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Why America loves letter carriers and hates postal clerks.

The post office looks like something Walker Evans photographed during the Depression, and the customers seem to have been waiting in line ever since. Their queue of sad faces pushes back to a wallful of Wanted posters. Gaze behind the counter and behold: the American postal clerk.

"And on top of that I have only six thousand, five hundred, forty-two days to retirement . . . ." he boasts to an idle colleague.

"Uh, I'd like to send some Express Mail letters to . . . ." a customer meekly begins.

"We don't go there, " the clerk snaps. "And with the insurance plan and other little tidbits, that adds up to a nice piece of change, don't you see?"

"Uh, what about . . . ."

"We don't go there," the clerk insists. "Evelyn and I - you know Evelyn - . . . ."

In rushes the voice of Federal Express, promising better service to more cities, and the commercial cuts to its close: the annoyed clerk snapping down a shade over the barricaded patron's outstretched hand.

"The low road," howled the Postal Service, when the commercial hit the air seven years ago. "Malicious," said the clerks union. Under fire, NBC stopped running it, and Federal Express returned to its "absolutely, positively overnight" pitch. In the aftermath, the ad's architects professed surprise over the clamor. But it's easy to see why it hit home: in 30 seconds, the commercial conjured more than 100 years of American angst over postal clerks.

Who doesn't have a tale to tell of postal clerk woe? Reader's Digest tells the story of the clerk whose contemptuous toss landed a customer's stamp on the floor; the customer picked up the stamp, placed a coin on the floor, and left. Jane Austin, a syndicated columnist, writes of her encounter, after a 22-minute wait, with "Gubment Gert":

"I'd like this to go registered mail," Austin said.

"Nope," replied Gert. "Not with that shiny tape on it."

But Austin had already asked about the wrapping code. "No one told me about shiny tape," she said. "You said |no paper, no string.'"

"And no shiny tape on registered mail," Gert said. "No cellophane tape. No masking tape. No shiny tape. Paper tape. . .Next!"

"Do you have a brochure or an instruction sheet?"

"What?" said Gert. "Why would we have instruction sheets? Just no paper, no string, and no shiny tape. Next!"

I have a minister friend whose contribution to the genre of postal clerk encounters dates back several years, when he went to a Connecticut post office to mail a bundle of church newsletters, a duty usually performed by his secretary. He completed the bulk mail form, but unsure of the weight per piece, he stepped up to the window and asked the clerk to weigh the newsletter. What he got instead was a lecture on the separation of church and state. "He flew into a tirade, and said the post office was not in the business of supporting churches," my friend recalls. There was no one behind him in line.

Dastardly editorials

One interesting thing about the rude clerk stories and circulate from friend to friend is how starkly they contrast with another set of postal anecdotes: the letter carrier as hero. You know - the person who hands you your mail with a smile, who pulls your cat from the tree, who braves fires and foils criminals to rescue the feeble and frail. for every story that circulates of poor window service, there seems to be an equal and opposite one of letter-carrier courtesy or outright heroics.

In Satellite Beach, Florida, carrier Gary Craycroft was on his break when he saw an empty car rolling toward a gas pump where a elderly woman was filling up; he jumped inside, yanked the steering wheel, and cleared the pumps - breaking two ribs and injuring his leg and arm in the attempt. In Pittsburgh, postman Thomas Breit noticed that the mail of an 81-year-old woman on his route had begun to accumulate. Poking around the back of the house, he found the door open, the television on, and the woman stuck in an upstairs bathtub - where she'd survived for three days by drinking tap water. In Michigan City, Indiana, George Tadros was responsible for saving the lives of two elderly people in a single day. There's scarcely a newspaper in the country that hasn't profiled a local carrier, whether for a special act of courage or simply for longstanding community service.

Excuse me, but is there a pattern developing here?

Of course, with 275,000 letter carriers and 296,000 clerks, there are plenty of exceptions. On one side, there's Deena Disharoon, an Alexandria, Virginia clerk who saved a 78-year-old stroke victim by calling the woman's neighbors after she failed to pick up her mail several days in a row; the neighbors found her lying on the kitchen floor. On the other, there are the 11 Brooklyn postmen charged with dumping 60,000 letters in a trash bin - one way to lay your burden down. And the public's experience with postal employees varies with geography, with residents of small towns tending toward a loftier view of carrier and clerk alike.

