Postal Workers Picket as Senate Begins Debate

APWU Web News Article 039-2012, April 18, 2012

(4/18/2012) Members of the APWU and Mail Handlers Union rallied in front of post offices around the country Tuesday to alert the public to looming service cuts if Congress doesn’t act to fix the Postal Service’s finances by May 15. That is the day a moratorium on post office and plant closures expires. The moratorium is intended to give Congress time to come up with an alternative to the Postal Service’s plans to shutter more than 200 mail processing facilities and close over 3600 post offices to save money.

At the main post office in Royal Oak, MI, Local 480-481 President Roscoe Woods said he and his members have a simple message they are trying to get across. “Congress created this mess,” he said, “and Congress must fix it.”

Woods was referring to the 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retirement health benefits for the next 75 years, and do it in a 10-year window.  No other government agency or private business bears a similar burden, which drains $5.5 billion in postal revenue each year.

“We’re reminding folks that we run on zero tax dollars,” said Woods “We’re making money, but we’re saddled with this huge debt.”

The picket in Royal Oak was just one of eight rallies in Michigan and several hundred around the nation on Tuesday.

In Vermont, protesters held rallies at the White River Junction mail processing center, which is slated for closure, as well as in Manchester and Montpelier.

“There are about 245 employees at the [White River Junction] facility,” said local President Wayne Martin Jr.

“We need to put pressure on Congress to act,” said Lorraine Clough, an employee at the White River Junction facility. “They just keep putting it off, and if they keep doing that they’re going to continue to keep closing plants,” said Clough.

As APWU and Mail Handlers began leafleting on Tuesday, the Senate voted 74-22 to begin debate on the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789). The APWU and the Mail Handlers Union are opposed to the bill in its current form and have been working with supportive senators to amend the bill to better protect current levels of service and to keep plants and post offices open. (See Senate Expected to Resume Consideration of Postal Bill.)

In Buffalo, NY, postal workers and supporters gathered outside the William Street post office protesting the pending closure of that facility.

“It’s a very stressful period for our people right now,” said Frank Resetarits, president of the Buffalo Local and the New York State Postal Workers Union. “Our hope is that Congress will step in, and not allow the service standard changes to take place.”

USPS managers admit that the massive number of closures they are planning would force the Postal Service to drastically reduce service.  The APWU says it urging Congress to adopt legislation that would retain existing service standards.

In Bloomington, IL, members of APWU Local 228 pitched a tent and gave out leaflets outside the Bloomington Processing & Distribution Center. Local President J.R. Haslett said closing the plant is a bad idea.  “We’re right in the middle of the state.  It’s just not a very good idea,” he said.

In Portland, OR, over 200 postal workers and supporters carried picket signs protesting closures and service cuts along a blocks-long demonstration at the Main Post Office.  Leaflets proclaiming “NO TAXES NEEDED to Save America’s Postal Service” were handed out to passersby.

In Oregon, four distribution centers and over 20 rural post offices are marked for closure. “These closures will cause huge disruptions to mail service, eliminating the overnight first-class delivery standard, delaying delivery two or three days, and forcing hundreds of thousands of postal patrons to travel many miles to nearest post office.” said Cara Shufelt of the Rural Organizing Project (ROP).

In Charlotte, NC, postal workers spent hours on the side of the road by the mail processing center handing out flyers to passersby calling on North Carolina’s senators to fix S. 1789.

“If customers no longer can rely on us to get their stuff overnight, they’re going to use other options.  And when they do, we’re going to lose more revenue,” said LeRoy Moyer, president of the Charlotte Local APWU.