Postal employees rallied against privatization outside the Minneapolis post office on Tax Day last April, reminding the public that the USPS receives no tax dollars for operating expenses. Sale of postage, products and services entirely funds its operations.
Gov. Tim Walz issued a proclamation last week declaring Wednesday, Nov. 27, Public Post Office Day in the state of Minnesota.
The proclamation, signed by both the governor and Secretary of State Steve Simon, is a token of the state’s gratitude for the U.S. Postal Service and its employees as they brace for a busy holiday mailing season.
Aaron Young, president of Local 7019 of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), began lobbying Walz’s office for a Public Post Office Day in Minnesota after learning Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington signed a similar decree last year.
“I was very grateful to Gov. Walz that he did this for us,” Young said. “Hopefully, other states can follow our lead.”
Many post offices across the state are expected to print and display Walz’s proclamation Wednesday, Todd Elkerton, president of the APWU’s St. Paul-area local, said. He called it a well-timed gesture to postal workers and letter carriers.
“Our members work a lot of overtime, trying to deliver the packages and letters for Christmas,” he said. “So it’s great that we’re appreciating the workers that deliver the mail during the holiday season.”
But the proclamation also comes at a pivotal time for the agency.
Postmaster General Megan Brennan has announced plans to retire Jan. 31, 2020. Members of the Postal Service Board of Governors, who are appointed by the president, have begun the process of appointing Brennan’s successor.
The APWU and other postal unions fear President Trump will push the board to appoint someone who shares his hostility to the agency’s public mission.
Last year, Trump formed a task force on postal reform that recommended selling the USPS to corporations for private profit. Unions warn that would result in higher shipping and mailing costs, reduced service and the end of guaranteed delivery.
The U.S. Postal Service delivers 470 million pieces of mail each day to all 159 million addresses in the country. In contrast, private companies likely would deliver only to areas where they can turn a profit.
Trump’s privatization plan has stalled since its unveiling earlier this year, but union members, Young said, worry that could change if a privatizer replaces Brennan as postmaster general.
“A lot of people get depressed when they hear this constant push out of DC for privatization,” Young said. “It seems like it is inevitable, like we’re not going to be able to stop it.”
But the APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers and other postal unions aren’t giving up so easily. To keep the USPS public, unions are enlisting public support, gathering over 33,000 signatures (and counting) on a petition to “stop the postal sell-off” and ensure the new postmaster general doesn’t support privatization. (Add your name to the petition here.)
Unions are also lining up support in Congress and from elected officials like Walz.
“This proclamation, it gives people hope that we can stop the privatization push,” Young said. “It doesn’t have to be an inevitability.”