Postal Workers Picket as Senate Begins Debate
04/18/2012 - (Updated 4/19/12) Members of the APWU and Mail Handlers Union rallied in front of post offices around the country Tuesday to alert the public to looming service cuts if Congress doesn’t act to fix the Postal Service’s finances by May 15. That is the day a moratorium on post office and plant closures expires. The moratorium is intended to give Congress time to come up with an alternative to the Postal Service’s plans to shutter more than 200 mail processing facilities and close over 3600 post offices to save money.
At the main post office in Royal Oak, MI, Local 480-481 President Roscoe Woods told the localDaily Tribune that he and his members have a simple message they are trying to get across. “Congress created this mess,” he said, “and Congress must fix it.”
Woods was referring to the 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retirement health benefits for the next 75 years, and do it in a 10-year window. No other government agency or private business bears a similar burden, which drains $5.5 billion in postal revenue each year.
“We’re reminding folks that we run on zero tax dollars,” said Woods “We’re making money, but we’re saddled with this huge debt.”
The picket in Royal Oak was just one of eight rallies in Michigan and several hundred around the nation on Tuesday.
In Vermont, protesters held rallies at the White River Junction mail processing center, which is slated for closure, as well as in Manchester and Montpelier.
“We need to put pressure on Congress to act,” Lorraine Clough, an employee at the White River Junction facility told local NBC affiliate WPTZ.com. “They just keep putting it off, and if they keep doing that they’re going to continue to keep closing plants,” said Clough.
“There are about 245 employees at the [White River Junction] facility,” said local President Wayne Martin Jr.
As APWU and Mail Handlers began leafleting on Tuesday, the Senate voted 74-22 to begin debate on the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789). The APWU and the Mail Handlers Union are opposed to the bill in its current form and have been working with supportive senators to amend the bill to better protect current levels of service and to keep plants and post offices open. (See Senate Expected to Resume Consideration of Postal Bill.)
“It’s a very stressful period for our people right now,” Frank Resetarits, president of the Buffalo Local and the New York State Postal Workers Union, told local Time-Warner cable affiliate YNN. “Our hope is that Congress will step in, and not allow the service standard changes to take place.”In Buffalo, NY, postal workers and supporters gathered outside the William Street post office protesting the pending closure of that facility.
USPS managers admit that the massive number of closures they are planning would force the Postal Service to drastically reduce service. The APWU says it is urging Congress to adopt legislation that would retain existing service standards.
In Bloomington, IL, members of APWU Local 228 pitched a tent and gave out leaflets outside the Bloomington Processing & Distribution Center. Local President J.R. Haslett said closing the plant is a bad idea. “We’re right in the middle of the state. It’s just not a very good idea,” he told local radio station WJBC.
In Portland, OR, over 200 postal workers and supporters carried picket signs protesting closures and service cuts along a blocks-long demonstration at the Main Post Office. Leaflets proclaiming “NO TAXES NEEDED to Save America’s Postal Service” were handed out to passersby.
In Oregon, four distribution centers and over 20 rural post offices are marked for closure. “These closures will cause huge disruptions to mail service, eliminating the overnight first-class delivery standard, delaying delivery two or three days, and forcing hundreds of thousands of postal patrons to travel many miles to nearest post office.” said Cara Shufelt of the Rural Organizing Project (ROP).
In Charlotte, NC, postal workers spent hours on the side of the road by the mail processing center handing out flyers to passersby calling on North Carolina’s senators to fix S. 1789.
“If customers no longer can rely on us to get their stuff overnight, they’re going to use other options. And when they do, we’re going to lose more revenue,” LeRoy Moyer, president of the Charlotte Local APWU told cable station News14.com.
In North Platte, NE, APWU Local 619 President Susan Rangel was handing out flyers at the North Platte Post Office. She told the North Platte Telegraph that “Everyone has been very supportive.”
The APWU in Portland, ME, handed out leaflets in front of the Forest Avenue post office, where they “caught a surging crowd of people converging there for Tax Day,” according to thePortland Daily Sun. “We’re trying to let people know what’s going on with the Postal Service,” retired postal worker Wayne Poland told the paper. “You can’t sell a product by making it worse,” he said, referring to USPS plans to slow delivery.
In Bowling Green, KY, APWU Local 453 placed full page ads in local papers urging citizens to contact their U.S. senators and representatives ““to fix the USPS without destroying service or eliminating 100,000 jobs.”
Bowling Green Local President Denny Palmer told the Bowling Green Daily News that “ the closures and change in delivery service standards will gut the Postal Service, be devastating to rural communities and harm businesses.”