Postal Workers fight DeJoy plan to close processing centers and eliminate jobs
Postal workers sort mail at the U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center in Oakland, Calif., on April 30, 2020. Trump-imposed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy plans to close 18 such processing centers nationwide. | Ben Margot / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—The 10-year U.S. Postal Service “reform” plan unveiled by Trump-imposed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy includes “the good, the bad, and the ugly” among its elements American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein says.

And right now, he adds, DeJoy is pushing the bad ahead of the good, as the PMG delivered a notice to the nation’s postal unions on April 27 that he intends to close 18 processing centers nationwide, shifting their services elsewhere.

The closures, Dimondstein said in a video Q-and-A with APWU members that night, would slow down service and cost postal workers’ jobs. “Fighting the closures is not easy, but it can be done if we mobilize,” he said.

He’s put union Vice President Debby Szeredy in charge of APWU’s panel of postal craft leaders to deal with DeJoy’s plans and mobilize members against them.

Dimondstein said not all is doom and gloom. “The ‘good’ is their approach” to get Congress to end its 15-year-old mandate that USPS prepay $5 billion yearly for future retirees’ health care costs. Ever since a GOP-run Congress imposed it, USPS had run in the red, even when it made money on its operations, notably first-class mail.

Other “goods” include DeJoy’s plan to expand USPS’s capacity to handle its fast-growing parcel business and his decision to work with the postal unions, not try to wreck them, as right-wing ideologues in the GOP Trump White House schemed and advocated.

“There are no more attacks on workers’ rights and benefits,” Dimondstein said.

APWU, the Letter Carriers, and the Mail Handlers, a Laborers sector, have lobbied lawmakers ever since 2006 to dump that prepayment requirement and approve and find new revenue sources from postal banking to shipping wine—for the USPS.

Despite their efforts, repealing the $5 billion and other health care changes to enroll future USPS retirees in Medicare, which retirees contributed to through payroll deductions, have stalled in past Congresses. The unions are trying again.

The financial fixes trail behind DeJoy’s closures, Dimondstein reported. And that’s the “ugly.” “Unfortunately, they’re moving more quickly to the bad stuff,” he said of DeJoy’s team.

An idea of the impact of DeJoy’s closures comes from an internal document that surfaced on the USPS website. It shows the effect of closing the USPS processing center in Lexington, Ky. and sending the mail. It now handles either Louisville, Ky., 73 miles away, or Knoxville, Tenn., 176 miles away.

Lexington would lose 322 postal craft jobs and 24 managers. Of those, 209 craft jobs and 15 management spots would go to Louisville, 21 craft jobs and five management posts would go to Knoxville, and 92 craft jobs and four management posts would disappear.

Overall savings would be $9.98 million in the first year alone, including $7.05 million in payroll, the analysis calculates. After costs for transfers and the like, USPS would save $8.715 million, net. It does not estimate the impact on mail travel times. Such slowdowns upset Dimondstein because they cause customers to lose confidence in the USPS and its workers.

“The immediate thing that has to be fixed is the lousy mail service” that resulted from DeJoy’s moves last year, Dimondstein said.

Until public uproar forced DeJoy to “pause,” as Dimondstein put it, the Postmaster General was closing plants, lowering on-time delivery standards, banning running postal routes in overtime, yanking out large sorting machines, and removing the USPS’s blue mailboxes from Democratic-run central cities. He claimed they were underused. Critics said DeJoy aimed to disrupt mail-in voting in the 2020 election on behalf of his sponsor, Trump.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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