First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, the new book by historian Christopher Shaw, is hot off the presses. Shaw’s examination of the essential role of the Post Office in American society should have a profound impact on shaping the postal narrative and the direction of national policy.
On December 9, Shaw will be discussing the book in a virtual event hosted by City Lights on Zoom. Register here.
From the Foreword by Ralph Nader
“The preventable plight of our U.S. Postal Service is an important issue for all Americans. When President Donald J. Trump’s donor and henchman Louis DeJoy became postmaster general in 2020 and proceeded to dismantle the agency, millions of citizens participated in demonstrations that revealed a deep civic commitment to preserving the people’s post office. While DeJoy triggered a crisis that immediately threatened the presidential election process, attacks on the Postal Service have been an ongoing problem for decades. The anti-postal campaigns of corporate interests have remained a continuing source of frustration to those of us who have observed the Postal Service’s decline due to unimaginative management, a deck stacked to favor profit-driven entities such as FedEx and UPS, and unfair financial obligations imposed by Congress.”
The fight over the future of the U.S. Postal Service is on. For years, corporate interests and political ideologues have pushed to remake the USPS, turning it from a public institution into a private business—and now, with mail-in voting playing a key role in local, state, and federal elections, the attacks have escalated. Leadership at the USPS has been handed over to special interests whose plan for the future includes higher postage costs, slower delivery times, and fewer post offices, policies that will inevitably weaken this invaluable public service and source of employment.
Despite the general shift to digital communication, the vast majority of the American people—and small businesses—still rely heavily on the U.S. postal system, and many are rallying to defend it. First Class brings readers to the front lines of the struggle, explaining the various forces at work for and against a strong postal system, and presenting reasonable ideas for strengthening and expanding its capacity, services, and workforce. Emphasizing the essential role the USPS has played ever since Benjamin Franklin served as our first Postmaster General, author Christopher Shaw warns of the consequences for the country—and for our democracy—if we don’t win this fight.
Praise for First Class
“The Postal Service is the crown jewel of the American experiment, our most efficient, trusted and beloved public service. With First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat, Christopher Shaw makes a brilliant case for polishing the USPS up and letting it shine in the 21st century.”—John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation and author of Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers: Accountability for Those Who Caused the Crisis
“Democracy in action … government that literally delivers … a service that puts the ‘united’ in the United States. These aren’t throw-away cliches—they’re the essence of our U.S. Postal Service. ‘So we must kill it!’ That’s the perverse intent of a handful of corporate profiteers and their corrupt congressional enablers. How do we stop them and expand the beneficial work of this extraordinary public service? Christopher Shaw shows us the way. Read on … and act!”—Jim Hightower, syndicated columnist and radio commentator
“The ‘Save the Post Office’ movement has long needed a definitive manifesto, and now it has one. Christopher Shaw’s First Class shows how special interests and anti-government, anti-union ideologues have promoted a scarcity myth—the country can’t afford a first-class postal system—to justify cost-cutting measures like outsourcing, closing post offices and slowing down the mail. Piece by piece, an essential national infrastructure is being dismantled without our consent. Shaw makes an eloquent case for why the post office is worth saving and why, for the sake of American democracy, it must be saved.”—Steve Hutkins, founder/editor of Save the Post Office and Professor of English (retired) at New York University
“In gripping detail, Christopher W. Shaw’s First Class tells you who’s trying to sabotage the national treasure that is the U.S. Postal Service and why (hint: corporate greed). Shaw’s clarion call to protect the postal service explains what’s at stake for our communities, our democracy, and our economy. While he celebrates USPS history, Shaw’s gaze is primarily forward-looking. In a time of community fracture and corporate predation, he argues, a first-class post office of the future can bring communities together and offer exploitation-free banking and other services.”—Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen
“Shaw’s excellent analysis of the Postal Service and its vital role in American Democracy couldn’t be more timely. As the current postmaster general is about to implement a ten-year plan that will eliminate all airmail service, greatly reduce delivery times, and cut hours and available services at post offices, it is important to be reminded that a fully functional postal service is essential for elections, for delivery of life-saving medicines, for assistance when communities are dislocated in times of disaster and for rural community identity First Class should serve as a clarion call for Americans to halt the dismantling and to, instead, preserve and enhance the institution that can bind the nation together.”—Ruth Y. Goldway, Retired Chair and Commissioner, U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission, responsible for the Forever Stamp
“The United States Postal Service has been targeted for privatization (read: dismantlement) by conservative Republicans for decades. In his new book, Shaw convincingly explains why this would have tragic consequences for the future of democracy itself. … Shaw’s prose is fresh and accessible, and his arguments are cogent and convincing. Reading this book will give readers a new appreciation for the value of the humble post office.”—Booklist
“Christopher Shaw makes the case for the importance of the Postal Service to democracy in the United States. He argues compellingly that we should be looking to rebuild it, rather than tear it down and privatize it.”—Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of Rigged
“Christopher W. Shaw’s First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat makes a passionate but well-argued case for a healthy USPS. Shaw organizes his methodical argument around decades of attacks on the USPS; in doing so, he effectively refutes the flawed (and often anti-democratic) cases for privatization and deregulation. The USPS is essential for a democratic American society; thank goodness we have this new book from Christopher W. Shaw explaining why.”—Danny Caine, author of Save the USPS and owner of the Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS
“Christopher Shaw reveals the U.S. Postal Service’s historic contributions to the welfare of all Americans, from operating an essential communication and transportation network, to pioneering public banking, to functioning as a linchpin of elections. While the Postal Service’s enemies assert its inevitable demise, Shaw presents hope for a rejuvenated public service that plays an integral part of a democratic future.”—RoseAnn DeMoro, former Executive Director of National Nurses United
About the Author
Christopher W. Shaw is an author, historian, and policy analyst. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic (University of Chicago Press, 2019) and Preserving the People’s Post Office (Essential Books, 2006). His research on the history of banking, money, labor, agriculture, social movements, and the postal system has been published in the following academic journals: Journal of Policy History, Journal of Social History, Agricultural History, Enterprise & Society, Kansas History, and Journalism History. Shaw was formerly a project director at the Center for Study of Responsive Law. He has worked on a number of policy issues, including the privatization of government services, health and safety regulations, and electoral reform. He has appeared in such media outlets as the Associated Press, National Public Radio, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, New York Post,Village Voice, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Buffalo News, among others. He lives in Berkeley, CA.
Named by The Atlantic as one of the hundred most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century, Ralph Nader has helped us drive safer cars, eat healthier food, breathe better air, drink cleaner water, and work in safer environments for more than four decades. Nader was instrumental in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Many lives have been saved by Nader’s involvement in the recall of millions of unsafe consumer products, including defective motor vehicles, and in the protection of laborers and the environment. By starting dozens of citizen groups, Ralph Nader has created an atmosphere of corporate and governmental accountability. Nader’s recent books include Breaking Through Power with City Lights, Unstoppable, and The Good Fight. His Animal Envy, A Parable was published by Seven Stories Press in the fall of 2016. Nader writes a syndicated column, has his own radio show, and gives lectures and interviews year round.