Still, the Postal Service's own data indicates that the differences between carrier and clerk are rooted in more than the imagination of the Federal Express ad agency. Employee surveys show carriers with a higher commitment to their jobs. Statistics on union grievances show clerks to be more frequently disgruntled. And the Postal Service's current ad campaign - the smiling carrier handing over a letter - shows that postal executives know in what image their marketing strength lies. "The letter carrier is viewed as a national icon," says Anne Robinson, who heads Postal Service's office of consumer complaints. "Letter carriers are, generally speaking, better adjusted and happier in their jobs. Clerks, on the other hand, have a whole different set of pressures."

The personality split between clerks and carriers is clearest of all when looking at the behavior of their respective unions. Both Vincent Sombrotto, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, and Moe Biller, head of the American Postal Workers Union, have roots as union militants. Both came to national power with vows to toughen the union stance toward postal management. These days, though, Sombrotto is playing the role of union statesman. He's enamored of words like "cooperative" and "participative." He keeps a book by Michael Maccoby, the guru of participative management, on his desk, and sits on the board of Harvard's Program on Technology, Public Policy, and Human Development, which Maccoby directs. Biller, on the other hand, continues to sprinkle his speech liberally with references to "Pinkertons," "goons," and "whips." When I asked him what he thought of the Postal Service's plans to increase cooperation on the shop floor, he said, "I can sum it up in one world: bullshit."

Recently, the postal management's proposals for a more cooperative workplace have spawned a war of words between the two unions. Sombrotto helped design the employee involvement plan, which he and postal executives say can help take the edge off a corporate culture that all agree is overly authoritarian. Biller, who represents not only the clerks who sit at postal windows but also the much larger number who work behind the scenes sorting mail, has scorned the plan as a union-busting trick. That's a crock, says Sombrotto. "The view that we have to choose between a unionized workplace and a participative workplace is pure nonsense," he recently wrote in a union publication. "It is a view of those whose minds are imprisoned in a time warp - perhaps the 1930s. . . .the old ways are not necessarily the best ways." The clerks' retort? "Dastardly," wrote William Burrus, the union's executive vice president. Such remarks "are more befitting a representative of the Postal Service."

The differences between carriers and clerks, individually and in unions, are interesting for several reasons. (There is, after all, clerk and carrier - surly despot and helpful servant - in us all.) For one, their experiences as individual workers offer insights into what brings job satisfaction and what breeds job frustration - speed a day with each, and watch what they do. For another, their relations with management provides a window into the beleaguered Postal Service's problems and solutions - how it managed to alienate a workforce, and how it might help motivate it. And, finally, their stances as unions mirror a split more generally within American labor, between those who view labor and management as inevitably confrontational and best kept separate and those seeking a greater decision-making role for workers. The battle over employee participation is one being played out not only in the Postal Service but in auto plants, steel mills, and on lots of other shop floors.

The killer Dachshund

In search of the letter carrier mystique, I recently paid a visit to Zip Code 20003, Route 325, which serves a cluster of public housing projects and low-income townhouses in Washington, D.C., Route 325 is one of 41 routes that operate out of the Southwest Station post office. It's also considered one of the least desirable, because it covers a rough neighborhood and requires climbing a lot of steps. Since routes are distributed according to seniority, this one has fallen to one of the branch's most junior members, 28-year-old Leon Turner.

Like Robert Townsend in Hollywood Shuffle, Leon is a young black man whose mother insisted that he seek postal employment. Leon graduated from high school in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, where he was a basketball star (his teammate, Thurl Bailey, now plays for the Utah Jazz), and Leon played a few years at St. Mary's College in Maryland. He was working as a bank teller when his mother learned that the postal exam was being offered and urged him to sign up. Leon waited four years until a job finally came open.

People in Leon's neighborhood like him. "You're the best person around," a secretary said when he walked into the office to hand her the mail. A few days earlier, for Leon's birthday, woman on his route had baked him a lemon cake with chocolate icing. A neighborhood basketball team recruited him for league games played at the Navy Yard, and, as we were walking, Leon's coach drove by the made sure he was ready for that evening's game.

