Cheers went up from hundreds of postal workers Nov. 14 when Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced that he was resigning, effective Feb. 1, 2015.
Postal workers and their supporters were rallying Nov. 14 at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. — site of a meeting of the Postal Board of Governors — to urge a halt to their plans to shutter 82 more mail processing plants on Jan. 5. The action, they warned, will further slow mail delivery, and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs, many of them held by military veterans. [Veterans get preference in hiring at the USPS. Twenty-five percent of postal workers are veterans.]
Similar rallies took place simultaneously at 150 locations throughout the United States. In Oregon, rallies were held in the three towns scheduled to lose their mail plants — Springfield, Bend, and Pendleton — plus Medford. A rally and march took place in Portland on Veterans Day with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon).
Merkley and 50 other U.S. senators (including Ron Wyden of Oregon), and 160 U.S. House members (including Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio of Oregon) have called for a one-year moratorium on the reduction in service and the closure of the mail processing centers, to allow Congress time to enact postal legislation that would improve postal service.
“The mail has already been slowed down. We’re trying to keep it from being slowed down even more,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). “Two days will become three days and four days. It will be a slowing down of the mail throughout the country.” [Last summer, delegates to the APWU national convention voted unanimously for Donahue to resign. The union represents 200,000 postal workers and retirees.]
Postal management says the closures are necessary because the USPS, which isn’t funded by taxpayers, is losing money.
Postal unions maintain the cuts are “absolutely unnecessary” and that postal operations are profitable. USPS’ “red ink,” they say, stems from political interference, not from the mail. In 2006, a lame-duck Congress mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, something no other public agency or private firm is required to do. That costs the Postal Service $5.6 billion a year, and that’s the red ink.
Postal unions acknowledge that revenue from First Class mail has been declining, but they say package delivery, largely due to the growth of e-commerce, has been rapidly expanding, resulting in an operating profit so far this year of more than $1 billion.
Postal unions and their allies are calling on the next postmaster general to reverse Donahoe’s policies of lowering standards, reducing hours, outsourcing work and diminishing a great American institution. They say if the shutdowns are implemented, all mail — medicine, online purchases, local newspapers, newsletters of religious organizations, bill payments, letters and invitations — throughout the country would be delayed.
“We call on USPS’ Board of Governors to immediately freeze Donahoe’s policies and to do no more harm,” the postal unions said.