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Workers rally for USPS

Superior Mayor Jim Paine, brown jacket, talks with postal protesters during a rally at Webster Park in Superior on Monday, Oct. 8. Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com1 / 3
Postal protesters line the sidewalk along Tower Avenue at Webster Park. Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com2 / 3
Postal protesters line the sidewalk along Tower Avenue at Webster Park in Superior on Monday, Oct. 8. Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com3 / 3

The rain didn't stand in the way of postal workers and mail clerks with the U.S. Postal Service from drawing attention to the threat of postal privatization Monday, Oct. 8.

Area USPS workers joined others nationwide to call attention to the signs the Trump administration plans to move to privatize the the U.S. Postal Service. The Office of Management and Budget already has stated support for the action, and the White House appears poised to propose such a plan in the weeks ahead.

"The president called for a report on the Post Office," said Jerry Paine, who helped organize Monday's rally at Webster Park. "We've dealt with this before, not in my time, but we've dealt with it before."

Paine, a five-year employee with USPS, said all four unions representing U.S. Postal Service workers have taken on the call to defeat any effort to privatize the service.

The Postal Service, established based on Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, delivers 40 percent of the world's mail without a dime from taxpayers. Last year, the service delivered 149 billion pieces of mail, and served 157 million delivery points every delivery day.

"If they were to privatize the Post Office, they would basically end up selling off the business side of it," Paine said. "It would decimate the postal service as we know it."

As of last week, the USPS unions garnered enough support in the House of Representatives to defeat any bill that might come forward, so the rallies nationwide turned their attention to the U.S. Senate, Paine said. He said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have signed on to protect the postal service from privatization.

He said one of the key functions of the postal service is rural delivery.

"So it doesn't matter if you live in Superior, Wisconsin, Isle Royale or in the-middle-of-nowhere, Alaska, you get the same service — whether it's one letter, one package — as everyone else," Paine said. "That goes away because it's not profitable for private business to deliver one letter to Isle Royale."

Paine noted the John Beargrease and the Iditarod sled dog marathons — events that reflect mail runs — shows that people go to great lengths to deliver the mail.

"Even UPS goes through us; we are the last mile for them," said Janice Terry, a 31-year veteran of the Postal Service. "Even they don't deliver in the rural areas; we usually do it for them. That tells you how cheap we are, that other companies use us."

As the largest employer of veterans, Paine said veterans rely on the mail service to get their medications through the Veterans Administration. He said he couldn't imagine what the cost would be to have those medications shipped through a private source.

Paine said while jobs, wages and benefits are important to postal workers, he said so is the service they provide at no cost to taxpayers.

"The idea of privatizing it really holds no benefit to the government," Paine said. "It only benefits special interests."

Terry said privatization could double costs and rural communities could lose their connection if mail services are privatized. She said the costs would have to increase so companies could make a profit, something USPS isn't allowed to do.

"I hate my customers to lose," Terry said. "I have a lot of elderly customers and I know their medications come that way. If it's going to cost five bucks to get their medication through the mail, it's going to be crazy for them. They're on a fixed budget ... why worry about the price when we can keep it to a dollar or two? If the post office does down, you lose a lot."