by Mark Van Streefkerk
Despite the small turnout, a car caravan on Tuesday morning sought to bring awareness to an important issue: saving the United States Postal Service (USPS) from financial collapse. Taking off from the Queen Anne Post Office at 9:25 a.m. on June 23, about five cars drove down Queen Anne Avenue to 2nd Avenue, arriving at the Seattle Federal Office Building around 9:35 a.m., where they circled the building three times, honking and displaying signs.
The action was in solidarity with other car caravans and demonstrations across the U.S. in support of the June 23 delivery of a #SavethePostOffice petition to Washington, D.C. The petition has two million signatures and was led by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), AFL-CIO, Moveon.org, and other allied organizations.
One of the Seattle caravan organizers was David Yao, a 34-year postal worker, lead clerk at Bitterlake Station Post Office and Vice President of the Seattle local APWU. He explained that despite the Postal Service being rated as first in a list of essential companies in a recent Harris Poll, direct funding for the Postal Service was blocked by the Trump administration, which threatened to not sign the CARES Act if funds would be allocated to the agency. Instead, a 10 billion dollar loan was substituted. USPS is asking the Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which will include $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service. The House already passed the HEROES Act on May 15, and the Senate is expected to begin deliberation on the act after July 4.
“The Postal Service enjoys broad support among the American public. It’s the number one most trusted federal agency, and people in both red states and blue states really rely on it,” Yao said. “It’s an institution that’s been around longer than the United States has been in existence. It was founded in 1775. Its finances are being threatened by the pandemic. That’s the message we’re trying to get out: they need to step up and preserve it. It’s an important part of our infrastructure.”
Despite President Trump’s criticisms of the USPS, and his recent outburst against voting by mail, the Postal Service has kept America going during the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering things like essential goods, medicines and face masks — as well as routine mail. In fact, vulnerable populations and people living in rural areas are most dependent on the Postal Service. In spite of an increase in online shopping, Yao said, “around $25 billion was what the pandemic would cost the Postal Service over the next 18 months just because the most profitable items for the Postal Service are letters and advertising mail, which we do a huge quantity of. All of a sudden when businesses are closed, we’re not advertising, and people are laid off … that revenue has dropped drastically.”
Yao noted that the USPS has been a major source of employment in Black communities. According to a Pew Research report, 23% of the 630,000 USPS employees are Black, which is a significant rate considering Black people account for about 13 percent of the U.S. workforce. Having formerly lived in Detroit, Michigan, Yao said the city’s first Black mayor, Coleman Young, used to work part-time at the Post Office, “as did a lot of Black lawyers and Black professionals, to make a living wage because they could get hired there, and they couldn’t get hired other places.”
For the two million people who signed the #SavethePostOffice petition, as well as allied organizations, ensuring the Postal Service continues to stay afloat, especially with elections approaching in November, is essential.
Contact your senator to ask them to pass the HEROES Act here.
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured image by Chloe Collyer.