APWU Battles Consolidation Onslaught
(This article was first published in the September/October 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The USPS is accelerating consolidation plans in the face of a looming financial crisis and growing calls from Congress to cut costs and eliminate “excess” network capacity.
Since June, the APWU has received notification of the Postal Service’s decision to consolidate operations at more than 25 mail processing centers, and plans to conduct more than 15 more Area Mail Processing studies. There’s no let up in sight, but APWU locals are continuing to lead the fight against misguided consolidations.
Battling in the Bronx
In New York, Bronx postal workers held an emergency rally July 27 to protest the USPS decision to consolidate mail processing operations at the Bronx Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) with those of the Morgan Station P&DC in midtown Manhattan. The rally, which was joined by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., also protested a series of station closures.
According to Chuck Zlatkin, legislative director for the New York Metro APWU, “eliminating the processing center will not only displace workers, it will delay delivery of mail to the entire borough, hurt local businesses around the plant, and increase pollution with the increased truck traffic” in Manhattan.
The consolidation calls for the Bronx P&DC to be closed and its 271 workers displaced. Most will probably be reassigned to Manhattan, but they could also be transferred any-where within a 50-mile radius of the Bronx facility.
A community meeting to discuss the closure “barely met the requirement of a public meeting,” according to APWU Northeast Region Coordinator John Dirzius.
“As of the 2010 census, the Bronx has a population of 1,385,000. The Bronx is divided into 12 community boards that represent 78 neighborhoods. There was not one representative of a community board present at the meeting,” noted Zlatkin. “There are something like 300 churches in the Bronx; there was one pastor at the meeting.
“Most of the theater was filled by postal workers,” reported Zlatkin. “There were a handful of community people in attendance. Most of them, like the pastor, had heard about the event that day.
“People were upset and went on record about the lack of outreach to the community…. The sign-in sheet that was used by the USPS had a place for name, station, tour and EID number. It appeared to the community people that the USPS only expected postal employees,” said Zlatkin. The Bronx P&DC is only the latest facility targeted for closure in the borough. Three post offices have been closed, despite an outcry from local residents and elected officials.
Raucous Meeting in Yakima
Nearly 300 people turned out for a raucous community meeting in Yakima, WA, to express concern about plans to move the city’s mail processing operations 80 miles away to Pasco, WA.
Yakima Area Local President Leroy Hill challenged management’s claim that the USPS would save over $1 million in labor costs — even though no employees would lose their jobs. He also refuted management’s assertion that customer service would be unaffected, quoting from a report by the Offi ce of Inspector General that found on-time performance and customer service in Lima, OH, declined after a consolidation was implemented.
Members of the business community also expressed concern about potential delays get- ting and sending mail to their customers. Many expressed disbelief at USPS claims that delivery standards would not suffer.
“I’ve got to believe, in spite of your best efforts, and the great staff in Yakima and Pasco, that that mail’s going to be delayed,” said Steve Noble, a representative from a printing and processing company that mailed 7 million pieces from Yakima last year.
“Transferring the mail-processing operations to Pasco’s main post office could eliminate 19 positions in Yakima, move up local pick up times by an hour and change the postmark from Yakima to Pasco on most outgoing mail,” the Yakima Herald reported. Mail from more than 26 cities and towns in the surrounding rural areas is sorted in Yakima.
Joining Forces in Wilkes-Barre, PA
Wilkes-Barre Area Local APWU President John Kishel and Mailhandlers’ Local President Bill Smith joined forces to send a letter to “concerned citizens” in surrounding communities to warn of an AMP feasibility study at the Wilkes-Barre Processing and Distribution Facility. The USPS is proposing to move mail processing operations to Scranton, PA.
“This move … would be detrimental to the mail service citizens and businesses in the valley receive from the Postal Service,” they wrote.
If a decision is made to consolidate, most if not all of the 230 employees will be transferred to Scranton or other outlying post offices.
“This would have a negative economic impact on Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities and businesses, which cannot afford to lose more jobs and employees who live and invest in the community,” said President Kishel.
The unions are asking community members to write their congressmen and other elected officials to voice their concerns.
An Admission in Augusta
An Area Mail Processing study in Augusta, GA, is causing concern among APWU members and the local community as the Postal Service considers moving outgoing mail processing from the Augusta Processing and Distribution Facility to a facility in Columbia, GA.
Karen Gilmore, president of the Augusta Local APWU, said the change “could cause Augusta and smaller communities to lose their local identity and create delays for people who receive medicine and payments by mail.”
The Postal Service acknowledged at a public meeting to discuss the proposal that “first-class mail sent from Augusta to Louisiana, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Southern Florida would shift from two-day to three-day delivery.” The admission is significant, because management rarely acknowledges that consolidation would lead to a reduction in service.
The consolidation would eliminate seven jobs at the Augusta P&DC according to Postal Service estimates.
Move Angers Montana
Meanwhile, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has written a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, asserting that a controversial decision to shut down mail processing centers in Butte and Helena “doesn’t smell right.”
Under the USPS consolidation plan, Tester wrote, “If someone in Butte sends a letter across town via U.S. mail, that letter will have to be trucked 300 miles to Great Falls and back before it’s delivered in Butte.”
“This adds significant fuel costs and adds precious time to what Montanans expect to be a simple cross-town delivery,” he wrote.
Tester says he’s concerned about “the overall loss of jobs, and the timely delivery of mail in smaller communities across southwestern Montana.”
According to KPAX, a CBS news affiliate in Missoula, “The plan in Montana is to close processing centers in Butte, Helena, Havre, and Miles City, which would result in the loss of up to 43 postal service jobs.”
Janet Kosnik, president of Helena Local APWU, said, “At this time we don't know if [the impacted employees] will be in the Helena office, or if they will be in Great Falls. We don’t know.”