To walk the streets with Leon Turner is to behold an artisan of neighborhood idiom. "Hey now, moving kind of slow," he yelled to the survivor of a long night's drinking. "Save you a trip," one woman said, leaning over a rail to spare him a flight of steps; "I heard something in that," he said. Leon stopped twice to tell teenagers they ought to be in school; he knew whose screen doors were locked; he slipped away from the whispered overtures of a young woman in a clinging yellow dress who approaches him regularly for money. "Drugs," he said

That's not to say that the carrier of Route 325 wins the Snow-nor-Rain-nor -Gloom-of-Night Award. Gazing at the tangled growth that blocked the way to one seemingly abandoned house, Leon decided the water bill could wait. "I don't feel like stepping over trees today," he said, He skipped another house when he saw the screen door open, worried that the family dog would come bounding out. "Regulations say if we're in physical danger due to an animal, we don't have to deliver," he said. As we made our way a few doors down, I was still picturing the beast's bared teeth - Doberman, no doubt - when the physical danger himself came yipping out: a Dachshund. We would have had to backtrack only 10 yards or so to hand the Dachshund owner her mail, but Leon pushed on. "I'm on the road," he said.

Some of the reasons Leon likes his job are obvious. People treat him well, and since he deals with the same ones every day, he's got an incentive to treat them well, too. (Who bakes cakes for postal clerks Who hands them Christmas bonuses?) He likes having his mind free to wander - "from one subject to another: my bills, my home, my girlfriend, my basketball game." He enjoys being outside, and he enjoys, as he puts it, "looking at the ladies - I met a few ladies, oh yeah." And there's a dignity to delivering the mail. "You seem to get more respect as a letter carrier than a bank teller," he says.

There's one more thing that, by most people's compass, gives letter carriers an advantage over postal clerks: they have more autonomy. Once they hit the streets, they're basically on their own, beyond the supervisor's gaze.

I didn't fully appreciate the benefits of that until I spent an early morning inside the Southwest Station. All in all, boss and bossed appeared to get along, and the manager seemed well liked. (From the put-your-request-in-writing screening of the postal p.r. people, it was clear they weren't letting me tour any hotbed of discontent. My request to spend a few days at D.C.'s main post office, a cavernous, block-long building, was declined on the grounds that "there isn't enough room.") Still, it was easy to see how the Postal Service has gained notoriety for its military manner. "Turner, go back to your [station]," the manager barked, after Leon had wheeled his dolly of mail out to his truck; he apparently wanted me to observe Leon from the starting line. "Turner, take 310," he said, by way of telling him to exchange vehicles with someone - not, "Leon, borrow Charlie's truck." Other signs of regimentation abound. The letter carriers report in at 6:00 a. m. to begin sorting the mail, which is already broken down by route, into the order in which it's delivered. From 7:00 to 7:10 they get a juice break. At a 7:30 announcement, all 41 of them file out for a vehicle check - start your engines, check your flashers, flip your wipers, etc. Their routes are mapped out so precisely that any odometer variance of more than two-tenths of a mile must be explained. Carriers aren't "free" by a long shot, but, with about half their day spent on the streets, they're a lot freer than clerks. "It's more stressful inside, because you have people watching over you all day," Leon days.

Discarded water slides

Clerks, of course, have no such escape valves built into their day. It's not hard to venture a few guesses about why manning the windows would breed a more surly disposition than walking a route. If a carrier works, faster, he finishes earlier and dallies around: If a window clerk works faster, he or she just works harder. The carrier who sees the same people every day has an incentive to ask how they're doing. The clerk who asks extraneous questions is only going to antagonize the rest of the people in line - and since he usually doesn't know the customers anyway, who cares how they're doing?

While most of us think about clerks as the people at the post office window, they comprise only about 20 percent of the workers represented by the clerks union. The other, more numerous, clerks work behind the scenes, at a variety of jobs that mostly involve sorting the mail - some by hand, some by automated machine. Since job assignments are usually based on seniority, and the window jobs are, generally, the most prized, clerks may have to spend years, even decades, at mail-sorting tasks before having the chance to bid on a window spot. This system makes longevity, not congeniality, the prime qualification for customer contact.

Not long after I visited the Southwest Station, I made a trip to D.C.'s general mail facility, where the city's main sorting is done. With 3,050 employees, this is Clerk Central, and unlike Leon Turner's neighborhood, not a place of lemon cakes and "looking at the ladies." Wandering around the floor of the 661,000 square foot building - about 12 football fields if you count the end zones - I felt like I was on the set of a Steven Spielberg film of the Industrial Revolution. Machines everywhere whirred and beeped and screeched and hummed; robots pulled trailers of mail.

