Philip Rubio hits the airwaves to talk snail mail and the effects of postal cuts on African American postal workers

The U.S. Postal Service faces an $8.5 million budget shortfall this year. NPR is broadcasting a series of stories about cuts in postal services and facilities and the lives and communities already being affected. One person with great insight into the social history of the USPS is Philip Rubio, author of There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality, which looks at the critical role of black postal workers in the U.S. labor and black freedom movements.

  • Rubio joined in a discussion last Wednesday on KALW public radio in San Francisco as the show “Your Call” explored the value of snail mail and the role of letter carriers in the community. Listen to the podcast: (Rubio joins the conversation after the half-way mark)

“The current downsizing and attrition, while it’s been devastating to all postal workers, it’s been especially devastating to the African-American community,” Rubio says.

Listen to the story or read the transcript of “Post Office Cuts Cause Economic, Emotional Blow.”

  • This past summer, Rubio and William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union, spoke with “Tell Me More” host Michel Martin about the past, present, and future of African American postal workers. Listen to the podcast or read the transcript of “Black Postal Workers Brace for Proposed Cuts.”

An interesting relationship is developing with the traditional postal service and the online world: sure, we email instead of sending personal letters by snail mail, and many people are paying bills online instead of via mail. But don’t be quick to assume that the P.O. is becoming obsolete with the rise of the internet. We’re also conducting a lot of commerce online, and that means there are a lot of parcels to ship. So perhaps the future of the postal service is less about all or nothing and more about a shift from letters to packages. According to surveys cited in the broadcasts above, people are willing to accept cuts in services or convenience–as long as it saves the post office. Let’s hope Congress keeps sight of the saving part while they consider the cutting part.