U.S. postal workers drove around the Seattle federal building in a car caravan Tuesday, their vehicles plastered with signs urging Congress to approve $75 billion in stimulus money to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.
The post office doesn’t receive tax dollars. As an independent agency operated by the government, it relies on revenue from business and advertising mailers, but that has plummeted.
David Yao, who organized the Seattle caravan, is a post office clerk and a union rep. He said every day during the pandemic he’s seen how important the post office is. He said there are people coming in to send masks to loved ones and small business owners shipping out goods to customers.
He said he chose to circle the federal building because that’s where U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have offices.
“I hope to raise public awareness of the need for people to contact their senators to let them know how important it is that the postal service be funded and preserved," Yao said, noting that USPS has served Americans since 1775. "It’s one of those things if you ruin something you can’t go back."
The former postmaster general has indicated the USPS could run out of cash in September if nothing is done.
To those who say the U.S. Postal Service is no longer relevant, Yao said it’s more essential than ever when you consider things such as vote by mail, which relies on mail carriers delivering ballots to homes.
Driving his pickup truck in the caravan was Willie Arrington, who has worked for the post office in motor vehicle services for nearly 17 years. He said it’s been a good paying job.
“I’ve been able to provide for my family," Arrington said. "I’ve got six kids and got all of them through high school, most of them college.”
The postal union points out that African Americans make up 23 percent of post office workforce, much higher than their 13 percent representation in the general workforce. Arrington says equity also is something to consider when you talk about mail delivery and attempts to privatize it.
“Prime example is if they needed a letter in a remote area the post office is obligated to get it there," he said. "And I think if it was privatized they might say it’s not cost effective and we’re not doing it.”
During the pandemic, Arrington said, postal workers are still obligated to make sure mail service continues.