Postal cutbacks on track
Petaluma facility's closure would affect 228 workers
Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:55 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:55 a.m.
The United States Postal Service has taken its latest step in a proposed plan that would shut down more than half of its nearly 500 postal distribution and processing facilities, including a center in Petaluma that employs 228 workers and serves all of the the North Bay.
On Monday, just three months after announcing the plan, the Postal Service asked the Postal Regulatory Commission for an "advisory opinion" regarding its plan, which will soon be published in the Federal Register. If approved, closure of the 252 facilities could begin next April.
"It seems like they're just going to do whatever they want," said Valerie Schropp, local leader of the American Postal Workers Union.
The agency's plan is to achieve approximately $2.1 billion in annual savings by slowing first-class mail service by one day, said James Wigdel, a Postal Service regional spokesman. First-class mail would take from 2 to 3 days, and the agency's 1-day delivery would be no more.
"It's by no means a done deal," Wigdel said. "There's a lot that has to happen for the entire network to change nation-wide."
But as rural post offices close and hearings continue on other closures, there appears little that has slowed the changes coming to the postal network.
The landscape of the U.S. postal network, currently structured for overnight transit time, would see a consolidation of processing and distribution plants that could cost up to 35,000 workers their jobs across the country.
Mail that currently goes through the North Bay Processing and Distribution Center on North McDowell Boulevard and the North Bay Distribution Center on Southpoint Boulevard would be handled by an Oakland facility.
Wigdel said the plan is "still a study" and that the Postal Regulatory Commission should render its opinion within about 60 days.
The day before the Postal Service outlined its plan during a Nov. 16 public hearing in Petaluma, North Coast members of Congress Lynn Woolsey and Mike Thompson wrote a letter to the Postal Service district manager in San Francisco opposing the planned closure of the local facility.
In their letter, Woolsey and Thompson said the "loss of jobs would be a great hardship, especially in these difficult economic times." They also said the move could mean reassignment for the 228 workers, who under labor contract must be offered jobs at another location.
Thompson and Woolsey were not available for comment Monday.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who opposes the Postal Service's plan, said the agency should be strengthened not weakened. He said he supported a proposal by Thompson to allow the service to ship wine.
"If you give the Postal Service half a chance it can compete and more than pay for itself," he said.
Schropp said that rather than closing processing and distribution centers, Congress should move to repeal a 2006 postal reform law that requires the agency to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. That alone would save more than $5 billion, she said.
"That's why we're billions of dollars in the hole each year," Schropp said.
But Wigdel said the agency lost $5.1 billion in fiscal year 2011 without having to pay the retiree health benefits payment of $5.5 billion. The agency, he added, was given a reprieve for the payment until Dec. 18.
"If we did make that payment in (fiscal year 2011), we would have lost about $10.6 billion," Wigdel said in an email.
He said the continual drop in first-class mail and the troubled economy are causing current losses. What's more, the current postal network is "oversized" for the amount of mail handled.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
You'll find a number of new technology features available from this site. With personalized news sent straight to your mobile device.
post your stuff
Petaluma360.com is here for you to post your comments, photos, news and events with the community. Post it now!
Have something to say? Join the conversation!
Upload your photos of community events, holidays, pets, cute kids, breaking news and more, and vote for your favorites!
Submit your area events to encourage others in your community to attend.