The U.S. Post Office is battling budget battles, shortages, lay- offs and struggling to stay open and alive. In a bygone era, the Post Office was a refuge job for many African Americans, helping them to achieve the American dream. At a time when blacks were denied many job opportunities due to race discrimination, the US Post Office was a mainstay for many blacks. During its hey-day of employment, the Post Office employed many college educated blacks with undergraduate and graduate degrees, veterans and others who were often time unable to obtain jobs elsewhere due to discrimination. As a result, they were able to buy homes, send children to college and obtain the middle class dream. Many blacks think fondly today of the Post Office despite the hardships, set- backs and failure to keep up with e-commerce and competing overnight delivery services, due to the opportunities it afforded to African Americans. Today the US Post Office employs approximately 560,000. It is subject to losing about 20% of its work force, many of whom are African Americans. Approximately 20% of the post office work force is African Americans.
According to Professor Philip Rubio and author of There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice and Equality, a Post Office job for many blacks meant a decent salary, benefits—sick leave, annual leave and standing in the community. Rubio’s book discusses how blacks have been afforded opportunity at the Post Office since 1883 up to today.
The postal workers are fighting back. September 27, 2011 was a national day of action to save the Post Office and to alert to awareness of the situation. On November 7, new TV ads began running by the postal union to show the nature of the problem. H.R. 1351 , a bill now pending in Congress and introduced by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D. MA) would allow for its survival. As of October 12, there are 226 co-signers of the bill. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D. MD) is the highest ranking Democrat who oversees the Post Office and has also introduced a bill. Despite the issues facing it, the Post Office must survive. Failure should not be an option for this American institution. Urge your representative to sign onto HR 1351.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on race and gender in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.