By Madina Toure
In light of U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s announcement he will retire Feb. 1, postal workers protested against his decision to stop processing first-class mail at the USPS facility in College Point Friday afternoon before it goes into effect.
Starting in April, USPS is expected to begin processing first-class mail in Brooklyn instead of at the Queens Processing and Distribution Center in
center on 140-04 20th Ave. The consolidation would affect about 600 of the center’s roughly 1,000 employees who are responsible for processing first-class mail as well as mail handlers.
“The mail’s not going anywhere, so two to three days will probably take three to four days, if you’re lucky,” said Robert J. Yaccarino, president of the Flushing Local 2286 chapter of the American Postal Workers Union. Six hundred workers will be excessed out of this facility, and there’s no guarantee that they’re going to get a job in the area.”
The postal workers union, whose 905 union members represent a large percentage of the affected employees, organized the protest in conjunction with the Mail Handlers Union, the Rural Letter Carriers Association and the National Association of Letter Carriers.
The workers chose to protest Friday given that the last USPS board of governors meeting of the year was scheduled to take place that day. They hope to reverse the decision before the new postmaster general, Chief Operating Officer Megan Brennan, takes over.
Chanting “U.S. mail is not for sale!,” the workers marched back and forth in front of the center as part of a nationwide protest in 150 locations throughout the United States against a change in the standard for overnight delivery of first-class mail. The demonstrations also took place at the Canarsie Post Office in Brooklyn and the James A. Farley GPO in Manhattan.
Last year, Donahoe changed the delivery standard to one to two days. Starting Jan. 5, he will change the standard to two to three days —- a decision Donahoe made last year.
The change is expected to cause a delay in the delivery of mail such as medicine, online purchases, local newspapers, religious organizations’ newsletters, bill payments, letters and invitations. A total of 82 mail processing and distribution centers, including the College Point facility, are also scheduled to close, Yaccarino said.
“I felt great. I thought it was a great turnout. A lot of people agree with us,” said Patricia Vasquez, an APWU representative. “A lot of the cars that were stopped and were given fliers were agreeing with our views: that if you’re going to pay first-class postage, you should have first-class service.”
This year, USPS, which is not taxpayer-funded, earned an operating profit of more than $1 billion, according to an APWU press release. Due to the rise of e-commerce, package delivery has experienced a boom, despite the fact that first-class mail revenue has gone down.
In 2006, Congress called on USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, costing the system $5.6 billion a year. Since then 51 senators and 160 House members have asked the Postal Service to stop closing mail processing centers and reducing service so they could have more time to produce legislation that would enhance the Postal Service’s operations.
“We are a service and a business and they’re trying to cut service by closing down plants, closing down good middle-class jobs,” said Ronald Oree, assistant secretary treasurer for the Local Branch 294 chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “We’re trying to preserve that because that’s the backbone of America, to have decent wages, decent benefits.”
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said that his office is rallying fellow politicians, including U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), to come on board.
“This is an area that’s the most outstanding commercial and residential area for delivery. The demand here is huge for this service,” Vallone said. “Not only is it a country issue, it’s a local issue because these are our folks that live here, this is our processing center and this directly impacts our neighborhoods.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.