By Katie Byard – February 21, 2015
Wolf Ledges processing facility to close in April as postal service slashes costs, merges operations; affected workers to be transferred
The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service is moving ahead with plans to close its Akron mail-sorting operation, part of which was moved to Cleveland more than a year ago.
Employees received the official 60-day notice of the planned April 18 shutdown earlier this month. The notices were expected; last year, the postal service had said it would begin closing distribution centers this spring.
The Akron main post office at the same building, at 675 Wolf Ledges Parkway, will remain open.
The closing of the processing center comes roughly three years after USPS said it was considering closing the Akron facility and about 250 other such plants nationwide. The postal service said at the time that the shutdowns, amid a drastic drop in the amount of first-class mail, were designed to save the agency $3 billion a year.
In 2012, the Wolf Ledges center was spared from an initial round of closings.
This year’s closures are to complete a money-saving plan to consolidate six Ohio mail-sorting operations — Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Mansfield, Toledo and Dayton — into two sites: Cleveland and Columbus. Some of Toledo’s operations will move to Detroit. Canton’s facility closed in 2012.
The Akron facility employs roughly 400, and those whose jobs will be affected by the closure will be offered jobs elsewhere, as provided under their union contracts, said David Van Allen, the postal service’s Ohio spokesman. Union officials say many of those jobs are likely to be in Cleveland.
While employees will continue to have jobs, the service to the public will diminish, said Mary Sitko, vice president of American Postal Workers Union Local 120.
“The public is going to experience a delay in timely delivery of their medications and their business correspondence and packages,” she said.
Sitko said the Akron closure would mean typical cards and letters that are delivered locally in one or two days would take two or three days, she explained.
Some of the employees will remain at the center. Those employees include workers involved with bulk mail, which will continue to be accepted at Wolf Ledges, as well as truck drivers, custodians, and personnel involved with maintenance of vehicles, equipment and the building, as well other duties.
“There are a lot of jobs assigned to the facility that aren’t involved with the move,” said David Van Allen, the postal service’s Ohio spokesman.
Members of the American Postal Workers Union Local 120 whose jobs will be moved from the center will be offered positions within a 50-mile radius, Sitko said. The union represents most of the Akron processing center’s employees. Sitko said 106 of those employees likely will be offered jobs at the Cleveland facility.
Sorting of outbound letters and “flats” — magazines and the like — from Akron was moved to Cleveland in 2013. The April closing means the sorting of inbound letters and “flats” will move to Cleveland, along with inbound and outbound packages.
While the postal service earlier gave the Akron center a reprieve, this time the closing appears to be imminent, Sitko said.
“Our backs are really against the wall,” she said. “This is very serious. [Postal service management employees] are actively preparing to move jobs to Cleveland.”
Elected officials, as well as the postal employees union, have urged Congress to act to prevent the closings.
They blame much of the agency’s financial distress on a congressional requirement — passed in 2006 — that mandates the agency pre-fund 75 years of retiree health benefits over a 10-year period, beginning in 2006.