The American Postal Workers Union, MoveOn.org, and many other supporters of the United States Postal Service took part in a socially distanced car caravan on June 23 to deliver more than two million petition signatures to Capitol Hill demanding emergency postal relief. Even a few dogs joined the solidarity action.
Caravan organizers aimed to boost support for the HEROES Act, which includes $25 billion in emergency aid to help USPS get through the crisis and continue to serve the American public. It also includes hazard pay for postal workers on the frontlines and removes onerous conditions on a $10 billion Treasury credit line offered in the CARES Act. The Senate was the primary focus of the solidarity action, as the House of Representatives has already passed the bill.
The action took place just a week after USPS got a new leader. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was a controversial choice because of his close ties to the White House and lack of experience in the Postal Service. A major fundraiser for the Trump campaign, DeJoy made his money as the CEO of a private logistics company that has paid fines for firing women who complained of sexual harassment and been accused of union busting.
APWU also organized a Facebook Live event co-hosted by Jon “Bowzer” Bauman, a household name in the 1970s and 1980s for his deep vocals in the Sha Na Na band, and Rahna Epting, Executive Director of MoveOn. With the caravan petition delivery on split screen, they and other speakers laid bare the high stakes in the fight for emergency postal relief.
APWU President Mark Dimondstein described how the economic crisis has slashed letter volumes and revenues. Although package delivery has risen with millions staying at home, he warns this increase is unsustainable as sky-high unemployment will eventually lower consumer demand and many people will return to brick and mortar shopping. Meanwhile, like other essential workers, postal workers are carrying a heavy burden under Covid-19. Dimondstein said at least 70 postal employees have died from the virus.
Bauman, who serves as a senior advisor at Social Security Works, pointed out that the USPS is needed to deliver Social Security checks. With photos from his many vacations in Alaska behind him, he also praised the universal service obligation of the Postal Service. “Even in the furthest parts of our beautiful country, the mail must go through,” he said. Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Richard Fiesta described how more than ever, the Post Office is vital for retired people, many of whom live in these rural areas.
MoveOn’s Epting explained that her father was a postal worker and pointed out that USPS is a critical source of good, union jobs, particularly for people of color. New research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that USPS workers are more than twice as likely to be Black as workers in the private sector.