Ask yourself if you care whether or not you receive the mail that the Constitution promises.I have lived through
several hurricanes and major storms. When you do not know whether your roof
will hold together or whether you will get flooded out (and our basement was
flooded in the 2011 hurricane), the anxiety is indescribable. Thus, when the
government warns people to stay inside and off the streets, if you are in touch
with reality, you take that seriously.
So, it was with great
surprise that in the middle of Hurricane Sandy that I saw a postal van. Yes,
the US Postal Service, despite the federal government being closed on Monday,
was somehow operating. The mail was delivered to us. Airline flights were being
cancelled; subways had ceased operations; buses were not moving...and we still
got our mail!
I had two immediate
thoughts on seeing the postal van. The first was to applaud the courage of
postal workers. I actually think about this regularly. They are really not
joking when they talk about ‘neither rain, nor sleet...’ will stop them. Here
you had a letter carrier driving in the middle of a hurricane to make sure that
we received our mail. Damn!
The second thought was
quite different: what will happen if the postal service is dismantled and
privatized? Let’s be clear that the agenda of the Republicans and of some
Democrats is the privatization of the postal service. When we keep
under-funding the postal service and making service cuts, it eventually creates
a level of despair and frustration that will push the public to embrace
privatization. This approach is called economic strangulation. This
economic strangulation is what we have been witnessing, and not just recently.
Cutting the hours of post offices, cutting employees, and reducing other
services do not build popular confidence.
Economic strangulation is what we have been witnessing, and not just recently.
And so I stood, watching
the postal van, wondering what would happen if the postal service were
privatized. Would a private contractor really care about delivering the mail
under harsh conditions? Could we count on workers going beyond the call of
duty? That is the real issue in privatization. It is not just that privatized
facilities--of any sort--seek to reduce certain costs by cutting the wages and
benefits of workers. No, it is more than that. Privatization changes the
relationship of the workforce to the job that must be done, i.e., it changes
their relationship to the public. The owners of these privatizing companies are
not particularly interested in serving the public. They are interesting in
making a profit. Their slogan would not be anything approaching “Neither rain,
nor sleet...” will stop postal delivery. It will be more something like “As
long as I can make an extra buck delivering the mail it will be coming at you.”
So, if you have been
sitting on the sidelines while the future of the postal service has been
discussed, think again, and just ask yourself if you care whether or not you
receive the mail that the Constitution promises.
In watching the postal van
drive off, I hoped that this would not be the last time I would see such
Board member and Columnist, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the
for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum, and the
author of “They’re
Bankrupting Us” - And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He is
also the co-author of Solidarity
Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, which examines the crisis of
organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.