APWU-Led Consolidation Protests
Gather Steam, Gain Public Support
APWU Web News Article #045-09, April 20, 2009
Owners of small businesses, workers, and other concerned citizens continue to speak out at protests and at public meetings staged by the Postal Service to “share initial results” of Area Mail Processing studies.
At one of the noisier of such gatherings, several business owners and public officials in Wilkes-Barre disagreed sharply with the USPS conclusion that moving mail processing operations 25 miles away to Scranton would leave the economy of Luzerne County unharmed.
The Wilkes-Barre City Council unanimously approved a resolution that opposes “any and all efforts” to close the USPS facility. “We have employers that really rely on getting their mail out,” Mayor Thomas Leighton said at the meeting. “That’s why it’s important for the future of the city, while we’re going under revitalization, that we maintain this kind of service.”
Some officials said that the USPS focus on its own fiscal woes is affecting its decisions on the community level. The “negative local impact” was a recurring theme voiced at the public meeting.
“It seems to me there is entirely too much concentration on the internal financing of the Postal Service itself,” U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D), told the daily Times-Leader. “We just have to take a great deal of more time to analyze what that impact will be.”
Representatives from the offices of Pennsylvania’s senators, Robert Casey (D) and Arlen Specter (R), and a representative from Rep. Chris Carney (D), also said that the consolidation proposal would be bad for the community.
“Why pick on us?” said John Kishel, president of APWU’s Wilkes-Barre Area Local, noting that nothing in the Postal Service presentation implied that improved efficiency or mailing service would result from the shift in mail-processing operations.
“It does neither,” Kishel said at the meeting. “Why come down here when we have dedicated employees and supervisors whose goal is to make sure that service standards are kept up.”
Approximately 100 of the 230 workers in the Wilkes-Barre facility could be moved to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and even as far away as Detroit if the consolidation plan is carried out.
Meanwhile, public officials, small-business owners, and “ordinary” citizens joined postal workers at meetings protesting USPS mail-processing proposals elsewhere.
In Zanesville, OH, where mail-processing may be shifted nearly 60 miles away to Columbus, the Postal Service is proposing a move that it says would save $789,000. In a public meeting held April 14, it was noted that an Area Mail Processing study completed nearly two years ago projected a savings of nearly the identical amount ($776,000), meaning that the more recent study suggests that the economy has not been much of a factor in USPS decision-making.
“I think they used a lot of the old numbers, the old volumes, and really didn’t do much study of where we're at now,” Zanesville Local APWU President Gerald Corns told the Zanesville Times Recorder.
Zanesville Mayor Howard Zwelling asked if the postal service had even realized that the city of 25,000 is the commercial center for some 400,000 Southeastern Ohioans. Mike Calevski, local field representative for U.S. Rep. Zack Space (D), read a letter from Space to Postmaster General John Potter. It urged the postal officials to re-evaluate its study. “Now is not the time to threaten local jobs,” Calevski said.
About 200 people attended a town-hall meeting April 7 in Mansfield, OH, which included representatives from the offices of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R), with the latter calling for another Government Accountability Office study. Mansfield Mayor Don Culliver and Richland County commissioners Gary Utt and Ed Olson also spoke at the meeting and questioned whether the Postal Service was considering the degradation of mail service under a consolidation plan that would see mail processing move more than 60 miles away to Akron.
In New York City, an April 14 rally organized by public officials and postal union leaders was staged in support of two dozen jobs on Staten Island. During the event, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) promised to “challenge a cost-cutting analysis” of the move of mail processing to Brooklyn or Queens. Unless it clearly shows that money will be saved, she said, the move should not be considered.
U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon (D) said that trucking Staten Island mail off the island for sorting and then bringing it back for delivery not only would delay the timely distribution of letters, but would be environmentally harmful.
Despite a campaign of opposition in Manatee County, FL, the USPS has begun the process of moving some operations more than 50 miles to a P&DC in Tampa, eliminating 59 jobs at the Manasota P&DC [PDF].
“Was the fix in?” asked the Bradenton Herald in an editorial. The newspaper noted that the closure came “despite objections from a congressman, mayors, council members, county commissioners, other civic leaders, business people and residents from around the region. Plus, postal workers.”
“How much more opposition must there be?” the editorial asked, nothing that postal workers had gathered more than 14,000 signatures on a petition against the move. Postal officials have estimated that the closing would save $3.2 million a year, “yet nobody's seen any documentation to support that,” the newspaper editorial said. “Where is it? Does it even exist? The public should have access to that in order to question its validity.”
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), who two months ago requested that the Postal Service more carefully consider the proposed changes has written to the Government Accountability Office “to conduct an independent review of the USPS’s consolidation plans.”
In an April 16 letter to the GAO [PDF], Buchanan said that the Postal Service had failed to “fully consider” the impact on the local community and had “refused to share any data to support their claims that the consolidation would save money and improve service.”
A review would “help ensure that no postal workers will unnecessarily lose their jobs or be relocated, that there will no reduction in service, and that the promised savings are realistic and attainable,” the congressman wrote. “I also request that the GAO make recommendations to further improve the AMP study process for the benefit of other communities undergoing a similar process now or in the future.”
The Postal Service also is proceeding with with plans to move some operations from the Lakeland P&DC to Tampa.