Chicago mail carriers protest proposed cuts of Saturday delivery

February 18, 2013

(WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)
Postal workers rally in Bronzeville.

More than 100 postal workers rallied in Chicago Monday to protest a proposed plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced the cuts earlier this month, and has since gone head-to-head with members of Congress over whether the U.S. Postal Service is authorized to cut six-day service without congressional approval.

Postal carriers have responded with protests across the country. In front of a post office in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood Monday, mailmen spilled out onto the street holding signs and calling on Postmaster Donahoe to step down.

“There’s a lot of other cost-cutting measures they can try that they haven’t even tried yet,” said Janet Rendant, who has been a mail carrier for 25 years. “At least give us a chance, give the public a chance.”

She and others accused the post office of cutting union jobs before seeking out other savings, and said they don’t believe cutting mail service will actually save the post office much money because it will also result in a loss of customers.

Mark Reynolds, who represents the postal service in Chicago, said they’ve already closed facilities and consolidated rural post offices to cut costs.

“Obviously these are very difficult decisions that we have to make,” said Reynolds. “But what we’re trying to do is to maintain customer service to the extent possible.”

The U.S. Postal Service ended its 2012 fiscal year nearly $16 billion in the hole, and they say cutting Saturday delivery will save them $1.9 billion annually. The National Association of Letter Carriers believes Congress can address the deficit by getting rid of a requirement that the postal service pre-fund its pension obligations.

A Congressional mandate that requires the post office to deliver mail six days a week expires March 27, but the cut to Saturday delivery would not go into effect until August. Delivery to PO boxes and package delivery would continue on Saturdays. Still, some congressmen think the postmaster general is outside of his purview, claiming any change to delivery days must be approved by Congress.

Mark Osier, a postal carrier for 38 years, attended the Chicago protest because he was concerned about younger postal workers’ jobs – and about his postal customers.

“People look forward to the mailman coming,” he said. “Especially older people. It’s their day’s event.”

The postal service paid for a survey in February that found that 80 percent of Americans favor cutting mail delivery to five days a week.

But Osier said six-day postal delivery is symbolic. He and others at the protest say they believe cutting Saturday service marks the beginning of the end for postal workers, and for a long-standing tradition of unionized postal delivery jobs.

“This is an institution, this is as American as apple pie,” Osier said. “We’ve gotta keep it going.”

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