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The United States Postal Service is still waiting for the 113th Congress to legislate for postal reform so it can continue to exist as a financially viable federal agency. Of late, this 238-year old institution has defaulted on its mandated payments to the U.S. Treasury for its future retiree benefits worth more than $11 billion. It had also exhausted its legal borrowing limit.
As a result, the USPS had to cut costs. They cut back on its workforce by 168,000 career employees and reduced its annual cost base by about $15 billion since 2006. Yes despite these measures, the USPS continues to lose $25 million a day, reveals estimates, and at this rate absent any postal reform legislation, analysts fear that the premier mail organization in the world could run out of money soon. And this could mean a backlash.
One of the most affected could be the middle-class African-Americans who currently make up 20 percent of US Postal Service workers. Mary Wisniewski of Reuters in a news story entitled U.S. Post Office Job Cuts Threaten Black Middle Class (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/20/us-post-office-job-cuts-black-middle-class_n_2514917.html) wrote that if the postal positions held by African-Americans were to be disappear, “achieving and maintaining a middle-class lifestyle” would be difficult. She quoted postal worker Lakesha Dortch-Hardy who said: “There would be no middle class without these jobs – it would either be rich or poor.”
Another sector that could potentially be affected is the veterans. The USPS is the “largest employer of veterans in the nation, after the Department of Defense.”
With postal service jobs gone, the communities where these individuals belong are most likely to suffer as well. In Chicago, for example, African-Americans represent 75 to 80 percent of the letter carriers, reveals Mack Julion, president of the Chicago branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers. Should they lose their jobs, the benefits of what they are receiving as postal workers (around $53,000 to $55,000 annually) would go along with it. As Julion told Wisnewski: “These are homeowners — people with mortgages and car notes. They are big players in their community in terms of what resources they bring to the table. They are the ones going to the barber shops, the beauty shops, the Ma and Pa shops in the neighborhoods – if you take those incomes away, it’s going to be devastating.”
Indeed the backlash of Postal Service job cuts is bound to be long-lasting if not addressed right away. But whether Congress will enact legislation to enable postal reform or if President Obama will take executive action to prevent the downward spiral of the USPS still remains to be seen. In the meantime, it’s still a waiting game for all postal workers.