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Shock Doctrine at U.S. Postal Service: Is a Manufactured Crisis Behind Push Toward Privatization?

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Today, postal workers and their supporters are holding events across the country to press their demand for repealing the benefit-funding mandate and push back against calls for their workplace to be privatized.

For months, Americans have heard dire warnings about the impending collapse of the United States Postal Service due to fiscal insolvency and a drop in the use of mail service. In early September, the U.S. Postmaster General told Congress that the USPS is close to default and unveiled a series of radical proposals to cut costs by firing up to 120,000 workers, closing several thousand facilities, scaling back deliveries, and reducing benefits for retirees.

But many postal workers say the much-touted crisis facing the U.S. Postal Service is not what it seems. They argue the greatest volume of mail handled in the 236-year history of the postal service was 2006. They also point to a 2006 law that forced the USPS to become the only agency required to fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over just a 10-year span, and say the law's requirements account for 100 percent of the service's $20 billion in losses over the previous four years, without which the service would have turned a profit.

Democracy Now! hosted a debate on the issue today between Chuck Zlatkin, the legislative and political director of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, and Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce in Washington, D.C.:

Last week, Republicans introduced legislation to overhaul the USPS in response to a bill proposed by Democrats that would refund a reported $6.9 billion in over-payments to the USPS retirement plan, offer early retirement and voluntary separation incentives, adjust retiree benefits prepayment requirements, and preserve employee protections set out in collective bargaining agreements.

Click here to read the complete transcript.

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