House Bill Would Set Timetable for Consolidation Studies

May 10, 2007

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A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would establish firm deadlines for Area Mail Processing surveys and would prohibit the USPS from removing equipment or reducing the workforce in affected facilities during AMP studies.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) introduced H.R. 2177, which would require the Postal Service to complete AMP studies within 180 days. Extensions of 60 days would be permitted only if “persons likely to be affected” are notified prior to the expiration of the original deadline.

“This is an important piece of legislation that would eliminate much of the uncertainty that plagues postal workers and communities when ‘studies’ drag on indefinitely,” said APWU President William Burrus. “The prohibition on removing equipment and cutting the workforce during the six-month period is also significant.”

Myke Reid, the union’s Legislative Director, was also enthusiastic. “I encourage postal employees to contact their congressional representatives and urge them support this bill,” he said.

Stupak, who represents constituents in northern Michigan and its Upper Peninsula, has long been demanding that the Postal Service be more accountable when it proposes plant consolidations. An AMP survey with a potential negative impact for many of his constituents has been under way for nearly a year-and-a-half — without a single public progress report or update from the USPS.

The USPS study of the Gaylord, MI, Main Post Office, announced Dec. 19, 2005, is a matter of concern to approximately 80 APWU-represented employees involved in mail processing operations, as well as area residents. Many of the employees would be relocated if operations were consolidated under the plan, which would send mail 60 miles away to Traverse City for sortation, and mail service could suffer.

With the study in limbo, the Postal Service and the APWU recently negotiated a grievance settlement that will result in the hiring of 20 new employees at the facility. “The hiring of 20 career employees at the Gaylord post office will take place immediately,” said John Marcotte, president of APWU’s Gaylord Local, who added that the hiring should relieve the understaffing problems that have long plagued the facility. “This is a huge win for the people of northern Michigan.”

Stupak also was pleased with agreement. “I am hopeful that today’s announcement will be followed by the discontinuation of the Area Mail Processing study,” he said in a May 1 press release. “The Gaylord postal employees do excellent work and the Gaylord facility is a key component of our mail-delivery system.”

He and his staff had met with postal officials in Washington last July. “I expressed a number of concerns, including the importance of continued uniformity of postal service throughout northern Michigan,” the congressman said at the time. After reviewing the preliminary work and speaking with USPS officials, he said he was convinced that the AMP study was “fatally flawed, and fails to reflect the real costs and consequences of relocating the mail processing operations.”

Stupak’s bill, introduced in the House on May 3, builds on sections of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) which require community input when the USPS is considering the consolidation of mail processing operations. The APWU vigorously supported provisions that of the law that require the Postal Service, in consultation with the Postal Regulatory Commission, to develop a plan to include:

  • A discussion of what impact any facility changes may have on the postal workforce; 
  • Procedures that the Postal Service will use to provide adequate public notice in the affected communities; 
  • An announcement of service changes projected in the affected communities, including effects on customers and postal employees; 
  • A process for affording affected persons ample opportunities to provide input on the proposed decision; and 
  • Requirements that such comments be taken into account in making a final decision.

Effective with the Dec. 20, 2006, enactment of the PAEA, the Postal Service may not close or consolidate any processing facilities without using the procedures for public comment and input.

Marcotte said he was hopeful that the addition of 20 career employees would mean the end of the AMP study. He noted that no career employees have been hired in Gaylord for more than six years and that casuals comprise 39 percent of the Clerk Craft employees at the facility.

The local APWU officer was joined by management in hailing the announced hiring. “It’s going to give us career positions we haven’t had in quite a few years,” acting Gaylord postmaster Bob Cherwinski told the Gaylord Herald Times. “With the casual employees, they’re not career, but only a supplemental workforce. [The career employees] will give stability because they’ll be here year after year.” 

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