Free the Post

Blog, Workplace, Amanda Achtman

Attempts to reconcile tensions between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canada Post are taking place in Ottawa today. Negotiations are ongoing and a compromise seems long overdue.

According to a recent Toronto Star article, back-to-work legislation is in the works.

“Under the proposed law, an arbitrator would choose between the final offer from management or the union’s final offer, a scenario [Labour Minister] Raitt conceded could leave one side on the losing end.”

A former CEO of Canada Post, R. Michael Warren, is now insisting on privatizing Canada Post. In his Ottawa Sun column he says:

“Coddled unions, changing technology and looming deficits all suggest the need to consider privatizing it — and soon.”

Privatizing postal service is not a new idea. In Leonard E Read’s famous essay “I, Pencil
(published in 1958), Read makes a very compelling argument for having faith in
individuals and their “creative energies” to meet needs through cooperation in the free market versus monopolized “governmental masterminding.”

Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn’t know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation’s mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people—in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity—the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental “masterminding.” […]

Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person’s home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one’s range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard—halfway around the world—for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!”

It will be interesting to see how this scenario unfolds over the next week. In the
meantime, I need to go send a fax!