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Thursday, May 7, 2015
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

I got a card in my mailbox a few days ago telling me about an upcoming food drive being held by the postal carrier’s union. It’s called “Stamp Out Hunger” (mail delivery people, stamps . . . get it?), and its taking place this coming Saturday, May 9 (in 2015, for anyone tripping across this post some years from now). The idea is that you, the American citizen, can buy some non-perishable foods and put them in a bag, as to be left by your residential mailbox this Saturday. During the day, the merry mail-person will come by on her or his usual rounds, but in addition to delivering your mail, they will pick up that food bag and take it somewhere such that it eventually winds up available to people in need. The National Association of Letter Carriers web site suggests that all food contributed will be donated to a local food bank or pantry program, where it will be distributed.

OK, sounds like a nice idea. It’s probably not the most efficient way to provide food for the needy, but it allows local participation and engenders the “community spirit”. So I’m going to give it a go. I went to the supermarket today and picked up some basics like cereal, rice, pasta, sauce, beans and juice, and filled three bags. On Saturday AM I will set them out on the porch in front of my apartment building, right under the mailboxes. Just to make my intentions crystal clear to the local carrier-person, I will staple the “Stamp Out Hunger” announcement card to one of the bags. And from there, I will just wait and see.

Obviously, I’m just a tad skeptical about this. Postal carriers are government employees, and let’s face it, government employees are not looked at as kindly as they once were by the public. Especially unionized government employees, which the postal carriers are (again, their union is sponsoring this event). Most of the postal carriers we’ve had here seem OK, but there are a few who just don’t do their job very well; they mis-sort letters such that I get my neighbors’ mail and vice versa, or everyone gets a random mix of mail belonging variously to other tenants. And if you leave a stamped letter out at the box hoping that the carrier will pick it up, there’s roughly a 50-50 chance that it will be ignored.

Conservative politicians and pundits have villainized government unions in recent years, making the case that their members get paid too much money and get plush benefits relative to the work they actually do. In tough economic times, this does attract a certain level of concordance from people out of work or holding jobs that don’t pay too well or have lousy or non-existent benefits. So, the letter carriers’ union is doing something pretty smart here; Stamp Out Hunger will no doubt benefit many needy people, and it may also help improve the public image of postal workers and their union. Hosting this program on a Saturday is also pretty savvy given all the moves in Congress to eliminate Saturday postal delivery so as to help control Postal Service losses. The obvious uptake of that would be to reduce the overall need for postal carriers.

But will SOH come off as planned? The union web site itself is not offering any guarantees — in the Question and Answer page, it warns that not every postal carrier is going to participate. Basically, it’s a voluntary thing; so if the carrier just doesn’t feel like lugging bags of food down your steps and out to his or her truck, your food bag is going to stay just where you put it.

In a nutshell, this isn’t Amazon — no promises that what they say will happen will actually happen. This is a government program, a unionized one at that. But as I said, I’m going to give it a try this Saturday. It’s an interesting experiment, if nothing else; and since the food is non-perishable, I can get it to a pantry or shelter somewhere in the area at a later date; the food will eventually be used as intended. It’s just that I may have to do it myself, and not expect help from a government union.

But if my bag in fact is picked up, I will take my hat off to the NALC and its members. They seem to be aware that public workers have an image problem, the public just isn’t very sympathetic anymore (and this extends to all government employees, even non-union ones like myself). Stamp Out Hunger is a nice idea; but we shall see in two days if the postal workers of America are fully up to it, if a communitarian venture like this can be pulled off in hard-bitten New Jersey. Stay tuned, as I will file an update to this blog over the weekend!!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:47 am      

  1. Jim, Ah, yes, the letter carriers “Stamp Our Hunger” day. I’ve learned my lesson on that one. They have had this day for several years in a row where I live in the Midwest. (I don’t know how long they have had it on the East Coast.)

    One year I tho’t: What an excellent idea. Of course, I’ll participate. So I too went and filled either bags and/or a couple of reasonably sized boxes filled with non-perishable food for the postal worker to gather for the hungry poor. Well, it sat there until the drive for Feed the Hungry was over; nobody ever took the packages. I guess it certainly *was* voluntary on the part of the letter carriers.

    So, I’ve decided that rather than let food meant to actually feed the hungry sit for a day or two waiting for a pickup only to be brought back in the house by me, I just am not going to give to this particular drive. It’s a waste of time and effort.

    I could more easily give to Doctors without Borders or some other good cause. Less effort on my part and greater help to those who might need it.

    I can see that those who work in the postal service are likely overworked, but I find the solution(s) to the “overworked” problem(s) strange. In our post office in this suburb city of several thousand people they had long, long lines for people waiting to mail packages. There was a clock on the wall that was easily seen by everyone waiting. I would find myself (and presume others did too) counting how long I waited in line as there were usually a minimum of 3 people at the counter waiting on those who wanted to mail packages. The solution to the “problem” of people waiting in line turned out *not* to be to hire another person but to *take the clock down* . . . and it remains down to this day. Furthermore, as time went on the number of people at the counter has been reduced to two from three—and the clock remains nowhere to be seen. An amazing solution to people waiting in long lines for long times.

    I find myself really unable to blame the postal workers as it seems they are overworked. I know we get our mail delivered close to 6 p.m. every “day” at this point; during the really bad “days” of last winter” often the mail was not delivered until 8:30 p.m. – likely another great solution to not enough letter carriers. Just let fewer people work longer hours.

    I have to say that if I were compelled to wait for your bags of food for the poor to be picked up, I’d not hold my breath. Yet, on the other hand, I can see that someone who is overworked (note the solutions to problems above) would really *not* be that eager to make extra trips to the car with food bags; then unload them when getting back to the post office at the end of the day/night.

    I find myself wondering how those in charge of the postal service actually think. As I said in my comment previous to this one, perhaps those in charge have a totally different way of thinking than others at present. Heaven help us if the post office way of thinking catches on. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — May 7, 2015 @ 2:35 pm

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