The building is so large that the aisles go by street names. Standing at 9th and R, I watched a team attempt to smooth the kinks from a new small parcel sorter - kind of a 50-yard-long octopus, with conveyer belts for tentacles. The belts suck packages up to an elevated platform, where clerks punch in zip codes, then swoosh them away to different coded bins. If you stand on that platform and look to your right, you'll find a companion beast: a series of 30 large green chutes, spaced over 100 yards, dangling down from the ceiling. They look like discarded water slides from a defunct Wet-n-Wild. This is a sack sorter. On top of it, perched a full story above the shop floor, a woman in work gloves and a baseball cap punched in zip codes and loaded mail bags onto conveyor belt; sensor-activated 'drops" then swept them off the belt and into bins the size of Dempsey Dumpsters. Elsewhere on this hi-tech horizon, clerks were feeding letters into machines that read zip codes at a rate of 38,000 an hour - on one side of the feeder, a march of standard business envelopes; on the other, a spray of paper headed in 76 different zip-coded directions.

Most of this machinery is self-paced. That is, workers can stop the conveyer belt or momentarily speed or slow the mail they load on top of it. They feed it. Perhaps the most brutal device on the floor, however, works exactly in reverse: it feeds the worker. This machine sends letters singing past at the rate of one per second, leaving about seven-tenths of a second to read the address and three-tenths to type the first three digits of the zip code. The clerks are expected to hit 19 out of every 20 letters that come flying by. They work in teams of 20, spending 30 to 45 minutes of each hour at the task and the remainder loading or sweeping. Though I had heard a lot about these machines, and looked at pictures, this portrait of relentlessness still shocked. It looked like the famous "I Love Lucy" scene in the candy factory. But this was no joke.

Martial mail

The differences in the daily work life of clerks and carriers - and the value of the carriers' extra autonomy - becomes additionally instructive given an aspect of employment that they share: the Postal Service's history as an authoritarian employer. "This is a top-down organization. I wish it weren't," says Anthony Frank, who took office as postmaster general 16 months ago and has earned high marks since. "The way things have usually worked around here is: |You do what I say.'"

Explanations for the you-do-what-I-say ways vary, stressing both postal history and postal mission. As many have pointed out, the system was self-consciously modeled after the military, which was the only organization of comparable size as the early Post Office developed. Both organizations donned uniforms; both answered to a "general" in command. Others have stressed the political pressures for uniformity - mail must cost the same and move the same whether in Miami or Malibu. Will shirk, a former postal executive, puts forth an anthropological view, arguing that postal form follows postal function: The heroes of the postal bureaucracy typically don't change things but preserve them under adversity - plowing ahead despite fires, floods, snows. "Anything that represents change in the basic operation is very threatening," Shirk says. "There's the fear that it'll kill you."

Whatever the cause, the effect of the Postal Service's martial laws is clear: lots of disgruntled workers. A 1983 employee survey by Yankelovich, Skelly, and White found that postal employees "are working below capacity" and "withholding a substantial portion of their discretionary effort." While this was true for almost all postal workers, it was true most of all for mail handlers and clerks. A major reason for the disillusionment, the consultants concluded, involved relations with front-line supervisors, who themselves had risen up from the floor and adopted the values of the authoritarian foremen who preceded them.

What these tensions translate into is a form of low-intensity conflict on the shop floor, with workers filing grievances, supervisors taking disciplinary action, and the two tearing at each others' throats in ways more than metaphorical. Postal management reports that more than 150,000 union grievances reached the arbitration level in the past two years alone (from a unionized workforce of 650,000 employees). Clerks, meanwhile, file grievances at a rate about 25 percent higher than carriers. Postal management, for its part, issued 42,000 letters of warning in a recent 18-month period, and 28,000 suspensions, according to the Los Angeles Times. And beyond paper, something blunter was exchanged: 355 physical attacks by workers on supervisors, in the past three and a half years, and 183 attacks by supervisors on workers. (This might give the "We Deliver" slogan new meaning.) "Tension and antagonism remain at an intolerable level in many work locations, and the number of grievances and arbitrations conducted is also intolerable," concluded a letter cosigned last summer by Frank, the postmaster general, and Sombrotto, of the letter carriers union. The letter pledged to reduce grievances by 50 percent. The clerks made no such pledge.

