Threats to Our Service: The Proof is in the Numbers
(This article was first published in the July/August 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
After years of fighting tirelessly to debunk management’s claims that consolidations will result in improved efficiency and cost savings, APWU locals now have proof that network realignment has a negative impact on the mail service that communities rely on. An audit recently completed by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) [PDF] found that a consolidation in Lima, OH, resulted in delayed mail and a decline in on-time performance and customer service.
According to the OIG’s findings, postal management “did not ensure on-time performance and customer service were improved or maintained during the implementation of the consolidation,” and as a result, “significant degradations in service occurred after the Postal Service transferred all operations and volumes from the Lima P&DF to the Toledo P&DC,” the report stated.
OIG inspectors reported that “on-time performance and customer service declined in the first three months after the consolidation,” noting that service concerns included instances of delayed and non-receipt of medications and bill payments, advertising mail delivered after the in-home date, and late delivery to homes and businesses.
In addition, the OIG noted that it received 296 complaints from postal customers regarding late delivery and delayed mail. The agency blamed the service problems on management’s under-estimation of daily mail volume handled at the facility; inadequate staffing at the receiving facility in Toledo, and late morning dispatches due to lack of supervision, floor space, and equipment. The OIG pointed out that the Postal Service also did not take appropriate measures to “ensure the AMP was implemented as approved.”
A Case to Build On
The OIG’s findings in Ohio echo the union’s arguments against consolidation. In virtually every public discussion of consolidation, management insists it will not have a negative impact on service — yet, three months after the consolidation in Lima, delayed mail at the Toledo facility increased by 136 percent.
The situation in Ohio is not unique. In some suburbs of Chicago, following mail consolidations, residents have complained about receiving mail as late as 7 p.m., and some mail deliveries are delayed by up to a week. Delivery of local newsletters, for instance, was so delayed in some cases that the calendar listings were outdated by the time residents got them.
Postal employees find it difficult to keep up with the mail volume, which is now being moved from a downtown plant to suburbs south of the city before being distributed to stations.
In Helena, MT, elected officials and residents fear that the Postal Service’s plan to consolidate mail processing operations could have a major impact on the state’s elections process. With an increasing number of citizens choosing to vote by mail, any delays in mail processing could potentially cancel out votes.
Mail that would otherwise stay within Helena would have to travel to Great Falls and back — a total of 180 miles — before it could be distributed, Helena Local President Janet Kosnik told the Helena Independent Record. She said that mail deadlines would have to be earlier, and time-sensitive mailings would be affected.
“We don’t take postmarks for ballots, they have to be back into each election office by 8 p.m. on election day,” Montana’s Secretary of State Linda McCulloch told KRTV, a local news station. “That extra day could mean thousands of ballots that won’t be getting into the election offices on election day, so it really is critical,” she said.
No Sign of Stopping
Since January 2011, the Postal Service has ramped up its consolidation plans, announcing that it will begin AMP studies at approximately 50 facilities nationwide.
Despite the gains made in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which limits excessing to a 50-mile radius, job reassignments caused by consolidations are detrimental to postal workers and their families. Network realignments also jeopardize the timely deliveries residents rely on, such as medication, bills, and paychecks.
“There’s a lot of variables that play into this that would affect people’s lives,” Jim Price, Clerk Craft Director of the Sioux City (IA) Local told the Sioux City Journal. The Postal Service is currently considering moving operations from Sioux City to Sioux Falls. “Knocking out the mail service just makes times tougher for the community.”
Moving mail processing operations also takes away jobs from local economies. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) warned Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe that plans to close a Bronx postal facility that “provides more than 100 well paid career positions for our Bronx residents” would unfairly impact the community, noting that while many employees would be offered alternative positions, many do not have access to transportation to get to these “alternative and inconvenient locations.”
“The loss of these jobs in our community will have an impact on our Bronx businesses and restaurants,” Serrano pointed out in a March 17 letter to PMG Donahoe. “During this time of economic hardship, our community cannot absorb the loss of these well paying jobs.”
As the Postal Service moves ahead with its network realignment plans, APWU locals must lead the fight against these proposals that will jeopardize service and hurt communities.