First lady Michelle Obama has been to many agencies to support federal workers, but her midday visit to one on Wednesday was special.
Obama went to the Secret Service headquarters to thank employees for protecting her family.
“And one thing that the president and I always say about our work with this agency is that it is always 100 percent on point — truly,” she told the employees. “I mean, not just in terms of how you all do your job, but how you all make us feel. And that is important when you’re trying to live a normal life and raise a couple of girls in the White House. You all have really made us feel at home and safe, and there is no amount of thanks that I could convey that would give you a sense of how important you all are to us.
“So this visit is special for me.”
One reason it’s special, Obama said, is that “We love our detail. We love every individual. . . . People always ask, ‘What is it like to have Secret Service?’ It’s like — for us, it’s like having family around.”
Amid laughter from the crowd, she said the president and their daughters have a friendly dinner-table “fight among our family” over who gets which agent, saying that Malia told Sasha: “You took Scott? That’s not fair!”
“But that’s because we feel close to each of you,” Obama added. “And particularly for the girls, they have just transitioned beautifully because of the work that you all do.
“So I’m here to say thank you. I’m here to say, the next time that you have to work late — which all of you do — you have to work on a weekend, the next time you have to do something hard, just know that you have a first family, and you also have a nation, that appreciates everything you do.”
Noting the Secret Service’s concern about terrorists, Obama said that after a tour of the agency she learned that “the work you do here is pretty scary . . . Just tell me when — where to run.”
She concluded: “The work you do is tremendous, and we value it, and we cherish each and every one of you.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which fights discrimination and bias, is worried that U.S. Postal Service plans to close facilities could have a negative impact on people of color.
The Postal Service says it is considering the closing or consolidation of 252 mail-processing facilities, and 35,000 jobs could be affected.
In a letter to Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Leadership Conference said: “We are very concerned that a disproportionate number of communities of color will be adversely impacted by these closures, at a time when the unemployment rate for African Americans sits at 16.7 percent and 11.3 percent for Hispanics. The mail processing facilities to be studied include a significant number of facilities in major urban areas, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Dallas, all of which have high populations of communities of color.”
The organization asked Issa “to require an independent assessment of the impact that any postal network consolidation will have on communities of color” as part of any postal reform legislation.
A spokesman for Issa said that “the committee appreciates the concern, but also has to help the Postal Service confront a $10 billion operating deficit next year.”
Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference, told the Federal Diary “the study we’ve requested is especially urgent. Given the outrageously high unemployment rate” for African Americans and Latinos, “the loss of thousands of additional jobs for these communities is simply unacceptable.”
“The Postal Service has played a unique role as a gateway to the middle class for the millions of African Americans who faced overt racial discrimination in almost every other sector of employment,” he added. “The American middle class would not be nearly as diverse as it is today were it not for the U.S. Postal Service.”
In a related matter, a memo to postmasters and station managers says Postal Service employees are not allowed to “engage in campaigns for or against changes in mail service.” The memo, which is posted on 21st Century Postal Worker, an unofficial Web site for postal workers, has its signature blacked out. The letter is dated Oct. 3.
A USPS spokesman said the agency is trying to determine who wrote it.
“The memo is attempting to explain our guidelines to our non-unionized workforce that during workhours employees may not use postal equipment, such as postal email, etc., to enagage in the activities outlined in the memo,” the spokesman said. “Of course they have their First Amendment rights to participate in these events and express their views while they are not on the clock. However, they should make clear they are speaking on their own behalf, not for the Postal Service.”
The memo says some postal employees “have written congressmen and senators, beseeching their assistance in stopping discontinuance studies . . . in an effort to sidestep or stop processes geared toward bringing our organization back to financial stability.”