A right wing think-tank recently issued a report proposing to create a “public-private hybrid” postal system. Under the proposal, two-thirds of the Postal Service would be privatized — the retail and processing components — while the delivery network would be handled by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
In order to give the proposal a higher profile, Pitney Bowes, one of the largest corporations in the world directly involved in postal services, financed the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in the U.S. to review the proposal and issue a “rigorous and independent review.”
NAPA’s web page describes itself as follows:
“Established in 1967 and chartered by Congress, the National Academy of Public Administration is a non-profit, independent coalition of top public management and organizational leaders who tackle the nation’s most critical and complex challenges.”
In other words, NAPA works on behalf of the financial and political elite in the U.S. and the purpose of their “rigorous and independent review” is to promote the agenda of their masters.
The fact that Connecticut-based Pitney Bowes financed this study clearly shows that the campaign of disinformation and lies about the viability of the public post office in the U.S. and Canada is being led by the monopoly corporations who want to get their hands on the most profitable activities of the USPS and Canada Post Corporation.
First, a word about Pitney Bowes Inc. It is a $6 billion global mailing and communications technology company with over two million customers worldwide. It is one of the major suppliers of postage metering machines in the world and also provides mail preparation and pre-sortation services, electronic kiosks and many other postal related services.
According to Bloomberg News, Pitney Bowes did $30 million of contracted out work for USPS. With 36 major mail-processing centres across the U.S., Pitney Bowes possesses the largest national pre-sort network. Of its total revenues of approximately $6 billion in 2012, $567 million in revenues came from what its financial statement describes as “mailing services,” i.e., the pre-sort business.
For example, we know that in 2011 Pitney Bowes handled 14 billion pieces of mail. Total USPS mail volume for 2012 was about 160 billion pieces. The labour cost for processing that mail was about $12 billion. If Pitney Bowes were to process a third of that mail volume, it could charge $4 billion a year for that service — seven times what it earns now with its pre-sort business. By encouraging the privatization of mail processing Pitney Bowes stands to make billions of dollars in profit. In addition, getting the USPS to close more retail Postal Stations would give Pitney Bowes an opportunity to place their electronic kiosks in tens of thousands of businesses across the country generating even more profit.
Another important factor is that Deepak Chopra, who worked for Pitney Bowes for most of his professional life and rose to the position of CEO of Pitney Bowes Canada and Latin America, was appointed by Stephen Harper in February 2011 to be CEO of Canada Post Corporation. Ignoring the obvious conflict of interest, since his appointment, Mr. Chopra has been actively advocating and implementing policies favouring privatization and deregulation in favour of corporations like Pitney Bowes, UPS, FedEx and others to the detriment of postal workers and all Canadians.
It is not surprising then that the NAPA report entitled, “An Independent Review of a Thought-Leader Proposal to Reform the U.S. postal Service,” is designed to promote further privatization of the USPS by giving credibility to the outrageous proposal of a “public-private hybrid” postal system. No rational argument can be given to support such a proposal but the NAPA report financed by Pitney Bowes provides the corporation with an opportunity to push its agenda for discussion.
A brief summary of the report begins with the same mantra which is repeated by the monopoly media in Canada and the US. “Rapidly declining mail volumes and a range of other financial and operating factors have placed the U.S. Postal Service under significant financial pressure that threatens its continued viability.” The NAPA Panel concludes that while it cannot endorse the concept, “it merits serious consideration as part of a more comprehensive policy reform effort.”
As postal workers have pointed out many times, the ongoing demands from the corporations and their politicians to reform or transform or modernize the post office in Canada and the U.S. has nothing to do with eroding mail volumes. The most recent financial report for USPS clearly shows that mail volumes are steady and the greatest financial pressure on postal service is the reckless drive of the corporations and the politicians in their service toward greater privatization. This has led to the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs, selling off of retail outlets, closing and consolidating processing plants, contracting out more of the work normally done by postal workers, and the elimination of more and more services like Saturday delivery in the U.S..
The struggle of postal workers in both the U.S. and Canada for the right to decent wages and benefits and sustainable working conditions that respect the health and safety rights of the workers is an important block to the attempts of the corporations to impose their obsession with maximum profits on the society. In their fight postal workers are pointing out that what the economy needs is a public post office which provides universal service and the assets that have been built up by the blood and sweat of the workers must not be appropriated by the corporations. That is the problem which the whole society must take up for solution.
(With files from www.savethepostoffice.com)