Occupation of post office thwartedSaturday, July 27th, 2013
From Portland Communities and Postal Workers United :
Dozens of protesters rallied and attempted to occupy the Main Post Office on NW Hoyt this afternoon. The protest against postal privatization was thwarted by a heavy presence of Department of Homeland Security police, Postal Inspectors and a half dozen postal managers standing inside the post office lobby. Senior plant manager, Lisa Shear, herself a target of the protest, came out to warn activists that she would have them immediately arrested if they stepped foot inside the lobby.
Protesters carried signs saying “Save Postal Mail Handling, call Lisa Shear, 503-294-2500.” Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier with Portland Communities and Postal Workers United (PCPWU), confronted Shear outside the post office, demanding that she meet with community members to justify her sub-contracting decision. When Shear refused, Partridge told the senior manager that the PCPWU would not back down.
“Postal truckers, mail handlers and mail processing clerks are losing their jobs to profiteering, private corporations,” declared Jamie Partridge. “We are protesting the privatization of the people’s postal service. We oppose the destruction of family wage, union jobs and the delay of the people’s mail. We intend to disrupt this attack on our communities.”
The demand to end the subcontracting of postal jobs was echoed from a soapbox by the leaders of local postal unions: Joe Cogan, vice president of the American Postal Workers Union local 128, David Jarvis, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union local 315, and Jim Cook, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers branch 82.
Following the speakers, protesters broke into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate the July 26, 1775 establishment of the U.S. Post Office. Benjamin Franklin (played by Tim Flanagan) explained that the post office was founded as a revolutionary act, needed to organize resistance to British tyranny and oppression. “Today we again need a revolutionary Postmaster General who will fight for the postal service, against the tyranny of the privatizers, against the oppression of the union busters. We need revolutionary postal workers who will spread the alarm to every corner of this nation. We need a revolutionary Congress that will fight the tyranny of the 1%, that will fight the oppression of the corporate profiteers,”declared “Franklin”.
Postal mail handlers and processing clerks are losing their jobs in Salem as the work is being subcontracted to the low-wage, non-postal, non-union Matheson corporation in Portland.
At the same time, Portland postal truckers are being put on standby while the low-wage, non-postal, non-union Dill Star Route/ LAPO trucking company takes their work.
“This privatization and union-busting is being carried out in the name of a phony financial emergency,” said Rev. John Schwiebert, one of rally speakers. “The security, safety, and timely delivery of the mail are all at risk. Rural communities, seniors and the disabled, small businesses and low-income communities are hit the hardest. Postal management needs to stop and reverse these closures, cuts, and subcontracts which are sending our beloved postal service into a death spiral.”
Portland Communities and Postal Workers United (PCPWU) has been fighting cuts and closures to the postal service for the past year. In May of 2012, ten activists were arrested occupying Portland’s University Station post office, which has since been closed. In April of this year, five protesters went to jail for a civil disobedience action at the Salem mail plant, which is now being dismantled with mail processing machines moving to Portland. The same group was arrested this month occupying the Matheson plant and later blockaded a Dill Star Route truck, demanding those companies stop stealing family wage, union postal jobs.
Seven postal trucking positions were recently eliminated at the same time as the subcontractor, Dill Star Route trucking, hired twenty drivers to do twice as many mail runs as were previously needed, according to Partridge. The company is being paid $59 per hour for each driver, while the USPS is paying for the gas and lending the company postal trailers (in violation of postal rules) and leasing nine tractors for Dill Star use (at $30,000 per month). According to union officials, postal drivers are sitting on standby without work, up to 500 hours a week, while many of the extra Dill Star trucks are running empty or have very little mail.
Bankruptcy papers show that Dill Star owes the postal service over $300,000. “Dill Star used federal credit cards to avoid the federal gas tax, and then never paid the bill,” says Partridge. “This padded, no-bid contract was arranged by USPS transportation manager Brenda Jackson, who appears to have a special relationship with the Dill family.”
MAIL HANDLERS AND PROCESSING CLERKS
Mail sorting machines being moved from Salem cannot fit into the Portland Air Cargo Center, so space is being leased next door in the Matheson facility. But when the SWYB machine is moved into the Matheson space, it will be worked by twelve non-postal mail handlers and six non-postal processing clerks, hired by Matheson. USPS senior plant manager Lisa Shear says the sub-contracting is necessary to save labor costs in this “financial emergency”.
PHONY FINANCIAL EMERGENCY
The “financial emergency” is phony. Since 2006 the USPS has been forced to spend nearly 10% of its budget pre-funding retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. No other U.S. agency or private business faces such a crushing financial burden. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, the USPS has also over-paid tens of billions into two pension funds.
COSTLY CUTS, CLOSURES, and CONTRACTING-OUT
In the past year, the Postmaster General has closed 30% of mail processing plants, reduced hours by 25% – 75% in half of post offices, put 10% of post offices up for sale, subcontracted trucking and mail handling, eliminated tens of thousands of family wage, postal jobs and delayed mail delivery.
The USPS own studies (revealed at the March 22, 2012 meeting of the Postal Regulatory Commission), showed that big mailers leave the system as a result of such delays, costing more in lost revenue than is saved by lowering labor costs, not to mention the dramatic increase in trucking costs as mail is transported hundreds of extra miles to be sorted in the closest still open facilities.
Postal workers have seen their wages cut by 25% for new hires. Bottom-tier Postal Support Employees (truckers and clerks) and Mail Handler Assistants now make less in wages and benefits than the non-postal, non-union sub-contract workers.
The postal service is not broke. Subcontracting work is unnecessary and costly. However, the agenda of corporate America, their friends in Congress and in postal management, according to the CPWU, is to cripple the USPS, to soften it up for union busting and privatization. The USPS is a $65 billion annual business with over $100 billion surplus in its pension and retiree health benefit funds, over 30,000 post offices and 200,000 vehicles. Postal activists claim that America is being confronted with a huge transfer of public wealth to for-profit, private corporations.