Postal Apaches

Evidence of "tension and antagonism" extends beyond statistics. In recent years, scores of postal employees have been killed or wounded by co-workers. If you thought the chills and thrills of mail delivery went out with the Pony Express and Apaches, consider: In Boston this spring, an angry mail handler commandeered an airplane and strafed the city streets with automatic weapons. In New Orleans last December, a mail handler shot his supervisor in the face with a shotgun and wounded three others during a 13-hour siege. In Massachusetts last June, a clerk killed a co-worker in a parking lot and later committed suicide. In Edmund, Oklahoma, Patrick Sherill, a part-time letter carrier, set a postal service record three years ago when he killed 14 and wounded six before committing suicide at the station. This was the third worst mass murder in American history. The list goes on - rather lengthily as it happens. (Son of Sam, you might remember, was a postal clerk.) A post office psychologist told me he couldn't read any meaning into such events without a control group, and perhaps he can't, but the rest of us could be excused for wondering.

While the workers are literally up in arms, no one's accusing postal managers of excessive sensitivity. In Indianapolis, a supervisor placed workers with medical excuses in a glass cage on the shop floor - a warning that sick leave would be no picnic. In the wake of the Oklahoma killings, a postal manager warned workers not to read the sympathy cards on company time. Remember Gary Craycroft, the Florida letter carrier who hurt himself wrestling the runaway car from the gas pump? His supervisor issued a letter of reprimand, charging him with "an unsafe act resulting in personal injury."

Confronted with rote work and rigid supervisors, postal workers have done what unions in America have typically done: they've concentrated on seeking higher wages. And they've done so rather successfully. The average postal worker - clerks and carriers are paid on the same scale - now pulls in $27,000 a year, with another $6,000 in benefits. (The operators of the I-Love-Lucy machines earn about $3,000 a year extra.) By most studies' accounts, the standard postal wage is about 30 percent higher than what private industry pays for similar work. While Federal Express spends about 51 percent of its budget on labor, and UPS spends 60 percent, the Postal Service spends almost 85 percent. Ironically, this wage escalation dates back to the 1971 postal reorganization act, which in severing the post office from direct congressional control, was designed, in part, to control wage inflation. Postal workers were then paid the same as civil servants at the GS-5 level; if that held true today, the would be earning $18,000.

So postal workers earn a decent living - what's wrong with giving the working stiff a break? Well, nothing; the more money, the better - as long as the enterprise remains competitive. But, in part because the postal unions have traditionally settled for more money rather than a better work environment, what the Postal Service is getting for its high-priced labor is endless internal warfare: gripes, grievances, stagnant productivity - and threats of privatization. Outside its first-class mail monopoly, the Postal Service is getting walloped: UPS controls 96 percent of the small package industry; Federal Express and other private firms command 88 percent of the overnight mail business. For 11 of the past 16 years, the post office has busted its budget, and it's now kept afloat with about $3 billion a year in congressional subsidies.

If this combination of generously paid but unhappy workers fighting adversarial battles in endangered industries sounds familiar, that's because it is. Look at cars and steel. The clerks union is currently incensed at the Postal Service for an experiment in contracting out jobs to Sears, which is running mini-post offices with its own employees. But given the Postal Service's flimsy finances, it has to try something. Faced with high labor costs, a contentious union, and threat of postal abolition, what would you do?

The mailmen's microwave

Recognizing that the shop-floor wars aren't doing anyone any good, the Postal Service has made some moves toward diplomacy. The specific form is something called EI/QWL - for Employee Involvement/Quality of Work Life. It's purpose, as articulated by postal management, is to soften the adversarial culture by giving workers more say-so over activities on the shop floor. While the carriers speak rhapsodically of the process, the clerks union has greeted it with the enthusiasm usually reserved for, say, shiny tape.

