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‘Only you can stop the USPS from privatizing’

Published Mar 15, 2012 10:15 PM

Eleanor Bailey
WW photo: Monica Moorehead

One of the speakers at the opening meeting of the People’s Power Tour at Judson Memorial Church here on March 11 was retired postal worker and union organizer Eleanor Bailey, who has been putting in her time and enthusiasm organizing for a demonstration on March 17 to stop Post Office closings. Bailey began working at the P.O. just when both African Americans and women were flooding into the system, and her trade union activism represented the shift in the demographics of P.O. workers. Her talk, which we paraphrase here, gives a special perspective to the current struggle.

You might not know it, but the U.S. Constitution authorized the Congress to “establish Post Offices and post Roads.” This led to today’s United States Postal Service. The Post Office is one of the few institutions specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. And that document made it clear: the Post Office is a service. It is not supposed to be a money-maker. It is not supposed to be a cash cow. It is supposed to provide a service to the people.

I was there for the strike in 1970. But I was pretty new, and I was scared. There were a lot of Post Office workers — the generation before us — who were happy to have a job with a government agency, and they didn’t want to take risks. But we walked out.

Some who walked out had to walk up eight floors. That’s how far below the surface we worked at the central P.O.

The government brought in the National Guard to do our work. They were supposed to do the sorting and delivering of mail. It was a good thing the strike didn’t last too long. They had to call us back to straighten out the system after the National Guard got through messing it up.

[The strike lasted eight days. President Richard Nixon offered the workers a 14 percent raise and amnesty before they came back.]

Later the U.S. Congress needed a cash cow. It decided that the Post Office would have to pay $5.1 billion a year to the Treasury to make sure there was enough money for federal pensions. The Post Office got 10 years ahead of itself in payments. That made it look like the Post Office was constantly losing money.

The Post Office knew long ago that the Internet would cut into mail volume. Management could have planned for it. But they didn’t.

Now they want to get rid of 200,000 jobs. You know what that will mean? Each job affects a family. It affects other businesses in the neighborhoods where Post Offices are located. It means at least a million people are hurt by this.

It also hurts the community. I live in Co-op City in the Bronx. Management planned to shut three Post Offices in our neighborhood. We held three massive rallies in the neighborhood. We managed to save one of the stations.

But we’re not stopping. We plan another rally, this one citywide, on March 31 in Co-op City. If any of you are around, come on by. We need your help.

If management goes through with these cuts, it means your mail will pile up and will be delivered late. They want to privatize the Post Office. Don’t let this happen. Only you — only we — can make the USPS change its plans. The U.S. Congress controls it, so contact them and make them stop.

Remember, the Post Office is a service. Never let anyone forget that.