Roundup: Oil Fields Seeking Postal Workers

Register for the next National Rural Assembly • Making hay babies • Needed: Postal workers in oil country • Civil rights activist Guy Carawan dies

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Parts of rural western North Dakota are facing an increasingly rare problem: They don’t have enough U.S. Postal employees to meet demand. The Washington Post reports on how the oil boom is also a snail mail boom.

The once-sleepy state now represents one of the biggest challenges for Megan Brennan, who started as postmaster general in February. With more letters and packages to deliver and long lines at local post offices that are inadequate to meet a population that has grown 7.6 percent in five years, the Postal Service has rarely met national standards for mail delivery, according to a new report by Inspector General David Williams.

The operational challenges — including a jump in package deliveries of 165 percent over the past four years — also have resulted in massive overtime for mail carriers and poorly equipped, space-short mail processing plants, investigators found.

The mail is not the only challenge to providing basic services facing North Dakota, even as the price of crude oil has declined since fall and eliminated thousands of oil-related jobs. The federal government has hundreds of jobs it can’t fill and an exodus of workers once they’re in the jobs, because the oil boom has dramatically pushed up the cost of living and salaries haven’t kept pace.

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Registration is now open for the 2015 National Rural Assembly. This year the event is being held in Washington, D.C., a few blocks from Capital Hill. Here’s what the organizers have in mind for the meeting:

What will we accomplish together? We'll return to our foundational principles as set forth in the Rural Compact, and we'll expand our priorities and recommendations to build a more inclusive and integrated advocacy agenda. The final day of the conference will include a Congressional briefing and visits with members of Congress and Congressional staff on Capitol Hill. Young leaders will also have the opportunity to participate in a full-day strategic planning and action session.

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An Australian rancher has installed on his property a hay sculpture depicting two cow having…um…relations (link may be NSFW, depending on where you W). Bruce Cook, who owns the stud farm, made the art piece as a marketing stunt and because he thought it was funny. Not everyone agreed. Some neighbors called the police, calling the sculpture “pornographic.” Cook is standing firm, though.

Cook vows he won’t be intimidated by threats of prosecution and refuses to remove the sculpture. “I’m just a slow farm boy with a weird sense of humor,” he told Australia’s Guardian newspaper, adding that people have to have dirty minds to see obscenity. “I don’t see it — I’ve got problems with my eyes, but I don’t see any hassles with that.”

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Singer, folklorist, and civil rights activist Guy Carawan died this past weekend at his home in East Tennessee He was 87 years old. Carawan was involved with the Highlander Center for decades, serving as the music director for many years. Here’s a piece of Highlander’s obituary for Carawan:

While Guy was leading the music program at Highlander, he also helped spread another song: "We Shall Overcome." Sung as "I Will Overcome" at the turn of the century in many African American Baptist and Methodist congregations, this song was brought to Highlander in the 1940s by South Carolina tobacco workers who had adapted it as a labor song. They taught it to Zilphia Horton, who then included it in all of her Highlander workshops. With Pete Seeger and others, the song went through further evolution, and after Guy came to Highlander he continued singing and sharing it – teaching it during a 1960 Highlander workshop with Nashville sit-in leaders. A couple of weeks later, on April 15, 1960, Guy closed the first organizing meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee with the song, and everyone in the room rose from their seats, singing and reaching out to join hands. In this way, the signature song of the Civil Rights movement was born. 

Among the participants in that 1960 spring Highlander workshop was Candie Anderson, an exchange student at Fisk University and one of the first white people to become involved in the sit-in movement. A year later they married.

Guy was in the Highlander Library the night Grundy County sheriffs raided Highlander in a state-supported effort to stop its work for integration and civil rights. He was one of four people arrested that night. Guy especially liked to remember how, as they sat in the dark singing songs to keep their spirits up while the sheriffs searched Highlander's facilities, a young woman from the Montgomery Movement Association, Mary Ethel Dozier, added a new verse to "We Shall Overcome". She sang, "We are not afraid, we are not afraid today…"

 

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