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'U.S. mail is not for sale,' demonstrations decry privatization threat

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Area postal union members demonstrate against privatizing the Postal Service during a demonstration on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, at 3217 Fiechtner Dr. in south Fargo.David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Area postal union members rally against privatizing the Postal Service during a demonstration on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, at 3217 Fiechtner Dr. in south Fargo.David Samson / The Forum3 / 3

FARGO — Cold, wet weather wasn't a deterrent Monday, Oct. 8, for demonstrating United States Postal Service workers used to dealing with inclement conditions.

In fact, it's right there in their motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Monday marked a nationwide movement from Florida to Minnesota and Oregon to Washington, with all four major postal unions saying "no" to talk of privatizing America's mail service.

Demonstrations took place at 140 sites around the U.S., including outside the offices of U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer at 3217 Fiechtner Dr., in Fargo.

Nationally, hundreds rallied with signs saying, "U.S. mail not for sale."

In Fargo, nearly 30 USPS employees and supporters lined the sidewalk outside Cramer's office with matching signs and shirts. Their goal: to pressure the congressman into signing a bipartisan resolution, H.R. 993, that would ensure USPS remains an independent agency of the federal government not subject to privatization.

In a statement sent to The Forum, Cramer said he has "never been a proponent of privatizing the functions of the United States Postal Service."

"Many communities," Cramer continued, "especially those in rural areas, depend on the USPS to share information and conduct business around the globe."

But Terry Jones, retired USPS worker of 32 years and president of the North Dakota branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said Cramer needs to sign the resolution to truly show his support of an independent USPS.

President Donald Trump attacked Amazon earlier this year on Twitter for an alleged "post office scam," claiming USPS loses $1.50 for every Amazon parcel it delivers.

But Jones said much of USPS's deficit is due to a 2006 Congressional mandate requiring USPS to prepay health benefits — a mandate he said no other federal agency faces.

Jones said USPS still delivers 70 billion parcels each year, or about 40 percent of the world's mail.

Theodora Menge, of Fargo, was at Monday's protest as a supporter of friends who work for USPS. She said threats of privatization are not fair to those who have put in years of work at USPS. "It's a bad idea because it hasn't been privatized since its inception," Menge said.

USPS was created in 1775, more than 240 years ago.

Monday's protests were sparked by an announcement this past summer from the White House's Office of Management and Budget that endorsed privatizing the mail service.

Proponents of privatization argue USPS can't stay relevant in a technology-obsessed world while competing with FedEx and UPS.

However, USPS is still coming up with ways to keep the public interested, including the launch this past summer of its first ever scratch-and-sniff Forever stamps.

Other developed countries — Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. — have privatized postal services, but Jones said some results of privatization in the U.K. include skyrocketing rates and job cuts.

He warned the same could happen here if the U.S. follows suit.

In a recent Pew Research Center poll, USPS had an 88 percent — and largely bipartisan — approval rating, beating out every other federal agency, including the FBI, CIA, IRS and Veterans Affairs.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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