You may have noticed that two post offices – Minneapolis's Minnehaha and Lake Street branches—burned to the ground last week. They were deemed, according to one local news outlet, total losses.
Maybe you also noticed… your mail's been coming anyway?
Tyler Vasseur, a city letter carrier with the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 9, says everything made it into residents’ hands thanks to the timely evacuation of personnel and goods from both buildings. “They were able to get all the mail, all the packages, out of the buildings… before they were burned down because it was pretty clear that, um, that was needed.” Since then, he says service has been "a little hectic."
“Support for the protests is still really high, regardless, which I think is really telling,” says Vasseur, who spoke with City Pages in a personal capacity, including filling us in on how he and many letter carriers spent their "weekend."
This past Sunday, 40 postal workers held a press conference in front of the husk of the Lake Street Postal Station in south Minneapolis to express solidarity with protesters seeking justice for George Floyd. Gathered among the ranks was Vasseur, whose speeches throughout the day drew a direct, organic line from fighting for justice to the need for strong, well-funded social services for all.
“We need money for housing, jobs, education, and social services—not militarized police,” says Vasseur, reiterating one of the lines that drew the most applause from the crowd yesterday. “The Postal Service is the one, you know, public service that every single person in this country is connected to.”
Spotted in yesterday's crowd were proud St. Paul teachers and a couple AFSCME union members. According to Vasseur, this unified labor presence touched on the kernel of the day’s demonstration—which didn’t revolve around saving the USPS. To hear Vasseur explain it, unions (including the letter carriers') are finally beginning to better position themselves after taking a beating since Reagan-era policies neutered their power in the '80s.
“We're just now starting to see a rebuilding of the labor movement with the teachers strike started in West Virginia in 2018, and so if we're to rebuild the fighting labor movement in this country, then our unions need to fight for the entire working class. And that means fighting racist police violence against people of color,” he says. “We're not just workers, we’re also members of these communities, you know? Like, almost 30 percent of the workforce at the USPS are people of color, so we need to take up these fights for the entire working class if we want to be seen as a positive force for progressive change.”
As the day proceeded, the demonstration took to the streets, marching from the Lake Street post office to the memorial site for George Floyd at 38th and Chicago. Along that mile-and-a-half route, the crowd doubled in size to nearly 300 people, as onlookers left their lawns and cars, drawn by the energy of the march.
Vasseur, who was leading chants, attributes the growth to the general love people feel for postal workers. “They see the banner ‘Postal workers demand justice for George Floyd’ and people really, I think, saw that as a powerful expression of solidarity.”
By recent standards, a 300-person demonstration doesn’t make the board… but this isn't a numbers game, and then you realize the USPS organizers did this on a Sunday, aka the mail’s one and only day off. And today? They're right back on the streets, going door to door, keeping the whole entire country together on a shoestring budget, getting papercuts in 95-degree heat, quietly on the peoples' side.
Trump: The post office is broken!— Snacky Daytona (@dlukenelson) June 2, 2020
My post office: [burns to the ground] Sorry we didn't get you your mail yesterday, here's yesterday's and today's mail.