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Hullabaloo


Saturday, February 09, 2013

 
Post office blues

by digby

The idea that the Post Office is going the way of the dodo bird is truly depressing, for many reasons. One of the biggest is that the US mail remains one of the great equalizers in our country and is especially going to hit out-of-the-way communities and the elderly in a big way.

But let's not pretend its financial woes are the result of technological advances. It's because the congress created rules for its pension plan that are designed to bankrupt it. This was no accident. Much like the teachers unions, postal workers are a strong Democratic constituency targeted for political reasons. (And yes, just as with ACORN, there are bunch of idiot Democrats who are helping to dig their own graves.)

Losing all those jobs will have a particularly pernicious effect on middle class racial minorities. This is from last year's announced cutbacks:

For years, getting a government job meant security, good pay and a pathway into the middle class for many Americans, especially African-Americans and other minorities.

But with government agencies at all levels forced to slash expenses in a bid to balance budgets, that long-held promise is in danger of being broken.

The U.S. Postal Service's announcement Monday that it plans to close 252 mail processing centers and trim 28,000 jobs to fend off possible bankruptcy is part of a growing trend of shrinking government employment opportunities. For its workforce, which is disproportionately composed of African-Americans, the news means a lot more than the prospect of slower mail delivery.

"People have raised their kids with these jobs and bought homes in the black community," said Adrian Peeple, 42, of South Holland, who began her career as a letter carrier at Chicago's Wicker Park station in 1995. "It'll be a huge impact if they started laying off or cutting back on people who've been working here for quite a bit of their lives."

It was one of the best pathways out of poverty:

According to Philip Rubio, author of There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice and Equality, by 1970, blacks made up one-fifth of the postal workforce and “were twice as likely to work at the post office than whites,” which paved the way for many other minorities to seek employment by the agency. The potential cuts to 20 percent of the Postal Service workforce, and the slashing of its benefit programs have left many wondering what effect it will have on those in the black community who depend on the USPS for their livelihoods.

About 39 percent of all post office workers are minorities, and 21 percent are African-Americans, according to William Burrus, the former president of the American Postal Workers Union. In July 2010, Burrus told NPR the story of how he first gained employment in the postal service when he got out of the Army, and about how lucrative these types of careers were to those in the black community who were seeking employment in the 1950s.

“I was looking for a job, and discussed it with my father, who was a product of the upward mobility of the African-American community,” Burrus said on NPR. “And I asked his advice as to would the Postal Service be a good place of employment. ‘He said, it’s your decision, son. But they don’t have strikes.’ I had to find employment. I was a painter and I was looking for something more permanent and more reliable. And I was hired from the exam and went in as a career employee in February of 1958.”

Throughout the years, many black veterans and college graduates flocked to work at the post office, particularly because of the job security these opportunities promised, and “the fact that a civil service appointment meant something, and it was a decent salary, it had other benefits, sick leave, annual leave, and it has status in the community,” Rubio told NPR in the interview with the radio network and Burrus. “Black postal workers in general were oftentimes thought of as middle-class. And, in fact, they were also very much civically engaged. And what you have are people who are well-educated and able to find a job where the hours permit them to go to school or that they can work while they’re trying to start their businesses up or start their practices up.”

While the private sector resisted integrating its workforce the government complied. In fact, the federal workforce (and many state workforces) have been instrumental in bringing racial minorities and single working women into the middle class. And I have to suspect that this is one of the reasons why certain members of the right wing hate government so much. Dealing with government bureaucracy can be cumbersome and when it has a face they already feel hostility towards I suppose it just makes them hate it all the more.

The impending closing of the Post Office is about politics, just as the attack on teachers is about politics. These are two constituencies, largely minority and female, that the right is determined to break, for obvious reasons. Any Democratic complicity in doing that, on both a moral as well as political level, is malpractice.

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