DEMEANING THE LOWLY

by Joy Goldberg, Shop Steward, New Lots Station, Brooklyn, NY

Reprinted from the September/October 2008 issue of The Brooklyn Bridge

In recent times, under the threat of disciplinary action, window clerks throughout the United States have been ordered by upper management to withhold information from our paying customers, as to the existence of Parcel Post. We are told to be sure to mention Express and Priority mail services, but to stifle ourselves from breathing the words "Parcel Post", unless mentioned first by the customer.

The reason for this, management says, is self-explanatory. Every time the customer pays even a nickel more for Priority Mail, that's revenue which, multiplied by the thousands of stations in the U.S., has the potential to generate millions of sorely needed dollars in profits. What the customer doesn't know, won't hurt them.

Strangely enough, however, there are times when, combined with Delivery Confirmation, it is five cents cheaper to ship a parcel by Priority Mail than by Parcel Post.

Could this possibly be due to an oversight on the part of the "new" corporate hierarchy, who have already spent millions of dollars combing every minute detail of each and every postal manual and bylaw, for loopholes which would enable them to dispense of as many rules they can, which they find too restricting, unprofitable and therefore worthy of the scrap heap? Hardly.

Why, then, would upper management bristle if we were, for example, to successfully convince the customer to spend a nickel more for Parcel Post?

It was during the August APWU National Convention in Las Vegas, that the answer to this question nearly jolted me out of my seat like a thunderbolt.

Resolution #161, entitled: "Defend the BMC's: Fight Privatization of Parcel Business," written jointly by the states of New York and Pennsylvania, and by the Philadelphia Local. Succinctly outlined in its six paragraphs, are upper management's plans to sell Parcel Post to private companies, by outsourcing some activities at Bulk Mailing Centers (BMC's).

Upper management has already formed its "Request for Proposals" for the outsourcing of some Bulk Mail Center activities, in search for a private company to both sort and transport Parcel Post and Standard mail.

It has long been the common sense, competitive approach of businesses, to offer the best deals in town, thereby drawing the largest following. Why, then, would upper management desire to unload one of the Post Office's best money-makers instead of promoting it?

When Jack Potter became the Postmaster General, President George W. Bush and Mr. Potter took it upon themselves to replace the standard, federally mandated Postal Service Advisory Council with the Mailer's Technical Advisory Council, with an exclusive membership of upper management and large business mailers. The APWU has already filed a lawsuit over this, at the national level.

The United States Postal Service Transformation Plan was formed, within the pages of which are outlined the systemic, calculated plan of phasing out of existence the "simple transaction" customer, the little guy who comes into the Post Office to purchase one stamp; they do not rate entry into the doors of the Postal Service. Moreover, the plan was laid out for stations in areas with many businesses, to be "converted" to all-business stations, leaving the humble resident out in the cold.

It could be well said that the Parcel Post represents the lowly aspect of the Post Office. The little guy, who's not in any dire hurry to mail his package, can still come away with a great deal. Parcel Post also has served as a magnet fo a wealth of mail order companies, large and small, long established and starting out, who can rely upon decent service and affordable rates which define Parcel Post. No private carrier offers this kind of service. This is our signature, and ours alone. If upper management has its way, it would be the private carriers who have Parcel Post, and the Post Office would be finalized as a corporate playground. If the masses are lulled to silent forgetfulness, then Parcel Post as we know it could be eradicated, with the excuse that not enough people are using this USPS service anymore, leaving private carriers as the only option for ground shipping.

It is little wonder, then, that this same management seeks to ride us and bridle our mouths regarding mention of Parcel Post.

At present, the deliberately sky-rocketing prices of oil, food and rents threaten the very lives and well-being of the lowly among us. Once the lowly were dead and gone, the highly resented need to dispense money to care for them would die with them. new baseball stadiums mainly designed for the rich and their cronies, would, along with the destruction of Yankee and Shea stadiums, phase out the little guy from watching a baseball game.

And the mailing of parcels, and of the written word itself, their sacred contents signed and sealed in heaven and earth, would become a commodity exclusively afforded the elite as well.

It is both incumbent and imperative upon our unions to seek every legal avenue available to us, to grieve the war against Parcel Post. We are a federal installation, and we are public servants, first and foremost. Deliberately withholding information on Parcel Post to customers, is deliberately withholding information on a federal level.

'Til next time, brothers and sisters: any fences we have to mend with our fellow labor unions are, at this time, as a grain of sand in comparison to the hostility we face together, as craft employees. In the spirit of our National Convention, let us seek unity, and stand, hand to hand. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs. Good night.