Wed., August 3
U.S. Postal Woes
Five day delivery, offices shuttering, service reductions, privatization and pension overhaul - it's safe to say that the nation's first Postmaster General, Ben Franklin, would have a hard time recognizing the debate swirling around the U.S. Postal Service. But unlike 1775, today's postal service reaches far and wide, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, every house, every home and business across the country, with a thin margin of error. And while finances are debated and proposals considered, the agency stands alone with minimal Congressional oversight, pulling funding from its own postage and parcels, balancing its books and supporting the second largest civilian workforce in the nation behind Wal-Mart.
The talk from big cities to rural countrysides is about which branches to close and how best to keep service flowing smoothly, but in an electronic age all options, even drastic ones, are on the table. Today we're tackling it head-on, to see some 236 years later whether the service is still as relevant and vital as when it first came to be.
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John Casciano is the National Business Agent for the New England National Association of Letter Carriers, the union representing mail carriers in the region.
Richard John is a professor of the history of communications at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He's the author of Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse. And he contributed to a report for the Postal Regulatory Commission in 2008.
Congressman Stephen Lynch represents Massachusetts ninth district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He chaired the U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Post Office, and the District of Columbia from 2009 to 2010, and he's the sponsor of a new bill to overhaul the pension system for postal workers.
Frank Rigiero is the National Business Agent for the New England Division of the American Postal Workers Union.