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DC Congresswoman wants USPS to reverse service cutbacks, stop late night deliveries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released a letter Norton sent to United States Postal Service (USPS) Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe that asks him to reconsider the consolidation of more than 80 mail-processing centers in January 2015 that will delay First-Class and other mail delivery, without public input. A recent USPS Inspector General report said the decision to consolidate several mail-processing centers across the United States should have included comment from the public, as required by law, but USPS moved forward without notice to the public. Norton said, “Cutting services that customers have become accustomed to will not only lead to customer dissatisfaction, but it has the potential of affecting USPS revenue.”

In July, a USPS Inspector General report ranked the District of Columbia as the worst in the nation for late mail delivery, with more than two-thirds of residents and businesses receiving mail after 5 p.m. Norton has written previously regarding the need to eliminate late deliveries in the District and nationally, following the killing of Tyson Barnette, a USPS letter carrier killed while delivering mail at night in Prince George’s County, Maryland. USPS itself has set a goal of having 95 percent of its city carriers complete mail deliveries before 5 p.m.

USPS also failed to conduct any feasibility studies to determine the impact of the consolidations on the 95 mail facilities that will be taking over the operations of the consolidated mail-processing centers or on consumers. Besides increases in mail delivery times for First-Class mail, Norton cited new risks to letter carriers who will be delivering mail after dark and delays of medications and vote-by-mail ballots.

Norton’s letter follows:

October 15, 2014

Patrick R. Donahoe
Postmaster General
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20260

Dear Postmaster General Donahoe,

I am concerned about the impact of the United States Postal Service (USPS) decision to consolidate over 80 mail-processing centers in January 2015. According to last week’s USPS inspector general report, the decision to consolidate several mail-processing centers across the United States should have included input from the public. However, the report indicated that not only did USPS decide to consolidate these centers without notice to the public, as required by law, but the agency failed to conduct any feasibility studies to determine the impact of consolidation on the 95 mail facilities that will be taking over the operations of the consolidated mail-processing centers or on consumers. Despite these issues, USPS has decided not to postpone the consolidation to do an impact study or inform the public of potential changes even though it has the ability to do so.

The consolidations will cause harm to the quality of USPS services and USPS workers. As a result of the consolidations, there will be an increase in mail delivery times for First-Class Mail, with some areas of the country experiencing even higher increases than other parts of the country. In addition, overnight delivery of some First-Class Mail will no longer be an option, but will be shifted to two-day delivery, and two-day delivery will be pushed to three-day delivery. Customers will also be faced with delays in all types of mail, including medications and vote-by-mail ballots. Cutting services that customers have become accustomed to will not only lead to dissatisfaction but has the potential of affecting USPS revenue.

USPS letter carriers will also suffer from the consequences of the consolidations. Letter carriers will, once again, be faced with the inherent risks of delivering mail after dark, and customers may receive their mail at night. In July, a USPS inspector general report ranked the District of Columbia as the worst in the nation for late mail delivery, with more than two-thirds of residents and businesses receiving mail after 5 p.m. I have written previously regarding the need to eliminate late deliveries not only in the District but in the nation following the killing of Tyson Barnette, a USPS letter carrier killed while delivering mail at night in Prince George’s County,

Maryland. USPS itself has set a goal that 95 percent of its city carriers complete mail deliveries before 5 p.m. It is estimated that eliminating late mail delivery can save USPS approximately $4.5 million per year.

However, as a senior member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I am aware that the Congress is deeply implicated in changes the USPS believes must be made. Many of my colleagues on the committee and subcommittee of jurisdiction continue to work to reduce the requirement that the postal service pre-pay retiree health benefits.

While the consolidations are expected to save USPS approximately $750 million per year, the costs to USPS customers and workers must be considered. I urge USPS to reconsider the decision to move forward with the consolidations of mail-processing centers in January 2015, maintain the current standard for First-Class mail, seek public input before potential changes to USPS services, and conduct feasibility studies before making another decision to consolidate.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I ask that you give full and fair consideration to this request, consistent with applicable law, rules, and regulations. I request a response within 30 days.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton

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Video: Postal Service Battles Illegal Drug Shipments

ROSEVILLE, CALIFORNIA – Roseville Police arrested two suspects in a drug ring that shipped illegal drugs through a a local Post Office facility.

They say Tim Reimer and Brian Getz based their operation in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area where 141 pounds of processed and wrapped pot was found along with $225,000 in cash.

