As the Christmas mailing season picks up, postal customers at Portland’s Main Post Office downtown were greeted Nov. 30 by holiday-themed balloons, streamers and signs decorating the front windows — “Save Santa’s Post Office!” “We Wish You 6-Day Delivery and a Happy New Year” and “Deck the Mails with More Mail Carriers.” Postal “elves” in Santa hats also were there agitating about irregular, late, and after dark delivery in the Portland area.
“Santa’s worried that the lame duck will cripple the postal eagle,” smiled Jamie Partridge, a retired member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 82-turned elf. “Just when little Virginias all over the country are depending on the post office to prove there is a Santa, the lame-duck Congress is preparing to gut the service.”
Retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman I-Conn.), announced recently that he’s ready to eliminate Saturday delivery, just as he entered secret negotiations with U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who insists on also eliminating door-to-door mail delivery, while closing half the mail processing plants and post offices nationwide.
A five-year hiring freeze on career positions has left 114 letter carrier vacancies in Portland, according to Branch 82. The union is calling on the United States Postal Service to restore service by filling those vacancies and promoting transitional employees to career positions. The shortage, the union says, has resulted in irregular, late, and after dark delivery.
“Santa’s helpers, the letter carriers, need flashlights, headlamps, and even Rudolph’s red nose to guide their deliveries these days,” Partridge joked.
Postal worker unions argue that a 2006 Congressional mandate which forces the postal service to prefund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance is sending the service into a death spiral. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, they say the USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds.
“Not the Internet, not private competition, not labor costs, not the recession — Congress is responsible for the postal mess” Partridge said. “Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions then privatize it.”
“Issa is clearly the Scrooge of the Year, while Lieberman is coming in a close second,” Partridge said.
Portland Communities and Postal Workers United sponsored the Nov. 30 job action. The group is comprised of activists and retirees from NALC, the American Postal Workers Union, and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, as well as other community groups.