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Union leader unhappy with local elected officials regarding USPS cuts

12.29.11

NOVEMBER 2011 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Union leader unhappy with local elected officials regarding USPS cuts

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, October 25th- According to Kevin Gallagher, President of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 101 in Scranton, it is likely the decision by the United States Postal Service (USPS) on whether the Scranton based mail processing operations will be moved to Lehigh Valley will be announced on December 9th.

The mail processing facility, just off the Davis Street exit of Interstate 81 in South Scranton, is one of more than 250 across the nation under review by the USPS that could result in them being closed. If the processing facility is closed the local mail operations would be moved to the Lehigh Valley, meaning when a letter is mailed in Scranton for delivery in Wilkes-Barre it will first be sent to Bethlehem and back to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Two years ago the mail processing operations in Wilkes-Barre was eliminated and moved to Scranton. The facility was not closed and is still used by the USPS but all mail is transported to the Scranton facility for processing.

Branch 175 President John Kishel, which represents APWU members in and around Wilkes-Barre protested the closure of the Luzerne County facility. The USPS stated the closing of processing facilities are in response to the decline in first class mail. Over the past decade, first class mail volume has declined with the use of electronic communications.

Mr. Kishel and his union members circulated petitions, collecting thousands of signitures of the public requesting for the Wilkes-Barre mail processing center to stay open, but the USPS closed it anyway.

Mr. Gallagher believes the USPS wants to “down the road” close all processing facilities throughout Pennsylvania and combine all operations into their Philadelphia and Pittsburgh processing centers.

“Mail delivery will suffer. There is no way cuts like these won’t hurt customer service,” added Mr. Gallagher.

Local 101 and other union’s that represent USPS employees have begun a “public campaign” intended to inform residents of what the cutbacks would do to their postal service. The campaign includes getting co-signers for legislation in Washington, DC, which would allow the Postal Service to apply its excess retirement payments to meet its financial obligations.

The union’s have stated the reason for so much red-ink by the USPS is because of the way employees future retirement payments are collected.

Mr. Gallagher stated the biggest reason the postal service is in the “red” was because of legislation passed by Congress in 2006. The law placed a burden on the USPS that no other government agency or private company bears, paying a 75 year liability in pension costs in just 10 years. The USPS under the law must “pre-fund” healthcare benefits for future retirees and is costing the agency more than $5 billion a year, causing the current financial crisis.

“What will happen in bad whether?, asked Mr. Gallagher should the Scranton operations be moved to the Lehigh Valley.

Mr. Gallagher is disappointed with regional elected political officials, including local resident United States Senator Robert Casey Jr., for the lack of support regarding the possible closure of the processing center and local post offices.

“On December 9th, the USPS could decide to close as many as 16,000 post offices nationally. We have contacted local elected officials and have received little to no help,” stated Mr. Gallagher.