The pot was supposedly shipped to addresses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where one of the suspects would fly to pick up the drugs. The practice is not unusual ever since medical marijuana was made legal in California. Some dealers don’t chance driving illegal pot across the country.

“They’re going through several states all with varying laws and you’re just one broken tail light and maybe a lead foot from being stopped by law enforcement so it’s less risky to ship it,” Roseville Police spokesperson Dee Dee Gunther said.

Read more: Postal Service Battles Illegal Drug Shipments | FOX40.

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Amazon begins delivering fresh groceries in Brooklyn neighborhood today

amazonfreshAmazon’s grocery delivery business is launching in New York City on Friday, the company said, bringing the service to the East Coast for the first time, as the retail giant aggressively pursues a cut of the $600 billion grocery industry.

The service, known as Amazon Fresh, will only be available in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope to start, before expanding to other neighborhoods in the borough, according to the company. Park Slope is a popular area for young professional families and is likely to have a healthy number of Amazon customers. A spokeswoman declined to say when the service might be available in other parts of New York City, including Manhattan.

Read more: Amazon Confirms It Will Deliver Fresh Groceries in New York City | Re/code.

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Ohio rural carrier admits to stealing from mail

uspsoigColumbus OH: A former mail carrier who stole credit cards and blank checks from postal customers and used them to spend nearly $29,000 pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to receiving stolen mail.

Arlie O. Ruff, 67, was tripped up when he used his Kroger Plus card to accumulate fuel points on purchases he made with the stolen credit cards. That’s how investigators eventually tracked him down.

Ruff was indicted in July on one count of receiving stolen mail and one count of credit-card fraud. Under a plea agreement, the fraud charge will be dropped when Ruff is sentenced.

A sentencing date has not been set. He could be sent to prison for five years and fined $250,000.

Ruff stole the credit cards from mail along his Galloway and Far West Side routes — rural routes 9, 4 and 1 — between 2003 and 2009.

Read more: Former postal carrier admits to stealing from mail | The Columbus Dispatch.

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Unions tell PMG, BOG: Stop Delaying America’s Mail!

postal-union-allianceThe four postal unions are calling for a National Day of Action on Nov. 14 to send a message to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and the USPS Board of Governors: Stop Delaying America’s Mail!

“The Postmaster General is poised to make devastating cuts in service to the American people – cuts so severe that they will forever damage the U.S. Postal Service,” the union presidents said.

  • On Jan. 5, 2015, the USPS is slated to lower “service standards” to virtually eliminate overnight delivery – including first-class mail from one address to another within the same city or town. All mail (letters, periodicals, packages) throughout the country will be delayed.
  • Beginning Jan. 5, 2015, 82 Mail Processing & Distribution Centers are scheduled to close or “consolidate operations.”

“These cuts will cause hardships for customers, drive away business, cause irreparable harm to the U.S. Postal Service, and lead to massive schedule changes and reassignments for employees,” the presidents wrote.

“They are part of a flawed management strategy that has unnecessarily sacrificed service and failed to address the cause of the Postal Service’s manufactured financial crisis,” they said.

  • More than 140 plants have closed since 2012;
  • As a result, mail is delivered much later in the day, well into the evening;
  • Retail work is being sent to Staples, at more than 1,500 stores throughout the country;
  • Door delivery is being eliminated in most new housing developments;
  • Chronic understaffing frustrates customers and slows the mail, and
  • Six-day delivery is under constant threat.

“The four postal unions are joining forces to protect service, fight for our livelihoods, and defend our great national treasure, the U.S. Postal Service. We have many allies in the fight against the proposed changes, including more than half the Senate and 160 U.S. Representatives,” the presidents wrote.

The unions selected the Nov. 14 date because it coincides with the USPS Board of Governors’ final public meeting of the year.

The union presidents are urging their members to work together in cities and towns across the country to organize rallies or press conferences in their areas.

The call for the National Day of Action is signed by Fredric Rolando, President, National Association of Letter Carriers; Mark Dimondstein, President, American Postal Workers Union:

John Hegarty, President, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and Jeanette Dwyer, President, National Rural Letter Carriers Association.

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‘You’ve got mail!': delivering to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Everett Allen,

USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea – Almost every day aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), Sailors see their packages and letters come through the mail, but most Sailors don’t see the logistics, planning and coordination efforts involved in the mail delivery process.

With a high volume of mail coming and going from the ship, it takes the combined efforts of qualified and trained personnel to ensure the successful sorting and delivering of packages.

