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Labor Day

Labor Day

Labor Day

Labor Day

Labor Day

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7 September 2020

This year's celebration of our nation's workers is a little dampened. Almost five million fewer Americans have jobs than when Trump took office and it is still unsafe to gather publicly for fear of spreading the coronavirus.

Mailbox. Our mailbox at the top of the hill is anxiously leaning forward. You can usually see Mount Tamalpais from here but these days, it's all smoke.

But in the last week, we've gained a new appreciation for the dedication of one group of workers who are having a particularly bad time of it right now.

Our postal workers.

While we were doing a few chores for our 93-year-old mother who lives alone, her home healthcare nurse Jaymee came by to check her vitals. She was about to start her vacation. With her husband, she had planned to take her young son to Disney World.

But the coronavirus changed that plan.

In fact, the little guy hasn't been out of the house since March except to play in the back yard. They bought him a tent and slides and a few other things to keep it interesting, she said, but it's no Disney World.

So she's staying home. They'd have to anyway, she said, because her husband broke his foot at work when a heavy package fell on it. He works for the Post Office.

I asked her if he's been affected by the recent changes.

Oh yes. He's not happy. All the carriers have been told to come in an hour and a half later, which puts him right in the middle of Silicon Valley traffic going and coming to work.

The "higher ups" have decreed that sorting the mail shouldn't take as long as it's taken for the last 200 years. Even if they've started eliminating sorting machines. But he can't get that work done in just an hour and half before they leave on their routes at 9 a.m.

The policy is designed to save money. Make the Post Office "profitable."

Profitability is something of a canard, though.

The federal government subsidizes plenty of private enterprises including oil companies, farmers and corporations like Boeing. All of those "profitable" endeavors receive federal subsidies "in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest."

And your taxes, of course, subsidize essential services like fire and police protection. No one expects them to be "profitable."

You don't pay a usage fee for fire or police but you do pay a usage fee for public transportation when you buy a ticket or the Post Office when you buy a stamp. That fee defers costs but has never made either service "profitable."

The argument that an essential service like the Post Office must be "profitable" without subsidies sounds as ridiculous to us as arguing your public transit, fire department and police department should be "profitable" without taxes.

We need these services. They're in the public interest. We subsidize them.

The people who do not need much convincing about this are, ironically, the postal workers themselves.

When we mentioned our discussion with Jaymee to sister-in-law Carol the other day, she told us her story.

We have a great mailgirl whose been on our route for quite a while as mailmen go. I asked her last week how things were in Rochester with all the "cost cutting edicts" in place. Sometimes I feel like Rochester is in this bubble that protects us from all the worst that's happening but not so.

She complained about all the backlog of mail and lack of time to sort and deliver. She said some of her colleagues were coming in on their own time to sort packages because they knew people on their route weren't even getting their meds on time! One day the mail truck didn't even deliver.

She called it despicable and, yes, it is real.

In effect, mail carriers are subsidizing the Post Office under this administration.

They're off today. Like us, they don't skip a national holiday. But we salute them this Labor Day for honoring the Postal Service creed in resisting this administration's effort to slow the mail.

Imagine, if that effort were successful, your mail slot would be this empty every day.

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