Gone Postal: documentary lens on USPS
Anne Pyburn Craig
It’s no exaggeration to say that the U.S. Postal Service is under attack. A Google News search for “post office closing” returns over 53,000 results: hours being cut, branches being shuttered, irate residents protesting closure plans or wringing their hands over the loss of their local PO.
Post offices are community centers of sorts, where you can pick up the latest news and gossip along with your mail and see a friendly face or three. Post offices, along with libraries, are a place where we are treated not just as consumers, but as citizens. The U.S. Postal Service was established in the Constitution.
Useful and beloved as they may be, post offices are dropping like flies: in Mumford, Texas, on Starlight Lake Road in Pennsylvania, on Rt. 7 near Albany. Locally, the closing of the mail-processing center in Newburgh added a day or two to delivery times, as mail now needs to be routed through Albany.
A privatization deal struck to allow office supply mega-mart Staples to carry out many postal functions means mail being handled by $8 an hour employees rather than sworn civil servants in 1,500 locations; although Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe swears no jobs will be cut and no post offices closed as a result of the pilot program, it doesn’t seem to be holding true on the ground.
How to fight back? Rosendale filmmaker Jay Galione, whose father was a postal clerk for 30 years, has teamed up with fellow filmmaker Sheila Dvorak to make Gone Postal, a feature-length documentary and work of unabashed advocacy that exposes the untold stories, from what might have made a postal worker snap to how Congressional manipulation has set the USPS up for failure and privatization. The BlueStone Press spoke to the filmmakers about their project.
BSP: Beyond Jay’s dad, how did you locate former postal employees who would speak out? Were current ones afraid or forbidden to do so? In your trailer, I see one interviewee with his face blurred; I’m guessing that might be someone who still works there?
SD & JG: You’re right; it wasn’t easy finding workers who were willing to talk to us. Most postal workers fear their jobs are at stake if they speak out. We started our search online, finding workers who had written books and articles and were not afraid of talking publicly about the problems inside. Once we found these activists, they connected us with other workers across the country who trusted us with their stories. In North Carolina, when mail carrier Steve Spencer killed himself at the post office, his friends and coworkers felt it was too important to keep quiet and gave candid, emotional interviews.
Interviewing subjects for the documentary film has taken director Jay Galione and Producer Sheila Dvorak to post offices across the nation. Here are some of our favorite stops along the way.
On Friday June 27th Jay Galione was a guest on Voices At Work on KPFT Houston 90.1 Pacifica Radio. Guest host and former Letter Carrier Gordon Anderson interviews Jay Galione about Gone Postal: The Documentary. If you missed it live, listen to the interview here. It begins with an introduction, the 4 minute trailer, followed by the interview with Jay.
Director Jay Galione and Producer Sheila Dvorak have launched an IndieGoGo Campaign to raise $50,000 to complete Gone Postal: The Documentary. Our partnership with Fiscal Sponsor Fractured Atlas makes your donation tax-deductible! We need your help! Please visit our IndieGoGo … Continue reading
Gone Postal has partnered with Fractured Atlas to raise the funds needed to complete our documentary film.
Fractured Atlas Mission
Fractured Atlas empowers artists, arts organizations, and other cultural sector stakeholders by eliminating practical barriers to artistic expression, so as to foster a more agile and resilient cultural ecosystem.
For supporters of Gone Postal that means that your donation is tax-deductible, and we have resources at our fingertips. We thank Fractured Atlas for their sponsorship of Gone Postal: The Documentary.
Support Gone Postal: The Documentary and the fight to Save the People’s Post Office.
I sifted through the barrage of news stories on the Postal “default” last week hoping to find some real journalism. Sadly, I didn’t. Instead, I came across the same tired citations from official sources like the Postmaster General, the National Union heads, and the players in Congress.
Here’s the skinny: Wracked with a financial burden imposed by the Bush administration* the Postal Service defaults on a multibillion dollar annual payment, following the greatest recession since The Great Depression.
*“Thomas M. Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who proposed the law, said the payment requirement was initiated by the administration of President George W. Bush.” (NY Times 7-31-12)
The ensuing “crisis” is being used as a pretext to dismantle the agency as we know it. Postmaster General Donahoe and Republicans in Congress propose setting loose tens of thousands of unemployed, and erasing hundreds of thousands of living wage jobs from an already ravaged economy.
Does the Postal Service need to economize? Sure. It’d be hard argue with that. But where can they find efficiency? Certainly not from the Postmaster General or from the voices in Congress. The people involved in the conversation at a national policy-making level have either never worked in a post office, or they haven’t touched the mail in years.
Want to know where Post Offices can be consolidated? Where redundancies exist? Where money is wasted? Ask a letter carrier in Gastonia, North Carolina. Ask a Postmaster in Gold Run, California or a Mailhandler in Newburgh, New York.
I did that. The result is a four year cross country investigation chronicled in the documentary film (currently in progress), Gone Postal.
Witness a place where efficiency and progress are lost in a sea of grievances, retaliation, and lawsuits. Where unreachable goals are never justified but always enforced. And where employees have no voice.
Solutions to a problem rooted deep in the foundation of the organization won’t be found in a headline or a soundbite.
A service that operates on a local level everywhere in America, meeting different challenges in each market and terrain is now being shattered by the decisions of centralized controllers far removed from the daily operations, who have substantial political and personal interests at stake. Who’s looking out for the Service?
Director, Gone Postal