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19 Congressmen Express Concern about ‘Consolidation’

APWU Web News Article #29-06, May 4, 2006

At the urging of the APWU, 19 members of Congress whose constituents would be affected by USPS “network realignment” plans expressed concern about the program in a May 1, 2006, letter to U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker. The congressmen reiterated complaints lodged in March by the chairmen and ranking minority members of Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over postal matters, and by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

The letter [PDF] urged the GAO to follow up on its 2005 report on the USPS realignment strategy, which the agency concluded, “lacks sufficient transparency and accountability, excludes stakeholder input, and lacks performance measures for results.”

“Although GAO recommended that USPS improve its efforts to keep stakeholders informed,” the letter continued, “our communities affected by current plans to consolidate mail processing plants have told us that they have not been adequately informed about the Postal Service’s plans, the extent to which the Postal Service proposed to analyze plant performance and make realignment decisions, or the potential impacts on these communities.”

The Postal Service began implementing the Evolutionary Network Development (END) plan in the fall of 2005, when it announced the consolidation of “some operations” at 10 facilities. In the seven months since then, management has announced approximately 40 additional consolidation “feasibility studies.”

“While USPS may contend that the Area Mail Processing (AMP) study adequately responds to these recommendations,” the representatives wrote, “we continue to have concerns over the AMP study process as a tool to determine the feasibility of consolidation and its ability to make transparent the effects on mail delivery, cost-savings, and concerns of stakeholders.”

The letter concluded, “Therefore, in line with the previously submitted requests, we are asking that GAO follow up on its report and determine:

  • What criteria is USPS using to analyze and evaluate these plants?

  • How does it plan to communicate these criteria to affected parties?

  • How does USPS’s overall communication strategy target the appropriate affected parties and does it provide sufficient information throughout the process?

  • How does USPS plan to measure the effects of realignment including costs incurred and savings realized?”

The APWU has been an outspoken critic of the Postal Service’s failure to provide affected communities the opportunity for input in network realignment plans. “The USPS belongs to the American people,” said President William Burrus. “It is time the Postal Service heard from the citizens whose service would be degraded by these plans. Until now, management has heard only from corporate and advertising mailers.”

The APWU has also filed a complaint in U.S. District Court April 21, charging that the Postal Service violated the Postal Reorganization Act in implementing the END program, and seeking an injunction against future violations. In March, Burrus wrote to key legislators, asking them to support a provision in the Senate version of postal reform legislation that would require the Postal Service to consider community input when contemplating consolidation of postal operations. The provision, offered by Sen. Harkin, was adopted by the Senate when it approved its version of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act on Feb. 9, 2006.

The May 1 letter to the GAO was signed by Representatives Brian Baird (D-WA), Marion Berry (D-AR), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Barney Frank (D-MA), Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Ron Kind (D-WI), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Adam Smith (D-WA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), John Shimkus (R-IL), and Xavier Becerra (D-CA).

The letter was similar to a March 27 letter to Walker, which was signed by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and Representatives Tom Davis (R-VA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA). Collins chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, of which Lieberman is the ranking minority member. Davis is chairman and Waxman is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform.

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