Congress should take action now to keep Postal Service on track | Editorial

U.S. Postal Service workers nationwide are saying they don’t want a bailout – they just want to get the mail out.

The agency has long survived technological change, from the telephone, telegraph, fax machine and the Internet, where people can send email instead of conventional letters.

But the Postal Service, which lost $8.5 billion last year, is now struggling so much that it will not be able to make a $5.5 billion payment due Sept. 30 (the end of the USPS fiscal year) to a federal retiree health care trust fund.

Desperate to steer the agency from defaulting on its employee pension obligations and to cut billions from its payroll, the Postal Service is proposing to cut Saturday mail delivery and close thousands of post offices. More than 120,000 postal workers could also lose their jobs, including 20 people or more in Kirkland.

Of the 32,741 post offices in the U.S., the Postal Service is reviewing about 3,700 for possible closure – or more than 11 percent. Thirty-nine of those offices are in Washington state.

Congress should take emergency action now and stabilize the agency’s finances.

During a rally on Tuesday at congressional districts throughout the country, including Kirkland’s Eighth District, postal workers petitioned and informed people about house bill 1351.

The measure is in response to a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years – and do so within a decade. That’s $5.5 million each September out of the agency’s operating budget for the health benefits of people who haven’t been born yet, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers.

The bill would give the Postal Service access to the billions of dollars Congress forced it to set aside for pre-paid pension benefits.

In an already-strained economy, it doesn't make economic sense for an agency to provide such benefits to future workers.

Alternatives to this bill are not in the best interest of residents, communities and local businesses, let alone the future of USPS. The agency is a centerpiece of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry that supports 8 million jobs.

It's time for Congress to protect those jobs by worrying about present - not future - workers.

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