Consolidation: Fighting Back

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(This article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.) 

Debby Szeredy, Executive Vice President

Following the consolidation of the Middlesex-Essex (MA) Processing & Distribution Center with the Boston plant in 2013, the national APWU and the Boston Area Local met with the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) to file a complaint about delayed mail in Boston.

The union contended that management implemented the consolidation – removing all the DBCS and AFCS machines from the Middlesex-Essex plant and sending the work to Boston – without taking an in-depth look at the Boston plant’s ability to handle the work and without carefully examining the costs at either facility. The APWU requested that the OIG recommend a reversal of the plant consolidation.

The OIG conducted an investigation from January to May 2014, and found that, “The majority of delayed mail was due to implementation errors associated with the Middlesex Essex P&DC consolidation. These errors included failure to update the Boston P&DC operating plan, acquire additional handling equipment, properly schedule employees, enforce proper color coding of mail, and properly supervise mail flow.”

It was clear that the USPS had failed to set up an operation that could handle the additional mail in Boston in a timely manner. As a result of the APWU’s complaint and the OIG’s recommendations, more jobs were added, changes were made to operations, and Boston Postal Support Employees were converted to career status. APBS machines have been added in Middlesex-Essex in the space where DBCS machines used to be.

Not the Exception

Unfortunately, Boston’s delayed mail is not an exception. Throughout his tenure, the PMG has literally slowed down mail processing across the country.

These delays are used as fuel for the push for privatization, placing our jobs at risk and resulting in inefficient service to the public.

These failed plant consolidations (also known as “Area Mail Processing” or “AMP”) cannot be solved by us alone. We must form an alliance between the postal unions and the public in the fight to maintain vibrant, public postal services. It is on us to educate the public about the impact of consolidations and what can be done about it.

Fighting Back

It is important for locals to familiarize themselves with the new APWU toolkit, which will be available in late July. The toolkit will help locals mount a campaign against consolidation when an AMP is announced, or work for a reversal if consolidation has already taken place. The toolkit will help you work on communication and relationship-building with organizations in your community.

We have asked each local that is dealing with an AMP to complete a form and assign an organizer from the local as the point person in this fight. The organizer will facilitate the process of organizing a local committee, to include reaching out to the local’s natural allies in the fight to maintain postal services, and attempt to build relationships with the groups. By bringing organizations and individuals together, forming a potentially powerful coalition, our fight can be successful. The APWU will provide each organizer with necessary training.

Reversing Consolidations

We need to push the USPS to reverse some of the consolidations that are sacrificing our customers’ efficient, prompt and affordable mail service. Sharing knowledge, working together and lending a hand, brings about mutual respect. Good working relationships and friendships can sustain an ongoing movement. Stopping or reversing an AMP won’t happen overnight, but the establishment of a strong coalition becomes the power base to bring about needed change.

It takes ongoing effort to get people active in the community. It may start slowly, but don’t give up. As people become actively involved, a momentum will build. It may take a while for people to develop the habit of donating time to an important cause, but when they do, they will emerge as a powerbase in this struggle. Change is in the air and they will want to be part of that change to better their lives and their communities.

In addition to doing the important work of building a community coalition, locals can put together documentation of delayed mail and lost savings that will help pinpoint areas where complaints can be filed.

Management’s Handbook

Chapter 8 of the Postal Service’s PO-408 Handbook says:

“There may be circumstances when it is necessary to reverse an implemented area mail processing (AMP). Examples include:

    1. Inability to maintain service standards

    2. Advances in automation technology

“The gaining facility must complete a narrative statement providing detailed information on the need to change. The narrative must address the following:

    1. Show service impact

    2. Community impact

    3. Staffing impact and requirements

    4. Budget hours and volume back into an office formally consolidated into the gaining facility

    5. Changes in automation utilization and impacts on the automation mail stream

    6. Replacement of equipment

    7. Impact of reinstating transportation

“It should also include a detailed action plan, including a timeline of intended actions for accomplishing the reversal.”

Management in the gaining facility is supposed to provide the area office a report of concurrence. If the area vice president agrees, he or she should send a letter to the headquarters senior vice president of operations with a reason for the reversal and impacts expected from the change.

But don’t expect USPS managers to provide the report or concurrence.

Locals Can Do It

However, locals can put together evidence that explains why the reversal of the AMP is necessary, utilizing management’s own guidelines, including a cost analysis that shows how much they spent yet failed to meet service standards or save money. You can include the impact to the community and loss of business. You could provide a plan to save money, provide service, while reversing AMPs.

Locals can then provide the information to legislators, the public and the news media that they haven’t seen or heard. A request for an investigation to the OIG, the USPS Board of Governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission can be made. A request for a legislative hearing on reversing the consolidation can also be introduced.

If you are ready to join the fight on this level, let’s work together to save our Postal Service! Call me at 202-842-4250.


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