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In Your Opinion: Postal Service Assaulting Middle Class

By Mark Grieco, Somerset. 

In 1779, a skirmish was fought in East Franklin between local Patriots and Loyalists raiders led by Colonel John Simcoe. The Patriots were fighting to defend liberties which they believed were being attacked by the Crown. The Loyalists had an unswerving allegiance to the Crown and, arguably, to a far-flung empire that trampled the rights of people all over the globe to the advantage of a privileged few. While Simcoe was captured during the raid near Franklin Boulevard and Hamilton Street, his Queen’s Rangers wreaked havoc in the Millstone and Raritan Valleys, including burning down the Somerset County Courthouse in Millstone. Again, it was a skirmish, not a battle, but one of a multitude fought in NJ that collectively contributed to the outcome of the war.

Fast forward to 2015 and we have another skirmish in another long war being fought only blocks from that one in 1779. This one is not so much about defending political liberty, but about defending the ever shrinking American middle-class and its once comfortable way of life from those devoted to consolidating economic power, and eventually political power, into the hands of the few. This is a skirmish, and a war, that 99 percent of Americans are losing. It is fought not by musket ball and saber, but by ink and paper. No courthouse is burned in this fight, but on May 15 the East Franklin Post Office will, for the last time, turn off its lights.

The announcement of the closure by the United States Postal Service (USPS) of the post office on Franklin Boulevard has been met by anger, but perhaps not shock, by the residents here in East Franklin. This is the most densely populated, the poorest, the most racially and ethnically diverse portion of the township, with a sizable percentage of elderly and disabled without cars, and therefore in the greatest need of a local post office. But those demographics probably contributed to the decision of USPS management to close the office, since historically these are the segments of our society that are the least politically powerful. Weakness only whets the appetite of the rapaciousness of the USPS management. They have long adopted the attitudes of the multi-national corporations – more appalling when you consider the USPS was created to serve the public – where profits come before the good of society.

I mentioned that the people of East Franklin may not have been shocked by the announcement of the closing of our post office. We are somewhat used to getting the short end of the stick here, but it typically comes from the local government. USPS management has taken the neglect to a new, federal level. We are part of that endangered species of Americans known as the working class, where a diminished quality of life has come with increased and distressing regularity. Diminished wages, diminished benefits, and now even something as basic as postal service will be diminished.

But the public will not be the only ones affected by the closure. In general, post office closures are a tactic by USPS management to crush the postal worker’s union and usher in privatization. The calculus is simple: fewer post offices require fewer (unionized) workers, which diminishes the ranks and political power of the union, which diminishes resistance to bringing in cheaper, privatized (scab) labor. It maximizes profits for the USPS. It also shrinks the number of Americans who had the audacity to bargain collectively for good wages and benefits in order to live a decent middle-class life.

It’s a different time, but the war fought in 1779 and the one we fight now are similar. In both cases, this is a global war for dominance perpetuated by the greedy few against the many, fought in political battles big and small, and the outcome will decide whether the great bulk of humanity was destined to live peacefully and securely, or in a near constant state of anxiety regarding their economic and political condition. One post office closing will not settle the matter, but a multitude of similar actions, repeated over the years, certainly will. But before the USPS management and its corporate cronies begin to gloat, they should remember this one last lesson from history: The American public has traditionally endured a long series of abuses before it has begun a social upheaval, whether it was the Revolution, the Progressive Movement, or the Civil Rights Movement. Then let justice, said Martin Luther King, “roll down like waters” and righteousness “like a mighty stream.”

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