GREENSBORO — The U.S. Postal Service is under siege, speakers said Wednesday at a hearing on ways to preserve the public agency.
The hearing, the last of five nationwide, featured presentations by U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Charlotte Democrat with longtime times to Greensboro; Andrew Brod, a senior research fellow in UNC-Greensboro’s Center for Business and Economic Research; Michael Young, with United for a Fair Economy, and others.
Issues facing the financially beleaguered institution include the need for new and expanded postal services, a call for better services for seniors, a suggestion to return banking services to post offices, elimination of six-day delivery and the possibility of privatization.
“I haven’t seen a whole lot of good coming out of privatization in so many areas we’ve tried to privatize,” Adams told about 40 people in the auditorium of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. “It takes control from the taxpayer.”
Privatization increases the potential for job cuts and low wages, she said.
Adams said that since she was a child the post office was a place that offered high-paying, stable jobs to blacks.
“In those days, working for the post office was the bomb!” she told listeners.
Lots of other African Americans saw the institution as their chance to move into the middle class, said Greensboro City Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who participated in panel discussions with the speakers.
She shared her concerns about privatization with speaker Philip Rubio, an N.C. A&T associate professor of history.
“Is it intended to dismantle African American wealth?” she asked him. “Ultimately, that’s our wealth.”
The intended consequence is to “remove good-paying jobs” and replace them with part-time jobs, he replied.
About 21 percent of post office jobs have already been reduced to being part-time, Rubio said. The service has closed about 3,700 offices and cut hours.
“Just when we get to the point of having good-paying jobs, there are forces that want to remove them,” he said.
But, Rubio added, he does not see privatization as a direct attack on African American jobs.
Still, the Postal Service has been a “gateway” for minorities and veterans to get decent jobs, according to Jamie Horwitz, an organizer for A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.
The alliance, made up of more than 130 groups taking a stand against assaults on the service, organized the events.
Along with Greensboro, events have been held in New York, California, Maryland and Ohio.
In Cleveland, a major concern was the city’s “vast banking deserts,” Horwitz said.
About 40 percent of residents don’t have access to banks, he said. They depend on payday loans.
Those services can be predatory, speakers said.
The Postal Service can provide simple financial services, according to Brod.
Post offices can provide debit cards, service accounts and check cashing services, he said.
“Postal banking,” he said, “could fill that gap.”