Two Consolidation Studies Scrapped
APWU Web News Article #02-07, Jan. 18, 2007
The U.S. Postal Service announced in early January that it was calling off the only Area Mail Processing studies in the states of Montana and North Carolina.
In a written statement on Jan. 5, the Postal Service said that it had dropped plans to move some North Carolina mail-processing operations from Kinston to Fayetteville, approximately 100 miles away. In Montana a week later, Sen. Max Baucus (D) announced that plans to move mail-processing from Helena, the state capital, to Great Falls had been abandoned.
‘A Good Day for Helena’
“I'm thrilled that Helena will be keeping its postal identity,” Baucus said in a news release. “It’s common sense for the capitol city to keep its postmark. This is a good day for Helena and for all cities in Montana.”
The USPS announced an AMP study in December 2005 to evaluate moving Helena’s outgoing mail, saying that Great Falls had greater capacity, which would increase the efficiency of mail processing.
The APWU opposed the plan, pointing out that if Helena’s outgoing mail was sorted in Great Falls, the mail would be picked up earlier and delivered later in Helena and at the area’s 11 smaller post offices. Some of the largest mailers in the state — such as the Montana government — are located in Helena, and the Great Falls facility was thought to already be operating at capacity. The APWU Helena Local actively protested the proposals — working with Sen. Baucus and county commissioners; notifying the press and public, and holding a demonstration to coincide with a radio- and TV-ad campaign in early October.
Baucus, meanwhile, had been in periodic contact with Postal Service officials, urging them to reconsider the proposal.
As recently as Jan. 6, a USPS official had said that more time was needed to complete the study, and that a decision on a move would be made only after the study was released for public review and comment. The official predicted that the study was going to take up to three months, but the senator’s office heard from the Postal Service less than a week later.
Janet Kosnik, president of the Helena Local, echoed the words of Sen. Baucus. “It’s a great day for the APWU and all citizens across the state to retain reliable and timely mail service that we all deserve and demand in Montana,” she said. “The efforts by Sen. Baucus, community leaders, and concerned citizens all played important roles in this victory.”
After the news broke, the Helena Independent-Record editorialized that keeping mail processing in the Queen City was a good idea. “Thumbs up to the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to abandon the idea of moving mail sorting,” the newspaper said in an opinion piece. The article singled out Baucus and local APWU officials, saying that they “pressured the agency to drop the plan [that] would have moved jobs to Great Falls and caused service in the Helena area to deteriorate.”
A study of the area mail processing facility in Kinston, NC, had determined that consolidation would not improve service, the Postal Service said in a Jan. 5 statement. The AMP study, which was never released, had been announced in October 2005.
In a written statement on Jan. 12, a USPS district manager explained why the study had been commissioned, that changing business conditions had prompted formal research into customer needs. “Studies such as the one conducted in Kinston,” the statement said, “allow us to determine where improvements can best be made.”
In this instance, apparently, it was determined that improvements — if any — would be insignificant.
Union objections to the plan played an important role in stopping the proposed consolidation. Local President Dale Turner and Vice President Steve Clayborn were interviewed about the plan on a local television station, TACC-9, early in 2006, and met with Mayor Buddy Rich, who wrote letters protesting consolidation.
Kinston’s postmaster said he was pleased with the decision against consolidation. “This is great news for Kinston,” said Rodney K. DeFlumeri. “All of our employees will remain here. If the plan had been implemented, a significant number of jobs would have been lost.”
“I’m not surprised that the plan won’t be implemented,” he said. “Logistically, the way roads and the transportation system is laid out in this area, I can’t see how it could have been done.”