Lucas Corbin reporter
In 2018, budget disagreements in Congress forced the federal government to shut down, causing a substantial portion of government employees, like NASA scientists, FDA inspectors, Border Patrol, and TSA staff, to either work without pay or be furloughed. Some agencies, like the Department of Defense and Department of Education which are independent of the federal government after the annual budget is set, were unaffected.
The Post Office was unaffected by the shutdown and was able to continue delivering mail because, unlike other government agencies, the USPS is entirely self-sufficient. It is a successful business that operates on its own revenue from the products and services it provides; being one of the largest employers in the country, it is vital that they have a consistent revenue stream to deliver for Americans.
To protect its employees from mismanagement, the American Postal Workers Union is one largest and most powerful collective organizations of workers in the nation.
“We’ll focus on protecting our jobs and defending and expanding service as management pursues their network realignment plans; we’ll continue to organize the unorganized [by] growing the labor movement by promoting pro-worker, pro-union, and pro-postal legislation,” said union president Mark Dimondstein in his 2023 New Year message to union members, reiterating the power and goals of the APWU.
Since its founding in 1971, the union has demonstrated the capabilities of a large-scale, worker-led organization through contract negotiations, the implementation of safety precautions, collective opposition to proposed layoffs, and the introduction of nationwide fair hiring and promotion practices.
The reach of the Post Office is massive. Having at least one station in every city and town and delivering mail regardless of weather and road conditions, USPS workers are considered emergency workers; in disastrous situations like tornadoes or floods, postal workers join forces with local governments to act as distributors of emergency supplies and information because of their extensive knowledge of the community. In some instances where postal stations are destroyed, like the 2011 Joplin Tornado, Postmasters have been able to set up temporary offices to allow mail flow to continue.
Mail carriers have been delivering letters to everyone in the country since 1775. The ability to share information with the confidence that it will be delivered is fundamental to the success of our nation. The ability to communicate with anyone regardless of geographical distance in a timely manner is a necessity we have grown accustomed to; every individual, business, and organization has benefited from the inexpensive services of our most dedicated public servants.
In the Digital Age, the Post Office has experienced a decrease in its mail volume as its customers have followed a trend that prioritizes digital messaging, in part outdating and eliminating the need for snail mail; nevertheless, it has experienced an increase in package deliveries thanks to the bolstering digital economy.
Delivering mail is challenging work. As beneficiaries of that work, we must ensure that our gratitude towards our own mail carriers is displayed to secure the right to deliver physical messages and goods for future generations.