Postal Service to resume mail-processing plant consolidations

By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent

Citing its continuing financial troubles, the United States Postal Service disclosed June 30 that it plans to resume closing its large mail-processing plants next year.

Up to 82 plants were targeted to be shuttered beginning in January under a newly revised plan that was disclosed on the USPS website and in letters to customers.

“The Postal Service has recorded substantial losses over the last three years and continues to see steep declines in First-Class mail volume and revenue,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a video message to employees.

“As a result, we find ourselves with excess capacity in the network and few alternatives to reduce costs.

“Our operating costs are continuing to increase, and our debt and other liabilities threaten our financial viability,” he said.

Between 2012 and 2013, the USPS said it had consolidated 141 mail plants, saving an estimated $865 million a year with no worker layoffs.

It halted the planned continuation of the closings into 2014 as members of Congress continued to complain about the impact of the closings.

The new phase is projected to save another $750 million and should be completed by “the fall mailing season,” the announcement said.

It cited uncertainty over whether Congress or the courts will give any financial relief to the nation’s mail service. It also mentioned that the Postal Service’s losses in the past three fiscal years have totaled $26 billion.

The consolidations will affect 15,000 workers, and the USPS said it would make “every effort” to avoid layoffs.

“For now, I ask that you continue to do your job to the best of your ability and continue to work with your customers to assure them that the transition will be smooth,” the postmaster general told the workers.

“You have my commitment that I’ll continue to keep you informed as we work with you to make these transitions.”

Donahoe’s latest move came five days after the full House Appropriations Committee reinserted language in a 2015 spending bill that continues the congressional mandate of six-day mail deliveries.

That has been part of the federal budget since the 1980s, and it has been one of Donahoe’s key congressional requests. He said the Postal Service could save huge amounts by eliminating Saturday mail deliveries, but Congress appears unlikely to grant his wish.

In papers distributed with a list of the 85 targeted plants, the USPS conceded that the consolidations will slow mail service “slightly,” making the average first-class letter arrive at its destination in 2.25 days compared to 2.14 days.

Postal unions attacked Donahoe’s plan.

“This is a direct assault on service to the people of the country, on postal workers and on the Postal Service’s own network,” said American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein.

“We need a Postmaster General who will champion the Postal Service. Instead, PMG Donahoe is on a rampage to destroy it,” he said in a statement that reflected the growing bitterness between management and the unions.

APWU members would be most directly impacted by the closings, since most of their members work in processing plants.

The APWU president pledged to work with other postal unions and the public “to muster a fight-back similar to the recent campaign to protect six-day mail delivery.”

Some large cities will lose their mail-processing plants under the plan. Among them are Tucson, Ariz.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Gainesville, Fla.; Pocatello, Idaho; Lafayette, Ind.; Lexington, Ky.; New Orleans, La.; Norfolk and Roanoke, Va.; Lansing, Mich.; Springfield, Mo.; Asheville, N.C.; Akron and Dayton, Ohio; Queens, N.Y.; Madison, Wis.; and Tacoma, Wash.

The complete listing can be found on the U.S. Postal Service website at http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/our-future-network/assets/pdf/ofn-consolidation-list-063014.pdf.