Neighbourhoods from coast to coast to coast are being threatened by cuts to their postal service. Across the country, communities are organizing to resist. Londoners for Door to Door is a community-based group in London, Ontario that is part of this struggle.
In late 2013, Canada Post Corporation announced a “Five-Point Plan”: steep hikes in postal rates, sharp cuts in postal service and the elimination of door-to-door mail delivery. CEO of Canada Post Corporation, Deepak Chopra told the Globe and Mail that it was “modernizing” the postal services, while claiming that mail pick-up from self-service mailboxes (SMBs) would provide exercise to seniors who want more active, “fuller lives.”
Despite gloomy predictions of declining revenues, Canada Post’s own annual reports continue to show healthy profits (some two billion dollars over the last two decades). The service cuts are therefore unjustified from an economic point of view, and we argue that what this Crown corporation is trying to impose stems from an ideologically driven austerity agenda. The predictable end game involves the privatization of the parcel delivery business (increasingly profitable due to internet sales), and the loss of public mail delivery for most of us.
The struggle to defend and extend home postal delivery is happening on many levels. Electoral politics have a role, as do trade unions, other civil society organizations and media work. But the core of our fightback involves talking to people where they live and where these cuts hit them. This means canvassing door to door in areas targeted for SMBs and listening to stories of the impact these SMBs would have on our neighbours.
Our canvassers include students, seniors, volunteers from our local Council of Canadians chapter and members of local NDP riding associations, as well as community members who are concerned about these cuts. Crucially, we do this side by side with postal workers: early in the campaign we met with postal workers in their workplaces and invited them to join us in canvassing. As M., a long-serving postal worker told us, “this canvassing campaign is the first glimmer of hope I’ve seen in this whole grim process.” Postal workers and community members working together to protect jobs and services is a powerful image.
This work of listening to Londoners is a critical part of the process. The con-
cerns we have heard include personal safety, security of the mail, loss of privacy, decreased home values and the downloading of costs to already-tight municipal budgets. In our campaign materials and media messages, we reflect the concerns we hear in the community, and we also go beyond these concerns to challenge the myth that service cuts (and SMBs) are inevitable.
Canada Post calls the replacements for door-to-door delivery “community mailboxes,” but we use the term “self-serve mailboxes” because we believe they have nothing to do with communities. Rather, they make postal customers—everyone who receives mail—do part of the work that we’ve already paid for through the cost of the stamps we purchase. These service cuts are particularly harmful to seniors and residents with limited mobility who depend on regular contact via postal mail. Ultimately these cuts to a necessary service hurt us all. Our communities face the loss of good union jobs at a time when we need more steady employment.
Supporters on the doorstep allow us to put “Save Door to Door” yard signs or take window signs. They also sign petitions, write letters and call elected officials. Our Save Door to Door campaign challenges municipal councils to do more to represent residents who oppose these cuts. Some municipalities have already taken firm stands: Hamilton and cities in the greater Montreal area are leading the way. Other councils need to understand the urgency, which is where grassroots campaigns like ours can exert pressure. We can also demand a more-open process to discuss everything from the impacts of the cuts to the unsuitable locations that Canada Post is targeting for SMB installation.
In London and elsewhere, we have seen Canada Post’s “managers of municipal engagement” meet with municipal councils, city committees and business groups, but they rarely talk to grassroots community groups—and when forced to do so, they talk only to executives or “leaders.” They go through the motions of contacting residents whose homes are targeted by the imposition of SMBs, but they do not speak to the communities that are affected by the cuts. In response, our demands now include public town-hall meetings, where the issues can be aired fully and everyone can have a say.
Canada Post is a public-sector success story that belongs to us all. We can defend jobs and services by taking back control, but only when we work in our communities to unite voices that ultimately cannot be ignored. We have shown in London that this can work, and similar efforts are springing up in other communities across the country. From coast to coast to coast, we can save door-to-door mail delivery, and we can protect and even extend this treasured public service.