no longer secure.

      Nearly $7k was charged to two of our credit cards many miles from our home by people using fake cards.  Businesses will begin refusing to accept credit card purchases if this fraudulent use exceeds their expected losses, just as travelers checks went bye bye when fakes became widespread.

      And then there's the problem of server and hard drive failures.

    •  Yes I found it ironic... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sark Svemes

      that this whole thing was going down with Staples of all businesses. They are in the process of avoiding bankruptcy by closing at least 200 stores this year.

      This will really expand postal services (not)...

    •  Perhaps staples bankruptcy is the goal? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arlene, writeofwinter, marty marty

      Moving USPS operations to bain start up, staples, seems like a potentially effective way to doom the postal system. Hopefully staples [which 2012 presidential highe$t bidder and pathetic lo$er, mitt romney, made such a fuss about having started -- as if "creating" a few thousand shit paying jobs should qualify him to rewrite the rules on corporate looting with his partners in theft, money laundering and tax evasion (IMO) en route to virtually owning people for the most productive years of their lives via indentured servitude (also IMO)] will go belly up before we close more real post offices and the pension fund somehow vanishes into a few big pockets.

    •  Staples - a Bain company. Money to Romney. (0+ / 0-)
  •  The race to the top (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sark Svemes

    Has become the sprint to the bottom...

    "the northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see. Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee". - Robert Service, Bard of the Yukon

    by Joe Jackson on Sat May 03, 2014 at 08:07:23 PM PDT

  •  And (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zinman, joeschmeaux, marty marty

    California Federation of Teachers Votes to Boycott Staples over “Dirty Deal” with U.S. Post Office that Privatizes Work of Local Post Offices

    Teachers union encourages educators to purchase school supplies from stores other than Staples

    Sacramento, CA – The Executive Council of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), representing 120,000 educational employees from Head Start through university, voted unanimously last evening to boycott office supply and bulk goods retailer Staples. The CFT took this action at the request of the American Postal Workers Union, which has been opposing a no-bid sweetheart deal between the United States Postal Service and the giant office supply chain to operate postal counters in Staples stores.

    Staples workers earning minimum wages and meager benefits staff the Staples postal counters, rather than uniformed postal employees paid a living wage. Staples sales clerks have a high turnover rate, receive little training and are not required to have a background check or take an oath before handling U.S. mail. The APWU sees this Staples “pilot” as the first step in privatizing the USPS’ retail operations and eliminating local public post offices.

    http://www.cft.org/...
Click here for the mobile view of the site