“We average about 21,000 pounds of mail a week,” said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Roberts, from Apache Junction, Arizona. “It takes a lot of planning, coordination and cooperation with personnel from George Washington and facilities from the receiving end."

According to Roberts, George Washington’s Post Office coordinates with the Fleet Mail Center to properly route incoming mail to Yokohama. Once the incoming mail from Yokohama is at the air base nearest to the ship, George Washington’s Beach detachment (Beach Det) processes and flies it out to the ship.

“After we’ve coordinated with Beach Det personnel to get an estimate of how much mail we’ll be receiving on the carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft, [the cargo] is then delivered to the ship,” said Logistics Specialist Seaman James Climer, from Edmond, Oklahoma. “After that, there’s physical labor involved.”

Teamwork is a big factor in transporting the mail from the flight deck to the ship’s post office. An assembly line of Sailors works cohesively to transfer packages from the COD, down a few ladder wells to the ship’s Post Office.

“It takes the efforts of Sailors from Supply department and various other departments comprised in a ‘Bravo working party’ to carry mail through the hangar bay and down into the post office,” said Roberts. “With everyone working together, the process goes by pretty smoothly.”

After the planning, coordination, and labor are complete, the ship’s Post Office takes care of the logistics.

“Once packages have been carried down to the ship’s post office, we scan them as ‘arrived’ in our system so that they show up on the U.S. Postal Service website as ‘arrived,’” said Climer. “After that’s done, we sort through the mail and put them in their respective boxes, and call ‘mail call.’”

To ensure proper handling of mail, only specific personnel can retrieve and bring it to each division.

“Only [mail orderly personnel] who are qualified and trained by the Post Office on board and authorized by the postal officer and their division officer are allowed to pick up mail,” said Roberts. “However, non-mail orderly personnel can assist the mail orderly. In any case, constant supervision is a must.”

Aside from inclement weather and “no-fly” days, there are common mistakes that will cause a delay in receiving packages.

“Using improper boxes, such as boxes that have not been properly marked out will cause problems,” said Roberts. “If you reuse a box, it is highly encouraged to cut a corner of the box, and turn [the entire box] inside out to place all non-related markings on the interior of the box.”

According to Roberts, shipping illegal items such as alcohol, or items that are against customs regulations for the receiving country are also factors that will cause a shipping delay or rejection.

“The easiest way to save time in shipping your packages is to check the regulations of the country you’re shipping to,” said Roberts.

For more information on sending and receiving packages, and for a list of shipping rules and regulations, visit www.usps.com.

Read more: DVIDS – News – 'You’ve got mail!'.

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Video: 30-second, $9K-theft caught on surveillance camera

HENDERSON, NV (FOX5) –

A Henderson homeowner caught a couple of thieves on camera, stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from his front lawn.

FOX5 Vegas – KVVU

With the holidays approaching, it’s a reminder about how vulnerable your packages can be. In this case, the homeowner said the merchandise won’t be of any value to the crooks.

“They grabbed the mail, they grabbed the boxes, and then they made a quick getaway,” homeowner Nathan Woodward said.

Woodward said it took 30 seconds for the thieves to swipe roughly $9,000 in merchandise inside boxes and several paychecks from his mailbox.

“I think they’re going to be very sad. It’s not Christmas gifts from Grandma. There are just worthless products that, unfortunately, are costing the banks, are costing the people that actually need them,” Woodward said.

Woodward sells safe deposit locks to banks. Hundreds of the locks and other parts were packed into those boxes.

Read more: 30-second, $9K-theft caught on surveillance camera – FOX5 Vegas – KVVU.

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Amazon bringing on more holiday hands this year

From CNNMoney:

Amazon is boosting the number of extra helpers it relies on to put gifts under the Christmas tree.

The company said Thursday it will hire 80,000 seasonal employees this year, up from 70,000 last year. Two years ago, it hired only 50,000.

The extra hands will work in the Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) network of fulfillment and sorting centers, where employees locate, pack and ship millions of orders.

Experts are predicting a significant uptick in online shopping this season. The National Retail Federation’s holiday forecast calls for online sales in November and December to be between 8% and 11% more than last year.

The seasonal jobs so far posted to its recruitment site show wages ranging from $10 to $11.50. The company has said the average wage for regular, full-time fulfillment center workers is about $12.

Read more: Amazon bringing on more holiday hands this year – Oct. 16, 2014.

