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Saving the U.S. Postal Service is a Civil Rights Issue

President Donald Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have undermined the USPS by removing mailboxes and mail sorting machines the months before an election in which many Americans will vote by mail.

Dozens of mail boxes sit in the parking lot of a post office on Lafayette Avenue in the Bronx borough of New York City on August 17, 2020 . Mayor Bill De Blasio has called for an investigation after receiving reports of mailboxes being removed throughout the city. (Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Year in which Congress, led by anti-slavery Radical Republican Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, passed a law banning racial discrimination in postal employment, which became a haven for Black workers after the Civil War: 1864

Responding to a reform movement, year in which Congress created a civil service system that awarded federal jobs on the basis of merit rather than political patronage, thus increasing opportunities for qualified Americans of all races: 1883

Year in which U.S. Postmaster Henry C. Payne suspended mail delivery to a rural Tennessee community after a Black carrier was threatened by armed masked men, explaining that "when the people in the localities which object to the appointees of this department are willing to accept them and permit them to perform their duties unmolested these sections will be given the benefit of the mails": 1903

In response to a resurgence in segregation at post offices under President Woodrow Wilson and to Blacks' exclusion from postal worker unions, year in which a group of Black railway mail clerks convened in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to form their own union, the National Alliance of Postal Employees (NAPE), which worked alongside the NAACP to fight discrimination in federal employment: 1913

Decade by which postal workers led some of the largest NAACP branches in the South — the same decade in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order banning racial discrimination in the federal government and in defense industries: 1940s

Years in which a bus boycott against racial segregation took place in Montgomery, Alabama, in which Black letter carriers used their knowledge of mail routes to organize the massive carpool key to the effort's success: 1955-1956

Under pressure from the NAPE and the Negro American Labor Council, year by which President Kennedy signed executive orders banning discrimination by employers and unions in federal contract work and providing limited collective bargaining rights for federal employee unions that rejected racial discrimination: 1962

Year in which an 8-day nationwide wildcat strike by postal workers over low pay met with public sympathy and led Congress to pass the Postal Reorganization Act transforming the U.S. Post Office Department into the U.S Postal Service (USPS), a quasi-governmental corporation whose unions got collective bargaining rights though not the right to strike: 1970

Year in which the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling in a class-action lawsuit brought by Black postal workers in Charlotte, North Carolina, that ordered an end to racially discriminatory employment practices by the USPS: 1981

Between 1970 and 2000, factor by which African Americans were more likely to work for the USPS than whites: 2

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Percent of U.S. Postal Service employees who are Black today: 23

Percentage points by which that exceeds the percent of U.S. residents who are Black: 10

Portion of U.S. postal workers who are unionized, with those rights now under threat from the Trump administration: the majority

Average annual salary of a USPS worker: $55,000

Amount by which that exceeds the median U.S. annual wage: over $22,000

Value of investments that current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy of North Carolina and his wife hold in Postal Service contractors and competitors, including UPS: between $30.1 million and $75.3 million

Year in which workers at an Ohio distribution center sued UPS, claiming management "enabled, tolerated, and purposefully promoted and encouraged a culture of racism and racially discriminatory conduct": 2019

Number of employment-related lawsuits filed over the years against New Breed Logistics — the company DeJoy founded and led until its 2014 acquisition by XPO Logistics — by former employees and contractors for issues including race discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and miscarriages among pregnant workers denied requested exemptions from lifting heavy boxes: more than 12

Amount DeJoy's family foundation has contributed to the Jesse Helms Center honoring the unrepentant segregationist U.S. senator from North Carolina who used the USPS to suppress the Black vote: at least $16,000

Date on which DeJoy, a major Trump donor, was interrogated by a House committee over his recent controversial cutbacks to postal services, betraying a lack of basic knowledge about USPS such as the cost of mailing a postcard and talking about the agency like a for-profit business rather than a constitutionally created government function: 8/24/2020

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis

Sue Sturgis is the Director and regular contributor to the Institute for Southern Study's online magazine, Facing South, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Sue is the author or co-author of five Institute reports, including Faith in the Gulf (Aug/Sept 2008), Hurricane Katrina and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (January 2008) and Blueprint for Gulf Renewal (Aug/Sept 2007). Sue holds a Masters in Journalism from New York University.

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