The spread of Covid-19 has put a spotlight on delivery workers. Letter carriers, Instacart shoppers, and Amazon delivery workers are critical — they deliver food, medicine, and other essential supplies. They go out to work so that others can stay home. The current health crisis highlights how important these workers are. Yet, the health and safety of these workers is often overlooked or ignored. During the past few weeks, delivery workers have organized and agitated for better health and safety provisions, seeking paid sick leave, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and other basic protections and accommodations. The ultimate success of these efforts is an open question — the politics of risk are, after all, always promiscuous.

The excerpt featured below is adapted from “Letters, Power Lines, and Other Dangerous Things: The Politics of Infrastructure Security.” It speaks to the current moment and offers a cautionary tale. It uncovers how the security provisions adopted after the 2001 anthrax attacks traded away the health and safety of postal workers in favor of cheap and fast mail.

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