Station and Branch Closures, Five-Day Delivery:
Acts of Surrender, With the Battle’s Outcome in Doubt
APWU Web News Article #089-09, July 31, 2009
Closing stations and branches and reducing mail delivery to five days per week “will unquestionably have a negative effect on the postal monopoly,” APWU President William Burrus told a House subcommittee at a hearing July 30. Such actions “will impede the Postal Service’s ability to compete” when the economy rebounds, he said. [full testimony - PDF]
“These are acts of surrender — when the outcome of the battle is still in doubt,” Burrus said.
The Postal Service provided the panel with a list of 677 stations and branches [PDF] in Level 24-and-above post offices identified to date for possible closure or consolidation. The stations were selected from 3,243 on a list provided to the union in mid-May. Further review could result in some of the 677 stations remaining open, a management representative told the committee, and additional stations and branches could be targeted for closing.
Management expects to complete the review by Oct. 2, so that closures could be implemented at the start of the new fiscal year. The USPS is also seeking the right to eliminate Saturday mail delivery; current law requires deliveries to be made six days per week.
The actions are in response to a severe financial crisis caused by the nation’s economic downturn and by a provision of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, which requires the Postal Service — but no other federal agency — to pre-fund its retiree healthcare liability. Currently this burden is nearly $8 billion per year — with more than 10 cents of every dollar of revenue going toward retiree health benefits and prefunding.
“We must vigorously protest the closure or consolidation of stations and branches,” Burrus said after the hearing. “Many locals have already notified their communities, their legislators, and the media about the possibility of station closings,” he said, “and opposition in those areas has been strong.”
Burrus told the House subcommittee that the Collective Bargaining Agreement says that “The parties agree that all existing retail operations will remain within the installation of which they are a part and all future retail operations established within the jurisdiction of an installation shall become a part of that installation.”
“I expect that postal management will fully comply with this contractual agreement,” he added.
The national union also has been seeking legislative relief from the financial crisis, and many locals have assisted in that effort.
A Senate bill (S. 1507) would have provided financial relief, but was amended to include an anti-worker provision so devastating to collective bargaining that the APWU has launched a campaign to defeat the bill. (See APWU News Bulletin #01-2009, July 31, 2009.)
The national union also has intervened in a proceeding by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which is preparing to issue “an advisory opinion” on the station-and-branch initiative. At a preconference hearing on July 30, the APWU requested a discovery period of approximately six months, an on-the-record hearing that would enable the APWU to cross-examine postal witnesses, and if necessary, the opportunity to submit rebuttal testimony.
The APWU also suggested that the commission conduct field hearings to get input on this national initiative from the public.
The national union is seeking information from locals to assist in the proceeding before the PRC, and has prepared guidance for locals, which is available from their regional coordinators or national business agents.