|Postal employees urge Senate to save offices|
|Published Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:07 am|
The U.S. Postal Service braves wind, rain and dark of night to deliver mail, but Congress may prove more difficult.
|U.S. Postal Service employee Deborah Geter wave at passersby Tuesday to draw attention to a bill before the U.S. Senate that would trim the number of post offices and procession centers around the country.|
Postal employees are lobbying to amend a bill before the U.S. Senate that would close mail processing centers – including five of eight in North Carolina – and post offices in order to return the USPS to profitability. They rallied at the McDowell Street Post Office on Tuesday – the final day to mail tax returns – for changes to S.1789 to protect those assets. They’re also pushing for the return of $5.5 billion in annual overpayment into a $75 billion retirement account over a 10-year period.
“It’s imperative that we get out and get the public’s support on this,” said Cindy Foster of Charlotte, legislative director of American Postal Workers Union. “As the bill is currently written, we do not support it because it would do more harm than good, but if amended with the suggestions the major unions have suggested as well as politicians who are backing us, we can make some good out of this bill.”
President Barack Obama has endorsed cutting a day from USPS’s delivery schedule as well as refunding the overpayment for retirees and restructuring retirees’ medical benefits. He also favors allowing the postal service to sell non-postal products and raise postal rates, which by law can only be adjusted to match the rate of inflation.
The Senate is taking up the bill this week, which would cut the number of days of service and eliminate money-losing post offices – primarily in rural communities.
“I recognize how important access to postal service is to our communities, which is why difficult choices must be made to correct the Postal Service’s fiscal issues not only in the short term, but also for the future so we do not find ourselves in this same situation a few short years from now,” U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement. “I have not yet seen a bill in Congress that strikes the right balance of fixing the challenges that the Postal Service faces while also saving the billions of dollars necessary to put it on a sustainable path for the future.
“We should give the Postmaster General the flexibility to determine how we can achieve cost savings through such reforms as restructuring delivery days, enacting worker’s compensation reform, consolidating postal facilities where it makes sense and allowing the Postal Service to reach its proposed goal of 425,000 employees.”
Said U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in an email: "I understand the need to strike a balance between providing reliable postal services and improving the financial footing of the U.S Postal Service. I continue to work with my colleagues to achieve a bipartisan agreement to maintain a strong universal postal service network."
USPS officials have suggested cuts to offset the losses incurred with retirement funding, including firing 120,000 employees, the end of Saturday delivery or close 300 processing centers. Another proposal would shut down 3,700 post offices – primarily in rural areas. The Postal Service responded by blocking any closures until after May 15.
“You can imagine the loss to those communities without their post offices,” Foster said.
USPS, which hasn’t received federal funding since 1981, lost $8.5 billion in 2010 as a sour economy, technological advances and corporate competition cut into its bottom line. Postal employees – many of them union members – counter that federal restrictions handcuff the service’s efficiency and ability to become profitable. They point to USPS’s net profit of $611 million sorting and delivering mail over the last four years as evidence of its overall health.
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