(This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Filled with enthusiasm after the union’s national convention in July, APWU members in cities and towns across the country have been forming community alliances and organizing protests to fight plant consolidation.
Working Hard in Industry
When word spread that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe was planning to visit the City of Industry mail processing plant – which is slated for closure in January – union members quickly organized a protest. They reached out to co-workers, nearby unions and community organizations. They also notified the media, said California Area Local President Sonia Canchola. On the designated day, Sept. 19, more than 50 people attended a spirited protest in brutally hot weather.
The threatened plant closure “is a huge global area for businesses, it’s not just affecting people that live in Industry,” Barnesa Chatterfield, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “It’s a problem for anybody who has ever put something in the mail.”
“Postal customers were distraught at the news that the plant would be closing,” said California Postal Workers Union President Mike Evans.
How did the PMG’s visit go? He didn’t show up.
PMG ‘Wanted’ in Salt Lake City
If the PMG thought his speech to a group of business mailers in Salt Lake City on Sept. 10 was going to be an uneventful affair, he was mistaken. A coalition of unions and postal customers showed up outside the Grand America Hotel, the site of the speech, to protest the PMG’s plans to privatize postal operations and close the Provo Mail Processing Center.
Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, United Association (Pipefitters and Sprinkler Fitters), United Steelworkers, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, IBEW, and the Utah AFL-CIO participated in the event.
Mad in Mid-Hudson
Rye Brook, NY APWU members from locals throughout New York converged on the Westchester Hilton in Rye Brook on Sept. 9, as the PMG spoke via video to a conference of big mailers. The Day of Action was organized by the Mid-Hudson Local, with support from the New York Metro Area Local, nearby AFL-CIO federations, the local Mail Handlers Union, Painters District Council 9, and community organizations, including Community Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services.
Picketers outlined four demands: Save our mail; stop the closings of mail processing centers; boycott Staples, and stop the privatization of the postal services.
Even in Erie
Erie (PA) APWU members are spreading the word. After an August interview with local President Joe Szocki, GoErie.com wrote, “Say goodbye to next-day mail delivery. That, according to a local official from the American Postal Workers Union, is one predictable outcome if the U.S. Postal Service moves ahead with plans to shutter the mail-processing facility on East 38th Street.”
“It’s not just going to delay the mail here, it’s going to delay the mail nationwide,” Szocki told WSEE TV News in September. “First-class mail is going to get second-class service, and we don’t believe that’s right.”
No Cuts in Connecticut
More than 50 postal workers and customers attended a mid-day press conference sponsored by Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy in Wallingford on Aug. 28, to urge Postmaster General Donahoe to stop the consolidation of 82 plants, including two in Connecticut.
Closing the plants would send the USPS into a “downward spiral” Sen. Blumenthal said, “devastating service by delaying delivery.”
“There is a small group of ideological conservatives who want to see the Postal Service privatized,” Sen. Murphy added. “They want to see it sold off to their cronies.”
Northeast Region Coordinator John Dirzius said, “We are dealing with a Postmaster General who believes that the best way to save a company is to destroy it from within. No company can survive by cutting and cutting,” he said. The event received extensive press coverage.
On the Case in Ohio
Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), the author of a letter signed by more than 160 members of the House of Representatives seeking to stop plant consolidations, attended a meeting on postal reform and the fight against plant consolidation at the Lake Geauga Area Local union hall in August. Approximately 65 postal employees attended, including members of the APWU, the Letter Carriers, the Rural Letter Carriers, and postmasters.
“People have asked why the local invited members of management to the meeting,” said Thomas Benson, president. “The fight we are currently in to save the Post Office will not just affect you and me as craft employees, it will affect members of management as well,” he said.
Plants throughout the area are threatened with closure, including Youngstown, Akron, Dayton and Toledo. Workers will be forced to move to new facilities; local business will suffer, and tax revenue will decline, Benson said.
Right in Roanoke
Members of the Roanoke (VA) Local protested USPS plans to end the overnight commitment for first-class mail on Aug. 20, garnering extensive TV coverage as they picketed, passed out flyers, and got petitions signed.
By ending overnight delivery, the USPS would be able to consolidate mail processing centers, APWU members explained to news media. “If they are allowed to change their service standards and close our processing centers in 37 states can you imagine what that will do to our U.S. mail system?… It’s the beginning of the end of the U.S. Mail system,” Local President Carlton Cooper told WSLS TV.
Resolute in Redding
At an Aug. 20 Town Hall Meeting held by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R), APWU Local President Nanci Denayer asked the congressman to help protect the Redding (CA) Mail Processing Center, pointing out that closing the facility would harm the local economy and end overnight delivery. The USPS plans to sort the mail in Sacramento, 161 miles away. Rep. LaMalfa agreed to help.
Working It in Washington State
Postal workers and supporters protested plant closures and privatization at Postal Heritage Day, July 26, and rallied again Aug. 21, when the Deputy PMG addressed a mailers conference in Vancouver, WA.
Superior Sides with Duluth
The City Council in Superior, WI, adopted a resolution opposing the closure and consolidation of the mail processing plant in Duluth, MN, across the state line. The resolution noted that the PMG is required to consider the harmful consequences closures would have on rural communities. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) said if postal officials refuse to hold another public meeting on the plan, he would hold one and invite them to participate. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also said they would work to stop the consolidation.
Exposé in Cape Girardeau
In August, postal workers in Cape Girardeau (MO) exposed the result of the first phase of their plant’s consolidation: a mountain of delayed mail. A worker reported the problem to Inspectors, but when an Inspector’s audit was derailed, union members told the local TV station. Channel 12 Heartland News reported the story extensively and Local President Greg Davidson asked Sen. Blunt (R) to request an Inspector’s audit, which he did. An investigation is once again underway.
Fighting in Florence
Members of the Florence (SC) Area Local returned from the union’s convention motivated to fight the consolidation of their P&DC. They reached out to union members at the Columbia P&DC, the gaining installation, as well the state AFL-CIO, other unions and candidates for state office to organize a rally on Sept. 20 and a Town Hall meeting on Oct. 11.