A service older than the nation itself is now just as important today as it was when it was first created. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused most of the nation to shut down, the United States Postal Service is still delivering. And as millions of Americans self quarantine, they are counting on post office workers to deliver their medications, voting ballots, e-commerce orders and the stimulus checks that will help keep their families afloat. That’s why it is more important than ever for citizens to fight to protect the public postal service.
Right now, the post office is providing gainful employment to roughly 5,000 postal workers here in Baltimore. So while some of our neighbors may be out of work during this difficult time, as an essential service, the post office is up and running, keeping families fed and financed. The unfortunate reality though, is that, as a postal worker myself, I and many of my coworkers are terrified to go to work: With mail coming from all over the world, we have a heightened potential to be exposed to the virus.
For most of us, it’s not a question of if we will contract it, but when. And yet in some instances employees are sharing their experiences and reporting the post office is not providing the safety measures necessary to keep its employees, and therefore all Baltimoreans, safe. As more and more postal workers fall ill and rightfully prioritize their safety, staffing could be impacted, which could lead to a disruption in service and slower deliveries of our essential goods (like medicines and checks). It’s a snowball effect. And the only way to stop it is for everyone to put pressure on the post office and your legislators to ensure that postal workers’ safety, health and financial security are prioritized.
Imagine if the postal service was not around during these times, or it was turned over to the hands of greedy private owners. The mandate to continue to deliver and provide universal services would be out of the window as a private company would decide whether or not to serve communities it may consider unprofitable or too remote.
We provide a critical public service which relies on an infrastructure built over three centuries that visits over 100 million addresses, six days each week. While many forces have advocated to privatize the postal service, we now see just how important the nation’s most trusted public service has become to our everyday lives.
Even those who wish to see the postal service become a private company are depending on our services today. Those small companies and even those giant e-commerce corporations utilize the vast delivery infrastructure that has kept it as one of the most trusted government agencies to the American public.
Although a few of our legislators have called for relief during these times, we need the public to stand up for the people’s postal service. Currently, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Colorado Democrat, is trying to gain the support of his colleagues for H.R. 6425, the Protect our Post Offices Act. This important piece of legislation would provide $25 billion in emergency appropriations to help the postal service survive through this pandemic that has crippled most of the nation’s businesses and industry.
Postal workers need the public — our customers — to reach out to their representatives asking for support of H.R. 6425 and the safety of all postal workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The postal service will be one of the few entities keeping the economy propped up during this pandemic, yet Congress and the executive branch to which the postal service belongs have yet to truly acknowledge the value of the service and its most valuable component — the postal worker.
The mission of the postal service is to provide the nation with reliable, affordable, universal mail service, and we will continue to do so. But I’m worried when folks look to us in their times of need, the service they are accustomed to will not be like it is today. The fact is we don’t know when this pandemic will be over, and that is even more reason to fight for a public postal service.
Courtney Jenkins (email@example.com) is the director of organization and legislation of the American Postal Workers Union Local 181 in Baltimore.