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Letter carrier helps woman suffering a seizure

From USPS News Link:

goodnewsTulsa, OK, Letter Carrier Merlie Bell was delivering mail when he noticed a woman in a parked car in distress. He instructed a bystander to call 911 and entered the car to check on her condition. With the 911 operator, it was determined the woman was having a seizure and Bell followed instructions to keep her comfortable. After emergency responders arrived, Bell continued on his route. A bystander later sent a note to the Post Office, thanking Bell for his actions.

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The Postal Service’s Union-Busting Law Firm

apwulogo(This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

With negotiations for a new contract set to begin on Feb. 19, 2015, it’s worth noting that in the past, when talks have ended in arbitration, the USPS has used the anti-union law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to represent management’s interests.

The firm, which has more than 1,400 attorneys in 25 offices, is considered one of the leading union-busting law firms in the country.

It has a long history fighting workers. When former President Ronald Reagan fired striking Air Traffic Controllers in 1981, Morgan Lewis served as the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) attorneys. The strike was a major defeat for labor; PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union, was disbanded soon after.

Morgan Lewis also represented Major League Baseball during the 1990 spring lockout and the 1994-1995 baseball strike. And as recently as January 2014, Morgan Lewis represented Amazon, helping the online shopping giant defeat a union drive among technicians.

Not Cheap

Morgan Lewis attorney Robert Dufek has represented the USPS since 2000, when contract talks with the APWU ended in arbitration. In 2010 Dufek left the law firm; he now works full time for the USPS.

Another Morgan Lewis attorney, Thomas Reinert, has acted as lead attorney against all the postal unions for several contracts now. He also represents airline and railroad companies in disputes with the unions in their industries.

Reinert does not come cheap. A 2013 billing statement for a case involving the AMR Corporation lists his hourly rate as $625.50 an hour – earning him about $50,000 for 80 hours of work.

Think about that: For two weeks’ worth of work, Reinert was paid more than the amount 75% of Americans earn in a year.

Corporate-Run Government

In addition to its role as a union buster, it is highly problematic that Morgan Lewis represents the Postal Service while also representing many large USPS subcontractors. For example, the firm represents the Coalition for Government Procurement, an association that helps its large corporate members such as Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, win profitable government contracts.

Morgan Lewis also helps corporations weaken or eliminate government regulations that hold businesses accountable for their bad behavior. These large corporations form “front groups” that lobby Congress and try to shape public policy in their own self-interest.

The front groups’ names are often the opposite of their true intent. For example, the corporate-created Coalition for a Democratic Workplace lobbies against unions and the democracy they bring to the workplace. The coalition, represented by Morgan Lewis, was formed to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made it easier to form unions and give workers a voice in the workplace.

Another corporate front group represented by Morgan Lewis is the Coalition for Workplace Safety, made up of large corporations and trade groups, such as the Retail Industry Leaders Association (including Walmart, Staples, and others), that want to weaken workplace safety rules.

Playing Both Sides

The Coalition for Office of Federal Contract Compliance Reform is another corporate organization represented by Morgan Lewis. This “reform” group attempts to weaken hiring rules and other regulations that must be adhered to by businesses that contract with the government.

In 2013 FedEx was the leading contractor with the USPS, with more than $1.7 billion in contracts. The company had contracts with other government agencies as well. In 2012, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance fined FedEx $3 million dollars for discriminatory hiring practices in North Carolina.

On the one hand, Morgan Lewis provides lobbying, consulting, public relations and legal advice to large corporations that are attempting to subcontract more and more government services with less and less oversight. On the other hand, Morgan Lewis represents the Postal Service, Amtrak, and other government agencies that are contracting with many of those same corporations. Morgan Lewis is representing both the government agencies and the contractors. As such, the firm is in a good position to facilitate the transfer of work and money from government agencies to large corporations owned by the 1%.

Given the opposition, our struggle for a better contract will not be easy. Our fight to preserve overnight delivery for our communities will not be easy. The corporations that are influencing the Postal Service are rich and powerful, and they have many allies in the Postal Service and Congress.

We don’t have the funds to compete with corporations in buying politicians and we don’t control the media.

But we have postal workers in every city and state. And no one understands the Postal Service as well as we do. We can speak out because our union contract protects us from unjust discipline. As postal workers, we are uniquely positioned to fight for good jobs and service for our communities.

Future generations will judge how we act in the next few months. Will we sit down and be quiet or will we stand up and fight?

We have the power. We just have to use it.