The history of Briscoe’s family with the postal service is a familiar story among black USPS workers in the District. In 1960, 63 percent of postal workers and 14 percent of postal supervisors in the District were black, according to Rubio.
Briscoe’s stepfather worked in the postal service for 42 years. Her mother used it as a stepping stone and, after a few years with USPS, went to American University to study psychology.
But apart from her immediate family, Briscoe, who is black, said her co-workers became a kind of family. “I worked the night shift, and you end up seeing your co-workers more than you see your family,” she said. “We celebrated baby showers and all give a contribution when someone passes. We try to support each other. That’s why I love it. We like the work. We feel like we’re doing a service to a public.”
Alton Branson, a 56-year old letter carrier in Clinton, said he was drawn to the work for the same reasons. A brother-in-law and a mentor encouraged him to apply 37 years ago.
“I just felt there was a lot of pride in the job, in wearing the uniform,” said Branson, a single father who sent three daughters to college on a postal worker’s salary. “Back then, we had the police hats with the badges. That intrigued me.”
In time, the postal service stayed in urban areas as other employers moved out, said Gary Burtless, a labor market expert at the Brookings Institution. “They still have sizable pockets of employment in communities that do not have lots of other good jobs. These jobs have decent wages, good health benefits and vacation benefits.”
Fred Jones, who lives in Largo, was hired as a janitor at a post office six years ago. USPS was looking to hire veterans and that gave him a leg up. His father had worked there for 42 years — eventually becoming a supervisor. Jones’s plan is similar, despite the planned cuts.
“I’m here until I retire,” Jones said. “I’m not going anywhere. They are going to have to get rid of me.”
Staff writer Lisa Rein and news research editor Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.