Similar endeavors have been tried in lots of industries, and other unions have similarly split. While there's no hard-and-fast definition to employee involvement schemes, they typically include regular meetings on company time, between teams of workers and supervisors, to air gripes and offer suggestions. Critics say they're nothing more than a new sugar-coated way to screw the worker - to pit one worker against another in gripe sessions; to speed up the production line beyond what workers can reasonably withstand. In short, a union-busting trick in a union-busting age. And, in fact, they can be. But the call for precisely this kind of cooperation between management and labor has also come from people like Glenn Watts of he Communications Workers of America and Irving Bluestone of the United Auto Workers - scarcely union-busters. As hey have argued, a union presence on such teams can guard against the erosion of rights, while expanding worker control and satisfaction. At Xerox, for example, an EI project helped raise attendance (from 92 percent to 97.3 percent), reduce grievances, and boost product quality (from 89.3 percent of shipments accepted by customers to 99.1). Did it oppress the workers? A Labor Department study concluded that "employees involved in the process saw it as helping them...." Similar programs have helped the resurgence of Ford Motor Company, to cite just one other example.

The Postal Service launched it EI plan in 1981, after a particularly bitter contract negotiation. Sombrotto, the carriers union president, got involved and sought advice from Maccoby. Since signing agreements with three of the four major postal unions - all but the clerks - the Postal Service has established about 6,000 EI teams. Sombrotto remains enthusiastic. "People who have to work under conditions ought to have some say beyond what the union arranges for them," he says.

Down at the Southwest Station, where Leon Turner works, the carriers have been engaged in the employee involvement process for about five years. Its initial fruits were modest indeed: a microwave oven, a new door on the loading dock that makes it easier to transfer mail into the carriers' trucks. Eventually, a more daring idea rose: and experiment in self-management. The post office is divided into two zip codes. On Leon Turner's side, two supervisors oversee the carriers on 27 routes, a scheduling their time off, keeping records of the volume of mail, and making decisions about when to work overtime. On the other side, 14 carriers now perform those chores mostly by themselves.

Broom handles and Bibles

Melvin Parker, a carrier with 19 years' experience, was an early enthusiast of the EI process and a proponent of the current experiment. As he explains it, self-management has produced two main benefits. The first is to reduce the tension over a major source of worker-supervisor friction: overtime. The Postal Service issues rough guidelines concerning how much mail a letter carrier should be able to sort and deliver in an eight-hour day, but there's lots of room for interpretation, depending, in part, on the mix of the mail. Not surprisingly, the supervisor's estate of what reasonably may be accomplished in eight hours sometimes exceeds the carrier's - resulting in barked orders, union grievances, or harbored grudges. Under the self-management scheme, the carriers make those day-to-day decisions themselves, as long as they adhere to general overtime targets. "Now," says Parker, "you can iron out a lot of that stuff before it goes too far."

The bigger benefit, as Parker describes it, has to do less with the technicalities of mail delivery and more with its psychology. Parker describes his job in terms that would make Tom Peters blush: "It's just a much more comfortable, smoother atmosphere than if you have a supervisor walking around, keeping an eye on everything you do," he says. "Before, you said that's management. That's their post office. You can't do that now. To me, it's like when a company sells to its employees. You know whatever happens, you're a part of it, you're partly responsible."

No doubt, employee involvement schemes can go only so far. (Unfortunately, there's no room in government for the ultimate employee involvement plan - worker ownership.) You could put a Michael Maccoby at every work station, and clerks, for the most part, will still have worse jobs than carriers do. For the most vicious of the repetitive work, one humane solution is to open it up to part-time employees. There's a tremendous need for part-time work, particularly for families with young children, and sorting letters at one-per-second is certainly more bearable for four hours a day than it is for eight.

Still, there's something almost willfully perverse in the clerks' clenched-fist opposition to employee involvement. "I'm not interested in even having it work," Biller told me. Holding aloft the union's 219-page contract, he declared it "our Bible" - the only EI plan workers need. As Biller recounted a labor history of "company spies" and managers trying to "shove the broom handle up the guy's behind while he's working," I asked him what he would do to make life better for his workers if he were postmaster general. "I don't have to answer those kinds of questions," he said., "because I have no plans to become PMG." He is clearly happier where he is - on the labor side of the negotiating table, banging loudly for a raise.

That the workers aren't so happy seems clear. One needn't look far for examples of other industrial workers who followed the same hard-line, money-for-misery path as their enterprise went down the tubes, letting the bosses worry about the consequences; in places like Pittsburgh, some of them are now out of jobs, longing for the old days. If the forces of postal privatization have their way, postal clerks might be doing the same. More likely, the system will keep lurching along, propped up by rate hikes and subsidies, and trips to the post office will continue to be the stuff that Federal Express commercials are made of.
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Author:DeParle, Jason
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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