In an effort to show that the U.S. Postal Service is as essential to people as it ever was, the American Postal Workers Union is organizing a nationwide action Tuesday, with rallies planned in Detroit and Kalamazoo.
"Basically, we're trying to spread the word that this is a crucial time for the post office," said Dave Staiger, a rural letter carrier in Kalamazoo, who fears that without more funding and support the agency's days are numbered. "We have postcards we're going to be filling out and mailing to our senators and to the White House."
The union hopes to make #SaveThePostOffice trend.
Staiger said the actions — a car caravan in Detroit and a gathering in Kalamazoo — are aimed at garnering Senate votes for postal service funding so it can survive its COVID-19-induced financial crisis and keep the agency from running out of money.
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In Detroit, starting at about 2:30 p.m., workers plan to surround and drive around Detroit’s main post office at 1401 W. Fort St., and then at about 4 p.m., speeches are expected from local postal leaders and elected officials.
U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield; Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, are scheduled to offer live-streamed remarks. Before she ran for public office, Lawrence had a postal service career.
"We're at a very serious juncture," said rally organizer Jane Duggan, who noted President Donald Trump has disparaged the post office in public comments and appears to be threatening to privatize it. "The postal service delivers to an enormous number of households -- 5, 6 and 7 days a week."
In downtown Kalamazoo, postal workers and supporters expect to gather from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for a socially-distanced, and masked, vigil in front of the Arcadia Post Office, 310 E. Michigan Ave.
The postal service is seeking $25 billion in aid from the federal government because of a dramatic drop in overall business, and therefore postal revenue, due to the pandemic.
Moreover, workers have been sick, afraid, and some have even died from the virus.
At the same time, the postal service said, the number of packages the agency is dealing with has gone up because customers nationwide have been buying more things through the mail.
And, social distancing restrictions have slowed operations.
Nationwide, the post office delivers to 157 million addresses.
But, financial troubles for the postal service are not new, especially as electronic communication — email and social media — is rapidly replacing letters and advertisements.
The fact that the union is using a hashtag to promote its cause shows how significant digital has become.
But, Staiger said, letter carriers do more than deliver mail. In rural areas, where he works, the postal service is sometimes a lifeline for people who can't get out of their homes.
During the stay-at-home orders, he said, letter carriers brought people prescription medicines and food. And when people were fearful to go out, letter carriers did their best to figure out how to get what they needed.
However, the Government Accounting Office — a government agency that provides auditing and analysis for Congress — has said that "financial viability continues to be high risk" because the postal service cannot fund its services and obligations.
The GAO said the postal service's financial condition "is deteriorating and unsustainable," its savings from cost-reduction efforts have dwindled and expenses are now growing faster than its revenues.
And while some customers recently have been trying to support the postal service by buying extra stamps, the agency also has come under fire from people who are frustrated by recent delivery delays.
Last month, the House of Representatives approved aid as part of what is being called the HEROES Act, but that still needs to be voted on in the Senate.
If there are no new appropriations, the service is expected to run out of money by September.