Unionists protest plans for postal hub that would increase driving by letter carriers

The Post Office is a treasure that’s worth saving, said Daniel Cortez, Oregon’s legislative and political director for APWU, at a Jan. 8 rally. | Photo by Don McIntosh

By MALLORY GRUBEN

About two dozen union supporters rallied outside the East Portland Post Office Jan. 8 to denounce a recent decision to consolidate mail sorting in Oregon.

Last fall, American Postal Workers Union (APWU) leaders in Oregon learned that as part of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-year “Delivering for America” plan, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will convert the Evergreen Post Office at 3685 NE Aloclek Dr.,in Hillsboro, into a massive sorting and delivery “hub.” The hub will open in June 2024 with the North Plains Post Office feeding into it as a “spoke.”  However, APWU expects it will eventually handle mail for multiple spoke offices across the Portland metro area.

Instead of sorting mail in the post office closest to their routes, letter carriers at the spoke offices will drive to the Hillsboro center, sort the mail there, then drive back to their local routes to deliver. The North Plains office is about eight miles from the sorting hub.

“We are adding that much more emissions and traffic and time on the road to get from Portland neighborhoods to (Hillsboro) and back, and somehow the post office thinks that will be more efficient than … going about the same type of daily business we’ve been doing for 200 years,”  said Daniel Cortez, Oregon’s legislative and political director for APWU. “It’s nonsensical.”

Similar sorting and delivery centers are set to open at the same time in 12 other cities nationwide, covering about 850 routes total. The consolidation has drawn ire from postal workers and community members across the nation, who say it will weaken the postal service. Since DeJoy rolled out his Delivering for America plan, shipping prices have increased, postal facilities have closed, and mail service has slowed.

But the USPS Board of Governors — the group that OK’d DeJoy’s plan — didn’t allow public comments at its quarterly meeting in November, even though it historically has allowed members of the public  to speak for three minutes. The board plans to bar public comment again at its upcoming meeting on Feb. 8.

“The reason why, we believe, is that they don’t want it on the record … that there are long lines, that delayed mail and misdelivered mail are all erosion of the service in an attempt to dismantle the USPS,” Cortez said.

Portland area postal workers and community members have repeatedly rallied to protest the Delivering for America plan. Cortez said the Jan. 8 rally was a kickoff for the continued fight in 2024.

“We are still waiting on the final iteration of what will happen in Portland,” Cortez said. “That appears to be part of the game plan of the postal service: By not actually putting anything out until it’s basically all said and done, they are preventing independent analysis of it. They are preventing any chance of actually pushing back.”

At the rally, he asked supporters to ask local, state, and federal elected officials to host a public hearing about the changes, and to pressure President Joe Biden to appoint new postal governors who can remove DeJoy as postmaster general.

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