[maxgallery id=”35533″]By Katie Byard – April 16, 2015
The postal service never delivered another reprieve.
Hundreds of postal service workers at the mail sorting center in Akron have been hoping for one, though the chances were slim to none.
Friday marks the end of the line for the mail processing operations that have been at the facility on Wolf Ledges Parkway in Akron since 1973.
“It’s weird. I cleaned out my locker yesterday. It is hard,” said Bob Dye, a Chippewa Township resident, before reporting to work Thursday.
He has worked at the Akron facility for 28 years and, like the other more than 200 affected employees, was offered a postal service job within a 50-mile radius of the Akron plant. Dye is taking a job at the Cleveland mail sorting facility on Orange Avenue. Many of the employees have accepted jobs in the Cleveland area.
There are “a lot of good people” at the Akron facility, Dye said. “But this is something you can’t stop. They [postal service officials] are going to do what they’re going to do. This isn’t local people making the decision. It comes from above.”
The closing of the processing center — Akron’s main post office at the same building will remain open — comes roughly three years after the financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said it was considering shutting down the Akron processing operation and more than 200 other such distribution centers nationwide. The shutdowns, amid a drastic drop in the mount of first-class mail, were designed to save the agency $3 billion a year, the postal service said at the time.
The Wolf Ledges sorting operation was spared from an initial round of closings in 2012, the year that Canton’s facility closed.
Then earlier this year, employees received official 60-day notices of the closing. The shutdown notices were expected; last year, the postal service had said it would begin closing Akron and some other centers this spring.
With Friday’s closing, all of the Akron facility’s processing duties will move to Orange Avenue in Cleveland. A portion of the Akron operation moved to Cleveland more than a year ago.
While employees will continue to have jobs, the service to the public has diminished with the consolidations nationwide, union officials have said. Overnight, one-day delivery has virtually become a thing of the past.
Mail processing clerk Stephanie Smith said, “As employees and [mail] customers we are frustrated because we take great pride in processing the mail in a timely fashion.”
With the consolidations, she said, “if you are sending a first-class letter out from Akron to Akron it’s most likely not getting there the next day.”
Smith, who has worked for the postal service for 20 years, accepted a job at the Cleveland processing center. She said while she’s not looking forward to the drive from her home in Ellet, she’s “grateful to have a job.”
Currently, about 370 people work in the Wolf Ledges building. After the processing shutdown, nearly 150 postal employees will continue to work there.
The building, spokesman David Van Allen said, is “still what we’re calling a hub,” where the mail, processed in Cleveland, is trucked and then placed onto smaller trucks for delivery to stations. The facility will continue to house a unit that accepts bulk mail.
Mary Sitko, vice president of American Postal Workers Union Local 120 in Akron, praised local and federal elected officials for their efforts over the years to get the center off the shutdown list.
“This week has been [one of] mixed emotions,” said Sitko, whose union represents the bulk of the workers affected by the shutdown. “There are people who have accepted it, and there are people who just can’t believe it.”
She noted that some mail sorting operations, including those in Toledo and Duluth, Minn., won reprieves earlier this month.