My dad was a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier; it was a steady job with benefits and decent pay. During Christmas, he would bring home gifts of booze, food and envelopes full of cash because if the folk on the route liked the carrier... that's what they did as a way of saying thanks.


That was when he was in the neighborhood. But four years before he retired, the USPS changed the Postmaster for his station and things changed. My dad, like most of the other old timers used their seniority and transferred out of that station in droves to the downtown station where seniority meant something still. He never explained why save to say that "the new PM had PMS" apparently every day.

That was right about the time the post office - in an effort to become competitive and to cut costs - privatized and brought in folk not necessarily experienced with postal workers. Having lived with one, I knew all about letter carriers [back then], as a lot of my dad's friends were carriers. I knew: they drank a lot - alcoholism was high. They liked fishing and bowling. And most of them owned guns.


In 1986 (ironically the same year my dad retired), the world found out - and so did a few postal managers - that a lot of letter carriers not only owned guns but would use them. That was year that Patrick Sherrill, a postman, shot and killed 14 employees and wounded six at the Edmond, Oklahoma post office. You see, they had new managers too and didn't like them either. But they had no place to transfer too unlike my dad.


This is the topic discussed by Emil Chiaberi in his new documentary "Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal". He chronicles the earliest incidents of postal mass murder and identifies it with the new management style.

He includes testimonies by other carriers and survivors as to what drove the seemingly-happy go-lucky carriers into a murderous rage. It describes how management ignored complaints and probably could have avoided at least a couple of the incidents had it been more proactive.


He also continues on to other workplace murders and how the phenomena continues to this day - and will continue until companies put a handle on management pressure.


Well conceived, filmed and edited Chiaberi does an outstanding job of keeping the film interesting and well paced eschewing gruesome details like many doc-directors might have been tempted to do.


He even manages to include footage from the 58th episode of Seinfeld (The Old Man) which George - after hearing Newman is a postal worker - asks: "Aren't [postal workers] the guys that always go crazy and come back with a gun and shoot everybody?" Newman replies "Sometimes," in a devious manner.


However, the film skirts many other interesting workplace mass murder like the 1928 incident with Leung Ying in California who killed 11 co-workers on a farm. Or Edward

Charles Allaway who killed 7 at Cal State University in in 1976. both were prior to "going postal" incidents.


"Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal" is an above average documentary that manages to explain the term and causes for current workplace mass murders, but stops short of a more complete historical film.   -- GEOFF BURTON