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Stop the Presses!

USPS Kills Favorable Story About
Facility Targeted for Consolidation

APWU Web News Article #73-05, Dec. 22, 2005

Why would the Postal Service decide against publishing an internally prepared story about one of its most productive facilities?

According to Clint Burelson, president of the APWU local that includes employees of the extremely efficient Tumwater (WA) plant, there’s a very good reason: The plant is part of a consolidation plan and the good publicity might too easily result in, well, bad publicity. So the USPS-publication’s Tumwater tale has been put on hold.

Taking to heart a call for APWU activists to fight consolidation efforts at the grass-roots level, the union (Olympia APWU Local) headed by Burelson has been challenging the Postal Service on matters both large and small for about two months. [Click here to read more.]

In the latest example of the APWU’s message being not just publicly heard but taken seriously, the Olympia local has shared with the local press a USPS coverup of an exemplary performance.

“The Tumwater mail procesing plant has been declared the most productive of its size nationwide the last two years,” Burelson said of the facility just outside of Olympia, the Washington state capital. “In the Postal Service’s own studies, it just misses out on being in the ‘Top 25’ in productivity in plants of any size.”

The APWU first learned officially of USPS plans to consolidate parts of the Olympia facility’s operations on Nov. 1, when a letter from Postal Service headquarters announced that mail cancellation services were to be moved from Olympia/Tumwater to Tacoma, about 30 miles away. The Olympia APWU’s grass-roots activism began almost immediately, and support from the public and U.S. Congressman serving the area was quick in coming.

“At first the Postal Service tried to justify making the capital go without a postmark by saying that moving the mail processing to Tacoma would mean an overall increase in productivity,” Burelson said. “That scenario might be possible if the Tacoma plant was more productive than the Olympia facility,” Burelson said. “But according to the Postal Service, the Olympia facility is the most productive of its size in the entire nation and 28th among plants of all sizes.”

In mid-December, the USPS publication Western Area Update, was ready to run with an article spotlighting the productivity of that very facility. But an e-mail to a USPS public relations official, obtained by Burelson, said that the story had been pulled.

Expressing concerns about “the message the BPI [Breakthrough Productivity Index] story might send,” the e-mail said: “So, for now, we cannot run the story. However, once this storm blows over we might give it another shot.”

“The story has been delayed so that the information could be verified,” Ernie Swanson, a Postal Service spokesperson, told The Olympian, the city’s daily newspaper. Swanson explained that a publications manager concluded that “it would be better to do a broader story that included all the plants in the Western Area that have achieved a high level of efficiency.”

“It’s one thing or another with these guys,” Burelson told the newspaper. He then added that he agreed with the USPS on one thing.

“We’re the ‘storm’ and we’re not going to go away until they take away the proposal to transfer the mail.”

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