APWU Presses Fight to Keep Retail Units Open

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With the number of USPS stations and branches under consideration for closure still in flux, the APWU continues to lead community-based drives to keep retail units open.

The Postal Service first announced in May that more than 3,200 stations and branches in Level 24-and-above post offices were being evaluated for possible consolidation or closure. Since then the number has fluctuated dramatically, with the USPS providing varying numbers to the Postal Regulatory Commission, congressional panels and the union. On Sept. 2, the Postal Service announced that it had reduced to 413 the number of stations and branches under consideration for closure. But a USPS News Release reported that the list, which it filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), “does not represent a final decision.”

Retail employees are understandably concerned that management is taking advantage of the bad economy by slashing services, work-sites and jobs. Many activists remain convinced that management’s goal is to replace stations and branches with Contract Postal Units (CPUs), which are owned and run by non-postal employees.

APWU Vice President Cliff Guffey and Assistant Clerk Craft Director Mike Morris have developed an action plan to assist locals fighting the closure of stations and branches. It includes sample letters to legislators, an itemization of information locals should request from management, a guide for challenging improper CPUs, and other material. Locals nationwide have been responding and waging battle against the effort to deprive citizens of traditional postal services.


A campaign in Connecticut focused on stations that serve large senior citizen communities. When a list of stations and branches threatened with closure in the state was pared from 11 to three, John Dirzius, president of the Greater Connecticut Area Local, pointed out that “the communities have rallied and demonstrated [and] have worked very hard collecting signatures on petitions, writing letters to their elected officials, and demonstrating that consolidating their station would result in an immediate negative impact to them as postal customers.”

Dozens of protesters turned out Aug. 25 to show why a post office is needed in the center of East Haven. Senior citizens and disabled community members boarded a bus in a protest led by East Haven Mayor April Capone-Almon and state Rep. Mike Lawlor. The regular USPS customers rode the bus to New Haven and then walked to the post office — still blocks away — that would be their new “neighborhood” station.

The bus ride was prominently featured on television news reports.


Retail services were on the mind of approximately 70 people picketing in August at a Racine, WI, post office threatened with closure. Larry Dolan, a retired letter carrier, said that half of those in the downtown service area of the city of 80,000 are either poor, elderly or disabled. The post office was busy, and it wasn’t just protesters milling about.

“You don’t close post offices that are revenue-generating,” said Ann Kaiser, a Racine Local APWU member. “That just doesn’t make fiscal sense.” Union member and clerk Heidi Grabowski said there are other opportunities for saving costs. Workers at her station retooled a sorting machine with spare parts for around $50,000, she recounted, and helped the Postal Service avoid the much higher price tag of a new machine.


Postal officials announced in early September that three branches in Tampa were taken off the list of closure possibilities, in part because it would have been a hardship in neighborhoods with a significant population of low- income and disabled residents. Tampa Area Local APWU members were pleased that so many residents had gotten involved, coordinating a petition and an e-mail and telephone campaign to save their post offices.

Meanwhile, across the state, Vero Beach Local APWU members learned that a branch was in jeopardy and quickly circulated a petition protesting the possible closure. “We collected 2,116 signatures in a matter of 20 hours,” said Artie Tangle, the local’s vice president.

A Postal Service spokesperson told VeroNews.com that for the foreseeable future, the Tropic Branch in Vero was safe from being placed back on list of those to be considered for closure. He said that the petitions clearly illustrate how that community feels about the branch.

Ohio (and Beyond)

On Sept. 16, the Postal Regulatory Commission held the first in a series of “field hearings” on its nationwide plans to close branches and stations. Terry Grant, Ohio APWU president, testified at the session in Independence, near Cleveland.

“The USPS has not seriously considered the negative effects” of its plans, Grant testified. Although management is looking at ways to reduce costs, “they are using the proposed station closings as a way to force employees into considering retirement.”

“Our most senior workers fill the positions of retail sales associates at most stations and branches,” Grant pointed out to the PRC. “Threatening to close their office and force them into less desirable jobs is a way to make someone think about retiring.” Service is a secondary consideration for management, Grant said.

“The one thing I do not see in the initiative is any consideration for the added expense and inconvenience that the postal patron will face…The Lincoln station is the one being considered for closure. The next closest station is 10 miles away. Lincoln is in the eastern part of the city and services an older population. There are many stores near the post office and it is easy for the elderly to use the post office and walk to shopping. Forcing older patrons to travel 10 miles to use the post office is not what universal service at uniform rates means. How many of them can afford an additional twenty miles of travel each time they want to use the Postal Service?”

The one Toledo office being considered for closing is the station located in a predominantly low-income neighborhood, Grant pointed out. “Most of its customers actually walk to the station. The next closest station is almost five miles away.”

In concluding his PRC testimony, Grant said: “In my experience as the Ohio state president I have been involved in many situations where the Postal Service was trying to consolidate service or mail processing. Most of their decisions are made by gathering data off their computer network. They almost never do an actual on-site investigation. When they hold community forums, they cannot answer questions about how service will be affected because they have not done any testing to see if mail would be delayed or patrons would suffer because their post office was moved.”

The Union Fights On

“Closing and consolidating post offices based on recession-level volume is short-sighted,” APWU President William Burrus wrote to lawmakers on Aug. 13, “and will leave the Postal Service with an infrastructure unable to accommodate the larger volume of mail that will be generated by a more robust economy.”

In the letter to the House subcommittee that has oversight responsibilities for the Postal Service, Burrus also called for improvements to the process of public notification, so that citizens have a meaningful voice in service changes. Burrus noted that “The Postal Service treats ‘stations and branches’ very differently from ‘post offices,’ claiming that decisions to close stations and branches are not subject to appeal.”

He pointed out that the PRC disagrees with the USPS on the appropriate procedure to follow when considering the closure of stations and branches. “Because of these differences, legislative change may be needed to ensure that citizens are heard and that their concerns are considered,” Burrus said.

Locals should make certain that the community is allowed to provide adequate input. 




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