(September 19, 2014) More than 50 people picketed a U.S. Postal Service facility in Industry where union members say plans to relocate first-class mail processing to Orange County will result in big delays to San Gabriel Valley customers.
The union members, chanting that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe wanted to “destroy” the postal service, said they came to send a message to Donahoe, who they say was supposed to tour the facility but canceled at the last minute. Plans to relocate the first-class mail processing to Santa Ana starting in January will affect 70,000 businesses and delay deliveries by days, union members said.
“This is a huge global area for businesses, it’s not just affecting people that live in Industry,” said Barnesa Chatterfield, an automation clerk for 26 years at the plant. “It’s a problem for anybody who has ever put something in the mail,”
USPS Spokesman Richard Maher said Donahoe was never scheduled to appear in Industry, or even in California.
He said the postal service plans to consolidate first class mail operations at 82 locations across the country. In Industry, Maher stressed that customers can still use the facility’s post office to send mail, buy stamps or ship out parcels. Those day-to-day services will not change.
USPS hasn’t determined if there will be any layoffs or where employees might relocate to, but Maher noted the organization went through a similar consolidation in 2012 and 2013 and did not cut any full-time jobs. Union members expected to get notices about the relocation in October.
“Because of the large decline in first-class mail volume, we are re-adjusting our mail processing network to match the current volume and how people use the mail these days,” Maher said. “We have not laid off workers in any of our consolidations, what we’re able to do is reassign them to other vacant positions.”
The volume of first-class mail has declined by 60 percent since 2007, as people started sending less letters, birthday cards and bills by mail, Maher said. The USPS estimates the average first-class delivery will now take 2.25 days to arrive, an increase from 2.14 days.
“Twenty percent of first-class mail will be delivered overnight, over 35 percent will be delivered in two days and 44 percent in three,” he said. The consolidation of 141 plants in 2012 and 2013 saved the USPS $865 million annually and this most recent round is expected to save another $750 million. With $26 billion in financial losses in the past three years, USPS wants to scale back its lesser used services to refocus its money to expanding, like parcel shipping.
Omar Gonzalez, regional coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union, said it’ll cost millions to move the mail processing to Santa Ana. He questioned USPS’s calculations, as the agency redacted numbers from the 2012 study they’re using to justify the consolidations. Union leaders want the USPS needs to perform a more recent study and release their math, but the USPS says that data is proprietary and could tip off their competition.
“We believe the postal service is on a collision course to privatize,” Gonzalez said. He estimated 120 part-time workers will lose their jobs and those who continue will need to relocate to another facility up to 50 miles away.
For some, like Chatterfield, who lives in Oak Hills, that could result in a 100-mile commute. Leroy Collier, director of retirees for the California Association of Letter Carriers, said he went through a similar consolidation in Pasadena in 2009 and that it was poorly planned.
The Los Angeles processing plant was not equipped for influx of mail and many of the transferred employees collected paychecks but had little work to do.
“They couldn’t handle it,” he said.