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.