Tulsa’s mail-processing plant is again being targeted for closure as part of a U.S. Postal Service consolidation plan to save money.
The east Tulsa mail-sorting facility is one of 82 nationwide slated to close in the second phase of the agency’s reorganization plan, which it began implementing in 2012.
“What we’ve been told is very little,” said Charley Mose, president of Tulsa’s American Postal Workers Union.
The U.S. Postal Service announced June 30 that it would resume its plan to close those distribution facilities in early January and complete the process by fall of 2015.
Tulsa’s plant has been targeted for closure several times since 2011.
For Tulsa, the closure would mean that local mail would be hauled to Oklahoma City for sorting and then returned to Tulsa for distribution.
Mail delivery in northeastern Oklahoma could be delayed one to three days, Mose said.
“We’re proud of the fact that, at least here in Tulsa, we get over 1 million pieces of mail through here every year, and 98 percent of that mail is delivered overnight,” he said. “We process more mail than Oklahoma City, and we do it more efficiently.”
If Tulsa’s plant closes, then 20 percent of mail would be delivered overnight, Mose said. Business and direct-mail advertisers and vendors are particularly concerned because the change could mean higher rates and slower delivery times for direct mail and greater lag time in accounts payable.
The USPS has promised no layoffs.
Although the Postal Service is seeing operating profits this year, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe said consolidation is needed because of a $40 billion debt on the books. That stems from legislation Congress passed in 2006 that requires the agency to pre-fund a retirement benefits account 75 years in advance during a 10-year period ending in 2016.
“No other business in the world would do that or they would go under,” Mose said.
The U.S. Postal Service said that by consolidating 141 mail-processing facilities in 2012 and 2013, it has generated annual cost savings of $865 million.
This second phase is estimated to generate savings of $750 million a year, it said.
Mose said he is disheartened that the agency has ignored a January report by the USPS Office of Inspector General that it could generate $9 billion a year by offering basic financial services at its branches.
“They could earn more than 10 times that without cutting any services,” he said.
All of the uncertainty is part of a plan by some in Congress to make a case for privatization, Mose said. Private companies would “cherry pick” the most profitable areas and leave people in rural communities to drive miles and miles to get to a “cluster mail box.” They would raise costs substantially to make profits.
“We don’t get taxpayers’ money. Stamps and services pay for all our salaries. We’re the only government agency that actually does that,” Mose said.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., previously has fought to keep the mail facility open and to keep the jobs in Tulsa. A spokeswoman for the senator said she was unable to get a comment from him Monday on the latest announcement because he was in transit to Washington, D.C., from Oklahoma.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine said his staff in Tulsa and Washington, D.C., are looking into the issue.