New Orleans I’ve been on the post office bandwagon for some time as a solution for reducing the impact of predatory lending, check cashing, and money transfers or remittances. It seems in the effort to protect jobs, the American Postal Workers Union may be planning to take just this kind of proposal to the bargaining table, which could be a breakthrough if they can get any traction from their bosses.
The heart of their proposal according to a story by David Moberg of In These Times is that post offices are almost everywhere and banks have steadily been deserting a lot of geography in recent decades creating banking “deserts” in many of our communities. According to the research and advocacy organization, United for a Fair Economy, “more than one-quarter of Americans with little or no conventional banking services encompasses 53.6% of black households and 46.8% of Latino households, but only 19.5% of non-Latino white households.” Meanwhile 60% of the post office locations are in areas with at best only one or two banks. Even with massive cutbacks among postal workers, there are still a half-million of them who could handle a lot more than just stamps at the counter.
How radical is this? Not very. For 55 years until 1966, the US Postal Service sold savings bonds that might have had low interest yields but were financially secure and accessible. Many other countries have had postal banks including the United Kingdom and of course Japan which for a long time was the largest savings bank in the world.
In Canada, ACORN has worked closely with the postal unions who have been among our strongest allies in trying to cap the cost of remittances and have joined with us in trying to take over money transfers from the government’s subcontract with MoneyGram. Moberg writes that in the US the APWU has started forging a community-based coalition with National People’s Action, Public Citizen, USAction, and Interfaith Worker Justice. Perhaps we will hear more from all of them soon to advance this proposal.
Let’s hope so. We need a solution here, and pushing the post office into banking for our people could be the stone that kills two birds, offering basic services for working families at affordable prices and saving jobs at the same time. As I’m sure the APWU will say at the table, this is a perfect example of “win-win” bargaining, if we can make it happen.
Please enjoy Joan Baez singing “Bread and Roses.”