BERKELEY -- Anti-corporatist consumer advocate Ralph Nader, 80, stood on the steps of the city's historic downtown post office July 29 and praised efforts of the more than 150 people gathered there for their two-year fight to save the landmark building, which the U.S. Postal Service wants to sell.
"You're more organized than any other group I've read about, to save the post office," Nader said, urging the crowd to do even more.
"Don't let it go to your head. It's not enough," he said. "You know how to multiply."
Citizens to Save the Berkeley Post Office, Post Office Defenders and the National Post Office Collaborate have been working on multiple levels -- lawsuits, pickets, civil disobedience, marches, letter writing and rallies -- to stop the United States Postal Service from selling the Berkeley building.
The appearance by Nader, on tour to promote his latest book, "Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State," came just three days after activists stood at the same spot to fete the building's 100th birthday with cake, song and speeches.
"The post office is open and we're still fighting," Councilman Jesse Arreguin said at Saturday's celebration.
Post Office Collaborative Executive Director Jacqueline McCormick added that, "Because of the lawsuit that we filed last September (around the question of historic preservation of a post office in Stamford, Conn.) there has not been a historic post office that has been sold in our country." (The judge has yet to rule on the suit.)
At the Tuesday rally, Nader critiqued private corporate influences over the public U.S. Postal Service. He condemned its efforts to turn over some postal functions to office supply chain Staples, and praised the unions and activists for picketing the stores.
He blamed pressure from private carriers such as Federal Express and United Parcel Service for regulations that prevent the Postal Service from shipping beer and wine, something the private services can do.
Nader talked about the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, which requires the post office "to vastly overpay for its pension benefits" by prepaying, over 10 years, postal worker benefits 75 years in advance.
True to his anti-war stance, Nader said that funds the government takes from the Post Office to pre-fund pensions are misspent on war efforts supporting "Israeli imperialism, the military-industrial complex ... and the Trident submarines that can blow up 200 cities per submarine."
Nader talked about the giant real estate firm CBRE and its contract with the Postal Service "to sell off postal properties all over the country without competitive bidding."
He also noted the role of Richard Blum, CBRE chair and spouse of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, claiming, "He can actually deliver some of these (properties) to his business associates -- talk about conflict of interest.
"And he has now amended the contract so he can do his own appraisal. You appraise the property so that you can sell this for less than market value. And then he sells it to his buddies."
Nader pointed out that the Postal Service inspector general issued a "withering" report condemning the practice of the same entity doing both appraisals and sales.
Nader also touted the creation of banking services within USPS, pointing out that there are 32 million people in the U.S. who are "unbanked."
Up until 1968 there was the U.S. Postal Savings System. "You had a bank," he said.
"That was terminated by the banking lobby in 1968."
Now there's a growing movement to bring it back, he said, noting that the Inspector General of the Postal Regulatory Commission agreed that it's a good idea.
Nader concluded his remarks pointing up to the historic structure.
"This building represents the binding together of the American people for over 250 years," he said. "This building shall never be denied the people of Berkeley."