The Ostrich Syndrome

January 16, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

By President Mark Dimondstein 

“Bury your head in the sand” is a common saying based on the myth that when an ostrich senses danger, it buries its head, believing that if they do not see the danger, it does not exist.

Postal workers are facing great dangers from corporate, financial and political forces pulling the strings behind both the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposals of June 21 and the new White House Task Force report of Dec. 4 (See page 6 on the Task Force). Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending the threats do not exist will not work any better for us than for the ostrich.

I have heard many misconceptions from the media, elected representatives and within our own ranks that indicate the “ostrich syndrome” is in our midst. Here are a few:

Myth One: The proposals of the White House Office and Management Budget report calling to privatize and sell off the entire public Postal Service to corporations are no big deal and will blow over. The privatization alarms have sounded for years and we are still standing.

The Truth: Over the years we have faced constant piece-by-piece privatization threats. Some privatization efforts have unfortunately succeeded, like the sorting of 60 percent of first-class mail by the private pre-sort industry. Some have failed thanks to union organized resistance – remember Staples! Until now, we have never faced plans to completely sell-off and destroy the public Postal Service. Nor have we ever faced a political environment where the privatizers, like the corporate-funded Heritage Foundation, hold the reins of power in many quarters of government.

Myth Two: The December White House Task Force report did not directly call for privatization of the Postal Service and thereby contradicts the earlier OMB report to outrightly sell off the Postal Service.

The Truth: Not so! The June OMB report called for a two-stage process to privatization. The first stage is to “make it more profitable,” getting it ready for outright sale in the second stage. The new task force report is indeed the first stage – to fatten up the USPS by lowering wages, cutting service, and increasing prices.

Myth Three: The Task Force proposal to end the collective bargaining rights of postal workers could never come to pass.

The Truth: Our union counterparts in the federal sector do not have the right to bargain over wages and benefits. In addition, public sector workers in many states either never had, or have recently lost, rights to negotiate over compensation. Whoever thought that collective bargaining rights would come under such severe attacks in states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan? The postal unions stand in the way of the privatizers and they will have a straight shot to privatization if we are eliminated.

Myth Four: Now that the Democrats have majority control of the House of Representatives, we can breathe easy.

The Truth: Wall Street, UPS and other powerful corporations spread tons of campaign cash. While we have many friends in Congress, there are influential Democratic Party functionaries carrying water for the privatizers. For example, Elaine Kamarck, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member who served in the Clinton Administration and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, proposes that all mail processing be privatized. Robert Shapiro, an economist in the pay of UPS who worked in the past two Democratic administrations, advocates that the USPS should be barred from the package business.

Counter the “ostrich syndrome” by holding your heads high. Fight to save our jobs and union rights. Take the opportunity to unite with the people of this country to defend our national treasure, gain expanded public postal services, and defeat – on the battlefield of public opinion and public policy – the privatizers and their greedy anti-union and anti-people agenda.

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