My sister recently retired from the Postal Service. She was a mail carrier for all of her adult life and it was hard work. She is not even 5’ tall and her mail bag was so heavy at first, and the weather so extremely hot or extremely cold much of the time, that she used to come home crying at the end of the day. She got used to the rigors of the job fairly quickly, although after a 95 degree day of a -5 degree day it would take a while to decompress, for the red face to pale or the frozen feet to thaw. She had one thing that very few people have today, job security, and she also was paid a living wage with regular raises. She received, as part of her compensation, a pension fund which pays for her retirement.
According to the internet there are 316,000 mail carriers who work for the USPS. Congress wants to move America away from home mail delivery and to a system of cluster mail boxes in each community, a system where you would have to go to a centrally located group of mailboxes to get your mail. Our Congressional representatives are so thoughtless. They see only dollar signs; they do not see “we the people”, their constituents. The postal service is having trouble balancing its budget. We have been hearing this for a long time. I think we would not complain too loudly if stamps cost $1.00 apiece. I think we would get used to having no Saturday mail delivery. Without Saturday delivery, postal mail carriers might take a small pay cut, but they wouldn’t lose their jobs. How many mail carriers will lose their jobs if the country builds all these cluster mailboxes? What good will it do to save $4 billion per year on the post office which we then would have to spend to help public employees who have lost these secure jobs that paid well and offered a good pension.
According to many people the pensions are the biggest contributor to the USPS budget woes. The USPS “[has] to prefund 75 years worth of retiree health benefits in a 10 year span. That’s basically a tax of somewhere between $4 to $6 billion a year. That’s where the red ink is coming from,” says one employee of the postal service, and we have also heard this in a number of ads and articles.
Not only should Congress be worried about losing more good jobs; they should be worried about seniors, the disabled, and our vets who look forward to seeing their postal worker each day, who look forward to picking up their mail each day, even if it is only that ridiculous Publisher’s Clearinghouse contest letter. My mom is 95. She lives with one of my sisters, but my sister is at work all day. There are days when the only person who stops by her house all day is the mailman (as she still calls her postal carrier). She can mail her letters by putting them outside halfway in the mailbox and with the exposed half waving to tell the post man to stop and pick of the mail. The pleasure she gets from having a mailbox outside her door is repeated millions of times across our nation. My mom cannot afford to lose that many more pleasures or conveniences in her life these days.
I saw the movie The Postman with Kevin Costner and I know it did not get good reviews, but I still enjoy that hokey movie. It recalls the roots of the postal service in the Pony Express and it revives the patriotism of a ruined nation in this version of a fictional post-apocalyptic America. If does touch a spot in our spirits that experiences pride in our nation and pride in people who stubbornly uphold the oaths that give their life, and ours, meaning.
I know our Congress wants a smaller government and that they have been savagely weeding out public jobs, but the Postal Service is all tied up with the pride we feel as Americans and with that little personal touch that warms the hearts of our less fortunate citizens. Find another way to save the Postal Service please. We are willing to pay more and cut Saturday deliveries. We don’t want cluster mailboxes.
This is the view from the cheap seats.