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

January 23, 2013  |  

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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