Postal Employees Voice Major Concerns as USPS Begins Implementing Its Delivery Consolidation Plan
Postal management says the changes will save money and lead to better working conditions.
The U.S. Postal Service is standing up the first of the new plants across the country that will process mail for larger geographic areas, causing employees to fear the mailing agency will relocate or consolidate jobs throughout the workforce.
As promised in his 10-year plan to allow USPS to break even, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has identified an initial 10 previously closed plants to reopen for consolidated mail and package sorting before the pieces go out for final delivery. Postal management began this week notifying employee groups of the sites, located primarily on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Those organizations reacted with significant consternation, saying USPS has failed to keep them in the loop or answer questions regarding the fallout for the workforce.
Most post offices around the country operate as delivery units, meaning mail carriers go to them to pick up mail and packages for their routes before bringing them to homes and businesses. DeJoy has repeatedly decried this model, saying it is inefficient and can lead to as many as dozens of such units in one metropolitan area. Instead, he is looking to open “sorting and delivery centers” around the country, as well as larger mega-centers, that can take on more work in less space. Letter carriers will have to travel farther to take mail to its final destination, but DeJoy said it will save costs on the contracted trucks that USPS hires to bring mail between various facilities.
“It just goes right out,” DeJoy said last week of mail at the new centers. “It’s going to save 100% of the trucking costs.”
Edmund Carley, president United Postmasters and Managers of America, said the notice he received this week caught him off guard. He first heard of the plan earlier this year, but his follow up questions ever since have gone largely unanswered. His members have expressed outrage over the plan, as post offices that have only retail offerings and not back-end mail processing typically do not have a postmaster on site. Those supervisors are now worried they will be out of a job.
“I’m trying to talk them all off the ledge but I don't have answers,” Carley said.
He pledged to consult with postal management to try to find better solutions. Failing that, he said, he will work with USPS to offer early retirement or to find new landing spots for impacted personnel. Carley told members on Wednesday he was “very concerned about the implementation going forward.”
The American Postal Workers Union was also dismayed by the announcement, saying it too has been left in the dark about what will happen to its clerks and other members who currently report to post offices for final sorting.
“We have made it clear to the Postal Service that they MUST comply with the collective bargaining agreement,” Lamont Brooks, director of APWU’s clerk division, said in a message to members. “USPS has not been forthcoming with much information as they don’t know what this all entails. We have asked questions and they have not been able to provide answers or provide any supporting documentation.”
Brooks suggested the union could file a national dispute to block the changes.
James Lloyd, director of labor relations policies and programs, told the groups that additional information will be provided in the coming weeks and that "any movement of employees...will be done in accordance with the respective collective bargaining agreements." DeJoy has justified the changes not just on financial grounds but also by noting employees currently work in facilities with poor amenities. The postmaster general has committed to spending $40 billion over 10 years on capital improvement projects.
“Substantial deployment of this initiative will make us the preferred delivery providers in the nation,” DeJoy said last week. “We will have the greatest delivery reach and be the most reliable and most affordable carrier.”
He added the reforms were obvious and needed to happen as quickly as possible.
“If you were building a Postal Service from scratch today, and you knew what you were doing, this is what you would do,” DeJoy said.
As part of that address, delivered at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DeJoy said USPS will look to shed 50,000 positions in the coming years. No current employees will be targeted, he said, as the Postal Service will lose 200,000 workers over the same time period through natural attrition.
Dave Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman, said the new centers will improve the working environment for employees, reduce time and cost for transportation facilities and allow for more efficient delivery routes. He added it will allow USPS to purchase a greater share of electric vehicles as it overhauls its dated fleet due to the length of the trips and an improved setup for charging stations. He did not specify the direct impact on employees.
“The Postal Service will adhere to all legal, statutory, contractual, and regulatory requirements as we evaluate a potential nationwide rollout of this initiative,” Partenheimer said.
NEXT STORY: Data-Driven HR Management Faces Uphill Climb