The United States Senate is back in session this week, and postal reformer Tom Carper (D-DE) wasted no time in blasting his Democratic colleagues for demanding a moratorium on the closing of 82 U.S. Postal Service facilities in 2015. Before heading off on summer recess in August, half of the members of the Senate, including 43 Democrats, sent a letter to Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) asking that the planned consolidation be postponed and that new postal legislation include a resolution preventing further closures.
Yesterday, Carper sent his own letter on the subject to Mikulski. “We understand that a number of senators have asked that you include language in appropriations legislation this fall that would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from closing or consolidating any mail processing facilities in 2015,” Carper wrote. “We strongly disagree with that request and urge you to reject it. Instead of actually fixing the problem and providing a roadmap to a strong and vital Postal Service in the 21st Century, that approach will further undermine customer confidence and ensure that the Postal Service continues to twist in the wind, facing an uncertain future that could ultimately hasten its demise.”
Senators requesting the moratorium—several of whom face re-election in November—see the move as a jobs preservation issue. “At a time when our middle-class is disappearing,” read their August 14 letter, “the loss of 15,000 good-paying Postal Service jobs will harm our local communities and economies.”
But while job slots will be removed due to the consolidations, USPS made it clear that all workers at the phased-out facilities would be reassigned to other posts. The facility closures are part of Phase 2 of the Postal Service’s “network rationalization” plan, which was approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission and was scheduled to be executed this year. It was postponed until January 2015 with an expectation that legislation might have been passed to alter the plan’s schedule.
Indeed, Carper himself appealed to his fellow senators in July to pass his Postal Reform Act so that Phase 2 could be postponed for another two years. In announcing the activation of the plan, however, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that any further postponement would “delay needed capital investments to acquire package sorting equipment and replace an aging delivery fleet.
USPS maintains that service quality will be little affected by implementation of the consolidation plan. Average delivery time for First Class Mail, it claims, will rise from the current 2.14 days to 2.25 days.