Return To Sender: With Postal Jobs Disappearing, So Could The Black Middle Class

12 comments
January 23, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown
AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

The U.S. Postal Service has eliminated 168,000 jobs since 2006, and more cuts are expected. This could be significant to the African-American middle class. Why? A higher percentage of black workers have USPS jobs. According to a 2012 U.S. Department of Labor report, nearly one in five African-American workers have government jobs such as mail clerks, firefighters and teachers.

“African Americans make up about 20 percent of U.S. Postal Service workers – and are the majority in some urban centers, representing 75 percent to 80 percent of the 5,000 letter carriers in the Chicago area, according to Mack Julion, president of the Chicago branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers,” reports The Huffington Post.

The drastic cuts at the USPS, the country’s second-largest civilian employer after Wal-Mart with some 536,000 career workers, will directly affect its African-American workers. And as the black unemployment rate remains high — 14 percent, roughly double that of whites — it will be harder for African Americans to continue a middle-class lifestyle.

Historically, the postal service had less racial tension, which attracted many African Americans. According to Philip F. Rubio, author of There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice and Equality, in 1865, the U.S. Post Office opened to black workers. “It became a magnet for African Americans who gravitated to the one place where they could take the test and they knew once they got in and became career employees, they were set,” Rubio told the news site. And by World War I, African Americans made up 10 percent of the postal service’s work force.

A USPS position was considered — and still is — a “good job.” The national average annual salary of career employees who work directly with mail, such as letter carriers, is $53,000 to $55,000, reports HuffPo.

The Internet has caused staggering losses — $15.9 billion in fiscal year 2012 alone — for the postal service as more people are using electronic mail. “[T]he postal service is losing $25 million a day, by some estimates, and could run out of money by October,” writes HuffPo.

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  • adiatc

    I live in Chicago where, as the article states, 75 to 80 percent of the carriers are black. Chicago also happens to have the slowest delivery time in the country! Every encounter I have had at a post office has been negative. I use UPS, FedEx, etc. whenever I can.It has been my experience those companies are more efficient in getting my packages to me in a timely manner and at the very least, better customer service. Couple that with email and the ability to pay bills electronically and there you have it!

    I am sorry that so many people are losing their jobs but we live in more competitive time. Consumers have other options! And when I walk out of my door and see my postal carrier on his cell phone sitting on my neighbor’s steps instead of delivering mail, it further reinforces my decision not to use the USPS if I don’t have to.

  • adiatc

    I live in Chicago where, as the article states, 75 to 80 percent of the carriers are black. Chicago also happens to have the slowest delivery time in the country! Every encounter I have had at a post office has been negative. I use UPS, FedEx, etc. whenever I can.It has been my experience those companies are more efficient in getting my packages to me in a timely manner and at the very least, better customer service. Couple that with email and the ability to pay bills electronically and there you have it!

    I am sorry that so many people are losing their jobs but we live in more competitive time. Consumers have other options! And when I walk out of my door and see my postal carrier on his cell phone sitting on my neighbor’s steps instead of delivering mail, it further reinforces my decision not to use the USPS if I don’t have to.

  • JLH

    This has NOTHING to do with technological advances, though the GOP is stamping out unions to stamp out the middle class and poor. It has everything to do with this being the “extended southern strategy”. Read about Lee Atwater, Reagan’s GOP strategist – how he developed the “Southern Strategy” and used economics and the law to support institutuionalized racism instead of outright racism to really hurt black people. In an infamous 1981 interview he was quoted as say:

    “You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*gger, n*gger.”
    We have to know our history.

  • http://twitter.com/v89doo_child Wee Bey Brice

    what we are witnessing is the death of the american economy

  • Cinnamon71

    I knew something was up when I went to take a test for the USPS for an entry level position in 2007. There were hundreds of people there and I overheard some staff members saying “Wow, there are so many”. It used to be that literally anyone could get in the door to work for the post office. Those days are long gone.

  • jus sayin

    technological progress and overpaid unionized employees will kill the USPS – cant fight it – it inevitable

  • Candacey Doris

    I don’t think this will kill the black middle class. We have found new ways to get where we want to be before and will continue to do so. I do agree that this can hit long time employees and people who were counting on it hard though.

  • gsutiger2

    USPS the only business/agency in the U.S. with horrible customer service. Funny how e-mails became the norm and USPS continued to increase rates.

  • Superabound1

    This is obviously part of the goal of the GOP

    1. Destroy the black middle class
    2. Destroy the largest unionized workforce in the country
    3. Appease their corporate overlords (the legislation to destroy the US Post Office was directly written by ALEC, a shadow government of many corporations, which include both UPS and FedEx in their ranks, companies who are direct competitors to the US Postal Service and stand to gain BILLIONS from its destruction)

    • ilysaportax3

      You sound stupid. Technology is attacking USPS jobs, not republicans. The need for a letter carrier isn’t what it was 50 years ago, simple as that. Sure, there may be movements that are “anti-union” in nature, but the USPS would be fading with or without help of the GOP. Get over yourself.

      • Candacey Doris

        I think he was joking (hope so anyway)

      • UmmYeahOK

        Actually, you sound stupid. You probably watch CNN, FOX, MSNBC and think you’re getting real “news”, huh? The TRUTH is that this is a push to privatize the postal service further enriching shipping corporations, period. This plan was set into motion by the GOP at the end of the Clinton Administration. NOTHING in politics is by accident and EVERYTHING is planned years in advance.

No thanks