It was 90 degrees one day, I waited until it was cooler to walk to the store, and noticed many less people on our street walking their dogs. Most of us avoid heat exposure, something many mail carriers cannot do. I have a friend who delivers mail in Tucson, Arizona, where the temperature can easily be 115F, and of course when he’s driving, the temperature is at least 10 degrees higher in his vehicle. His route causes him to walk 9.7 miles a day whether it’s hot, or raining, or cold, or blustery, or whatever extremes of temperatures we all usually shun. The Center for Public Integrity recently published an article “Extreme Heat Doesn’t stop the Mail—Even at the Cost of Postal Workers’ Health” which informs us that OSHA the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the Postal Service for placing at risk of illness or even death from heat exposure over 900 workers since 2012. Inspectors observed workers with heat related symptoms such as extreme cramps, vomiting while walking, losing consciousness, shooting pains down their legs and in their chest. During their observation period at least 5 carriers died from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia or heart failure. From January 2015 to October 2018, 93 postal employees were hospitalized. And then there is the issue with vehicles. In 2017 70% of all vehicles did not have air conditioning and there doesn’t seem to be much progress in making sure that has or will be changed in the near future. Heat poses many dangers to postal workers and the US Postal Service hasn’t addressed those dangers says the article, has not issued standards, has not changed conditions, has not taken enough measures to protect its workforce. The USPS is a vital part of how our society functions, and as we realize this in the midst of budget and operational cuts along with other USPS upheavals, it is important for us to stop and recognize how much we owe our mail carriers.
If you haven’t taken the time to speak to a mail carrier and find out more about what his or her job entails and what mail delivery calls for, I suggest you do. It can be revelatory, but even more relevant it helps to understand why there is no reason for the post office to be privatized. Due to retirement, the head of the USPS is about to be replaced. The whole board is made up of Trump appointees and the word is he would like to have the post office go private in 2020. Public services such as the post office or garbage collection are called public for a reason. Their main function is to serve the public. As soon as a service is privatized the issue of profits comes to the fore and to guarantee those profits either services have to be curtailed or decreased as has been the case with private prisons, or prices have to increase. Probably in the case of the USPS both will occur. When you consider that the postal services deals with millions of pieces of mail each day, their errors are negligible. It may not feel that way when the piece of mail in question is yours, but consider that percentage in relation to the total amount of mail you receive. A tenth of a percent? Compare that to the errors you have to deal with every day including those you yourself might be likely to make and the old phrase if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, comes to mind.
What stands in the way of privatization right now are the unions. For all our sakes, let’s wish them well.