Elaine Thompson/AP

Senators Seek to Protect 15,000 Postal Jobs

Lawmakers, unions and managers disagree on service impacts of consolidations.

A group of lawmakers is urging colleagues who are drafting spending bills to prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from moving forward with its plan to close 80 more processing facilities.

The Postal Service announced last month that in January 2015 it would begin the previously delayed second phase of its “network rationalization” plan. Twenty-two senators -- nearly all Democrats -- called for a one-year moratorium on the consolidations in a letter to their colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee, saying the closures would hurt both postal customers and employees.

The senators said the closures would result in the loss of 15,000 postal jobs. The group included Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has authored a postal reform bill that focuses on growth initiatives rather than cuts; and Republican Appropriations Committee member John Hoeven, N.D.   

“At a time when our middle class is disappearing, the loss of . . . good-paying Postal Service jobs will harm our local communities and economies,” the senators wrote.

An HSGAC postal overhaul bill, which passed the committee in February, would place a two-year pause on any plant closures. Baldwin and Tester voted against that bill. The Postal Service has shuttered 141 processing plants since it began phase one of its streamlining plan in 2012.

On Friday, USPS published a final rule laying out the changes to delivery service standards that would result from the closures. The American Postal Workers Union said the changes would permanently end all overnight delivery, but a USPS spokesman told Government Executive the agency still expects to deliver 20 percent of first-class mail in one day.

In addition to service cuts, the consolidations have led to mail arriving later in the day. This, in turn, has kept letter carriers out after dark, a potential safety risk

The Postal Service has dramatically reduced the size of both its physical footprint and workforce in recent years, though it has not yet had to force anyone out. The agency will likely have to start laying off employees soon, however, and is hiring a manager to oversee the reductions in force.

In their letter, the lawmakers asked that any omnibus appropriations bill or continuing resolution for fiscal 2015 delay all plant closures and changes to service standards.

“This one-year moratorium will give Congress the time it needs to enact comprehensive postal reforms that are necessary for the Postal Service to function effectively in the future,” they wrote.