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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Times Are Changing

© Another Day in the Country

Friday, Jan. 9, is circled in red on my calendar. This was the last day that Ramona, Kansas, actually had a Postmaster.

For several years now, we have been fighting to keep our post office and the “Master” of the realm alive and well. Ever since the information trickled down to small towns that their post offices, which had seemed like they would be there forever, were in jeopardy, the good people of Ramona have been doing everything in their power to keep their post office. Our postmaster has done the same — we have customers buying stamps, for instance, from the Ramona Post Office from all over the United States, as far away as California. These loyal folk are doing everything they can to help us keep revenue up.

When a town loses its post office, it’s the last straw for rural America. The post office is such a vital link to small rural communities, especially to the older population, who rely on their mail carrier for everything from news to medicine delivery. So, in Ramona, we wrote letters to Congressmen and anyone else we could think of, pleading our case, “Please don’t close our post office.”

We had town meetings with postal officials. We did everything we knew to do and then we waited for the message from the Head Honcho as to what the fate of Ramona’s Post Office would be. It wasn’t just us, there were a myriad of other small town post offices in jeopardy as well. Our hopes were up. Our hopes were down. We didn’t know what to expect as an outcome.

Meanwhile, our postmaster was in the same boat. She’d joined the post office force almost thirty years ago, thinking that this was probably one of the most secure jobs a woman in the work force could find. She diligently worked her way through the stages of responsibility offered until she became the postmaster in Ramona almost fifteen years ago. And here, just short of retirement, the post office in our town and her job might just disappear. Who would have foreseen that probability thirty years ago?

After months of concern, all of us wondering what was really going to happen we found out the news. The good news was that the post office would remain open, for now. The hours would be reduced to half days, but the service window would be open part time. We were glad to hear that news. The bad news was that our postmaster no longer had a job. With the time measured in months from her eligible retirement, her job just disappeared. We discovered that a “postal support employee” would be coming to fill her job. Of course, they’d have to be trained, but the post office reasoned this would still save them money because they wouldn’t be paying out the salary that long years of service brings with it and they wouldn’t be paying benefits.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the USPS is factoring in the cost of hiring and training new employees (while the old are discarded). Do seasoned, dedicated, hardworking USPS employees, who have given their faithful service year after year after year, have so little value?

So close to retirement, our postmaster reasoned, “Why not just offer to take the lower paying, part-time job that would be offered to a new, untrained, beginning employee and complete those months to finish out all 30 years and then retire?”

“Oh, no,” said the post office higher-up, “You aren’t allowed to do that.” So, that’s that. An era has passed in our small town. No longer is there a postmaster. In the last couple of weeks the post office has offered our postmaster “beginner’s jobs” with up to a hundred-mile commute. “Don’t say we haven’t offered you something,” they seem to be saying.

What I’m saying is “No wonder that the postal service is floundering.” I know that times are changing and any business is pressed to keep pace with the changes that are happening in our society; but when any business does not honor and care for its employees who have given long years of service, something is wrong with their value system, and it’s a bleak, sad, day in the country.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2015

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