Envisioning Alternatives – Strategies from Small Town Post Office Organizing!‏

January 27th, 2014
Dear ROPnet,

When ROP and human dignity groups started working to save post offices in November 2011, we didn’t know where it would take us. We knew rural post offices were vital to small town life. We knew the attempt to dismantle the country’s 2nd largest employer after Walmart was about more than mail. It was about dismantling an employment force where 85% of its employees still had collective bargaining rights. We knew that lobbying by Wall Street corporations had led Congress to manufacture a “fiscal crisis,” opening the door for FedEx, UPS and other corporations to open new franchises and grow their profits.

What we didn’t know was that working on Post Offices would become an opportunity to reframe the conversation about the economy, small towns and what real people hold in common – from social services to our environment – what ROP is calling the “Commons.”

Last month, human dignity leaders, union leaders and other concerned community members came together in Springfield, on the busiest day of the year for the Postal Service, to protest the impending closure of the Springfield mail processing plant. They challenged privatization of one of the largest forms of public infrastructure in the country and demanded a public commons for the people, not for Wall Street and corporate interests. ROP played a vital role in bringing together labor, human dignity groups and urban allies to facilitate a process that resulted in a great rally, a powerful act of civil disobedience and national attention from the Ed Schultz show where it was declared that the action in Springfield is a model for the country.

This month, local human dignity groups are continuing the conversation. Lincoln and Union County leaders took December’s Kitchen Table Activism to their local paper. The result is an Op-Ed printed in their local paper on the subject of “Strong Post Offices Make Stronger Rural Communities.”

What is unique about this Op-Ed is that it doesn’t just demand the status quo – no more cuts! – but it advances the conversation on what our communities need and want for their future success. It names some basic bottom-lines that we should have in all of our communities and suggests expanded roles the post office can play. It reframes the conversation from declaring what’s wrong to naming a vision for where we need to be going.

As Marcy Westerling, ROP Founder, shared in this summer’s Yes! Magazine, “At this moment in history, [Marcy] argues, the left must play a different role–not only disrupting and upending the status quo, but also pointing toward and building constructive alternatives. ‘Now it is more incumbent on us to be the keepers of calm, as we both acknowledge tense issues and offer reasonable ways forward that are fair to all sides.’”

While this Op-Ed is just one small step in providing a larger vision and offering alternatives, it is a model for our small town communities. Let’s invite community members to envision what is possible, what is needed and provide some simple and clear solutions, utilizing a basic piece of American infrastructure: the Post Office.

Thanks to Lincoln and Union County leaders for leading the way and getting the Op-Ed published in the News Times and La Grande Observer! Others around the state are working toward doing the same.

Now, let’s see if we can get this published everywhere! Download the Op-Ed here (in Microsoft Word) and contact ROP to let us know who in your community will be submitting it!

Warmly, Cara