Area Mail Processing Plans: Locals Fight Back
APWU Web News Article #077-09, July 9, 2009
APWU locals around the country have been busy fighting the consolidation of Processing & Distribution Centers — even as the Postal Service announced it was considering consolidating more than 3,200 of the nation’s larger stations and branches.
Here’s a round-up of network realignment activities, most of them involving Area Mail Processing (AMP) studies to trim back operations or close down large mail-sorting facilities.
After years of struggle, the members of the Mansfield (OH) Area Local breathed a sigh of relief when the USPS announced June 24 that there will be no major changes to the mail-processing operations there. Local President Wendy Hammon said that was one of the best days of her life.
"It's the second time we beat this AMP study," Hammon told the daily News-Journal. "The town halls, informational pickets, radio and calls made the impact."
Moving mail processing from Mansfield to Akron (about 60 miles away) would have taken 21 jobs out of the city.
"The APWU was ready for another picket because we didn't want to stay idle. We probably don't have to do that anymore," said Vance De Witt, the APWU local’s vice president.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) applauded the announcement and credited the efforts of postal workers, media, elected officials and residents. "This proves that by working together, gaining the attention of the decision-makers and making a strong case based on the facts, great things can happen and jobs can be saved," Jordan said in a statement from Washington.
De Witt said that the local planned a “thank-you picket” for the local community.
In early June, the USPS terminated a two-month-old AMP study of operations at the suburban Los Angeles facility in City of Industry, saying that despite the economic downturn and accompanying decline in mail volume, the Postal Service had been unable to find ways to streamline operations there. The Industry P&DC employs about 900 people and processes mail for just under 40 post offices.
“We believe the closure would have severely crippled the service in the valley,” Western Region NBA James Scoggins told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Scoggins earlier had pointed out that shuttering the facility and moving processing operations 50 miles away to Santa Clarita would have “scattered employees all across southern California.”
"It not only would affect postal workers, but their families and businesses in the surrounding community," he said.
Still threatened with a shift to Santa Clarita are mail processing operations in Oxnard, another Los Angeles suburb, also about 50 miles away from the potential receiving facility.
Oxnard city council members in June voted unanimously to send a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asking that she do all she could to stop the U.S. Postal Service from shutting down the P&DC, which, according to Channel Islands Area Local APWU Legislative Director Jack Villa, could mean that about 100 of the 244 career employees there would be excessed.
“When this has happened in other areas it appears that there have been delivery delays,” said Martin Erickson, an Oxnard assistant city manager.
On July 6, union members led an informational picket to let consumers know of the consolidation proposal. On July 8, local APWU President Roberta Malloy and other activists presented a petition with 750 postal workers’ signatures to Feinstein’s Los Angeles office and to ask for her help in preventing the consolidation.
Oxnard also is facing the possibility of closure of one of its three Post Offices as part of the USPS “large station and branches” consolidation plans.
In upstate New York, postal workers and customers are up in arms about plans to consolidate mail-processing operations to Syracuse from Watertown (60 miles away), Binghamton (70 miles away) and Utica (more than 50 miles away).
In Watertown, Warren Johnson, a former postmaster, noted in a letter to the Daily Times in late May that “five feasibility studies to send our mail-processing operation to Syracuse were performed” during his 23 years there. “Every time, the end result was, it was more cost effective to leave the mail at Watertown.”
During an informational meeting at a state office building in June, union representatives blasted Postal Service Albany District officials for not providing what they called a "clear picture" on mail-processing feasibility studies.
“We're talking about 63 miles between Watertown and Syracuse; that's about a 350-mile round trip from Massena and back," said Central New York Area APWU member Michael S. Natali. "
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wrote to Postmaster General John E. Potter, and urged him to reconsider the proposal to terminate local mail processing and distribution services in Binghamton, Utica and Watertown. Schumer noted that closure or partial closure of these facilities would present significant challenges to the local economies, put local jobs at risk, and impact the local mail delivery.
“By allowing these important functions to remain local,” he wrote, “residents can be assured their mail will be delivered in a timely manner and area jobs can be protected.”
Although a southwest Florida consolidation of mail-processing operations from Manasota to Tampa was approved last spring, it isn’t set to take place until April 2010.
Meanwhile, the plan is going to get another look. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said June 23 that his office had reached an agreement with the USPS Office of Inspector General for a review of the decision to cut nearly 60 jobs in the move of operations to Tampa.
Buchanan said the agreement with the IG’s office for an independent review of the plan will help ensure that “no postal workers will unnecessarily lose their jobs or be relocated.”
“The community has a lot at stake,” Buchanan said in a written statement. “This audit will help us determine if in fact the consolidation will save money and improve service. If not, it shouldn’t happen.”
“I believe the inspector general’s office must see something there to audit this, because they don’t do it every time this happens,” said Manasota Local APWU President Jim DeMauro. “I think they recognized the public opposition, as well as the lack of transparency in the study that led to this decision.” DeMauro noted that in less than nine weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, union members had been able to gather the signatures of 14,000 people opposed to the consolidation.
In an announcement in April, the USPS said that it would transfer the processing of mail from the western Pennsylvania city of New Castle about 50 miles to Pittsburgh. With about 175 postal jobs at risk, the New Castle Local APWU organized a demonstration.
“The way I see it,” said David Wigley, the local’s president, “it could mean anything from taking away one tray of mail to an entire closure of the place.” About 100 picketers turned out for a weekday rally in early May.
On May 20, U.S. Rep Jason Altmire (D) and U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D) and Arlen Specter (D) sent a letter to Postmaster General Potter urging him to keep the New Castle P&DF open. And on June 19, Casey announced that the USPS had decided to keep the New Castle P&DF open and had informed him that under the adjusted plan, only 23 employees would be shifted to Pittsburgh. A public meeting on the plan is set for July 15.
The Postal Service announced on May 22 that it was doing an AMP study of mail-processing operations at its Quincy (IL) distribution center as part of what a USPS official said was “an attempt to cut costs in the face of declining demand and rising financial losses.”
“The burden of the USPS economic situation should not be placed on our local communities,” Quincy Area Local APWU President Vaughn Harshman wrote in a letter to the Postal Service that was released to the local media. “This should not be used as a reason to risk the customer service standards we now receive.”
The Quincy City Council on June 29 threw its support behind an effort to try to keep the P&DC open. On a 13-0 vote, the Quincy council approved a resolution urging the USPS not to move mail-processing operations to another community.
The resolution was presented by Alderman Kyle Moore. “I just thought it was important that we, as a city, make the public aware that we’re behind this processing and distribution center and that we let the citizens know that they can have their voices heard on this before a preliminary decision is reached,” he said.