By Other Words
By Keith Combs*
If you’re looking for a way to honor veterans, here’s one: protect the U.S. Postal Service.
I’m a veteran from a family of veterans. After serving in the Marine Corps, I got a good-paying postal job that put me on a solid path to financial security. Now I lead the Detroit Area Local for the American Postal Workers Union. Our 1,500 members include many veterans, some of whom I served with myself.
Across the country, nearly 113,000 veterans now serve as postal workers. With former military members accounting for over 18 percent of our workforce, the Postal Service employs vets at three times their share of the national workforce.
Why? For one thing, military values like hard work, showing up on time, and taking pride in your work set you up perfectly for postal jobs.
For another, USPS gives veterans like myself preferential hiring treatment. Disabled vets, like many I work with in Detroit, get special consideration too. And once they get here, they get generous medical leave and benefits, including wounded warriors leave, among other hard-earned benefits won by our union.
Unfortunately, these secure jobs for veterans are now under attack.
A White House report has called for selling off the public mail service to private, for-profit corporations. And a Trump administration task force has called for slashing postal jobs and services for customers.
In particular, they want to eliminate our collective bargaining rights, which would jeopardize all those benefits we’ve won for veterans and other employees. They also want to cut delivery days, close local post offices, and raise prices, which would hurt customers.
This cost-cutting could also threaten another valuable benefit for service members: deeply discounted shipping rates on packages they get overseas. Currently, shipping to U.S. military bases in other countries costs the same as a domestic shipment, and USPS offers cost-free packing supplies to the folks who send these care packages.
Instead of slashing and burning the USPS, we need to be expanding and strengthening it.
One idea is to let post offices expand into low-cost financial services. Veterans are four times more likely than the national average to use payday lenders for short-term loans, which typically charge exorbitant interest rates.
But if post offices could offer affordable and reliable check cashing, ATM, bill payment, and money transfer services, we could generate all kinds of new revenue — while protecting vets and their communities from predatory lenders.
From discounting care packages to employing disabled veterans, our Postal Service plays an important part in the lives of our service members. USPS does good by Americans who’ve dedicated a portion of their lives to armed service, and by the millions of Americans who rely on them.
I hope you’ll join me in applauding these veterans — and the postal service. Let’s build the USPS up, not tear it down.
*Keith Combs is a 30-year postal worker and president of the Detroit District Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.