Commentary | The end of Twinkies and the news of a USPS loss of $15.9 billion in their most recent fiscal year has led to a predictable anti-union backlash on social media, but widespread reaction to the stories this week reveals more about the state of workers’ rights and a stunning inability to see beyond the role of “greedy unions” in our current state of affairs.
The Hostess strike and USPS loss may seem to be, at first, unrelated tales of union excess, two examples in the same day of spoiled workers forcing the hand of otherwise potentially profitable outfits to fail. But the stories are being held up, unsurprisingly, as a pool of data to discredit unions, when backstory to the incidents paints a far different picture.
News outlets were afire this week reporting that the USPS loss hit nearly $16 billion in the fiscal year ending on September 30. Inevitable comparisons to Obamacare were made by the punditocracy, suggesting that government-linked agencies are fiscally irresponsible and making comments such as this one seen on Twitter:
“The USPS lost $15.9B last year. Amtrak lost $345M. I’m sure once the government starts running healthcare everything will go great!”
But what many fail to realize is that the USPS is in large part facing these financial difficulties due to an unreasonable demand that pensions be funded 75 years in advance, a rapid-impact effect of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 — which many have called a “poison pill” planted to deliberately bankrupt and destroy the USPS and in turn, divest it of its unionized employees.
Without the requirement — one that exists for no other agency, governmental or private — the USPS would actually be in the black, Ralph Nader has suggested:
“By June 2011, the USPS saw a total net deficit of $19.5 billion, $12.7 billion of which was borrowed money from Treasury (leaving just $2.3 billion left until the USPS hits its statutory borrowing limit of $15 billion). This $19.5 billion deficit almost exactly matches the $20.95 billion the USPS made in prepayments to the fund for future retiree health care benefits by June 2011. If the prepayments required under PAEA were never enacted into law, the USPS would not have a net deficiency of nearly $20 billion, but instead be in the black by at least $1.5 billion.”