WBEZ | USPS http://www.wbez.org/tags/usps Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago letter carriers carry on http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-letter-carriers-carry-109469 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/letter carrier.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Victor Austin works fast. He&rsquo;s got his mail presorted into bundles, and he pushes his mail cart forcefully through the snow-packed sidewalks. Despite being weighed down by layers of clothing, Austin moves quickly from gate to gate on a side street in Chicago&rsquo;s Lakeview neighborhood on the North Side. A good thing too, since this is the city&rsquo;s coldest Jan. 6 on record.</p><p>&ldquo;I got a sweater on, and I&rsquo;ve got a little thing covering my chest, and this coat right here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;My long johns, my pants, and then these things right here,&rdquo; he added, pointing to standard, blue windbreaker pants issued by the U.S. Postal Service.</p><p>While many employers urged their employees to work from home, and city officials urged Chicagoans to stay indoors to avoid dangerously low temperatures, that wasn&rsquo;t an option for Austin and his fellow letter carriers with the USPS. Their jobs require them to work outside &ndash; even in the most adverse weather conditions.</p><p>On Monday, the USPS tried to make things easier for its employees, knowing wind chill temperatures were 35 degrees below zero. &ldquo;They let us know beforehand (to) take as little mail as possible, like the first and second class and the priority packages,&rdquo; Austin said. Still, he anticipated that his route would take the usual 4.5 hours.</p><p>Austin said getting through tough weather is largely a mental battle. Instead of thinking about the cold, he&rsquo;ll try to focus on warm places, like Florida. If he starts to get too cold, he said he might wait in the heated entryway of an apartment building, or in a restaurant, for a few minutes until he warms up a bit. Most important, he says, is to keep moving.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t really eat lunch &ndash; like, days like today I don&rsquo;t really eat no lunch until I&rsquo;m finished because as long as I keep moving, then my body (will) be warm,&rdquo; Austin said, not pausing as he continued moving between homes. &ldquo;Once I stop, then you have to start it back up again, then I&rsquo;m gonna be in trouble.&rdquo;</p><p>His advice to newbie letter carriers? &ldquo;Stay warm, dress in layers,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If you get cold, go get warmed up, don&rsquo;t try to be no hero out here. Basically just be safe, use common sense.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 17:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-letter-carriers-carry-109469 Chicago mail carriers protest proposed cuts of Saturday delivery http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mail-carriers-protest-proposed-cuts-saturday-delivery-105595 <p><p>More than 100 postal workers rallied in Chicago Monday to protest a proposed plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/postal-service-cut-saturday-mail-trim-costs-105372" target="_blank">announced the cuts earlier this month</a>, 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.</p><p>Postal carriers have responded with protests across the country. In front of a post office in Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood Monday, mailmen spilled out onto the street holding signs and calling on Postmaster Donahoe to step down.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79829709" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of other cost-cutting measures they can try that they haven&rsquo;t even tried yet,&rdquo; said Janet Rendant, who has been a mail carrier for 25 years. &ldquo;At least give us a chance, give the public a chance.&rdquo;</p><p>She and others accused the post office of cutting union jobs before seeking out other savings, and said they don&rsquo;t believe cutting mail service will actually save the post office much money because it will also result in a loss of customers.</p><p>Mark Reynolds, who represents the postal service in Chicago, said they&rsquo;ve already <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/postal-service-close-naperville-processing-center-96657" target="_blank">closed facilities</a> and consolidated rural post offices to cut costs.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously these are very difficult decisions that we have to make,&rdquo; said Reynolds. &ldquo;But what we&rsquo;re trying to do is to maintain customer service to the extent possible.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79853510" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>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 <a href="http://deliveringforamerica.com/" target="_blank">National Association of Letter Carriers</a> believes Congress can address the deficit by getting rid of a requirement that the postal service pre-fund its pension obligations.</p><p>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 <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/us/saturday-mail-delivery-cut-is-subject-of-senate-hearing.html" target="_blank">congressmen think the postmaster general is outside of his purview</a>, claiming any change to delivery days must be approved by Congress.</p><p>Mark Osier, a postal carrier for 38 years, attended the Chicago protest because he was concerned about younger postal workers&rsquo; jobs &ndash; and about his postal customers.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7033_002-scr%20%281%29.JPG" style="float: right; height: 310px; width: 310px;" title="Mark Osier has been a postal carrier for 38 years. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>&ldquo;People look forward to the mailman coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Especially older people. It&rsquo;s their day&rsquo;s event.&rdquo;</p><p>The postal service paid for <a href="http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2013/pr13_024.htm" target="_blank">a survey</a> in February that found that 80 percent of Americans favor cutting mail delivery to five days a week.</p><p>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.</p><p>&ldquo;This is an institution, this is as American as apple pie,&rdquo; Osier said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gotta keep it going.&rdquo;</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter.</a></p></p> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 16:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mail-carriers-protest-proposed-cuts-saturday-delivery-105595 Chicagoans read Santa letters, help grant wishes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-read-santa-letters-help-grant-wishes-104309 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/magma666.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of Chicagoans are getting in the holiday spirit by reading letters that local children send to Santa &mdash; then making their wishes come true.</p><p>The U.S. Post Office in Chicago has received more than 12,000 letters at its Operation Santa station and more arrive every day.</p><p>Officials are receiving packages for delivery to some of the letter writers, and are urging Chicagoans to visit the station this week if they want to participate.</p><p>The Operation Santa station is open until Dec. 22 at the Main Post Office downtown. Letters are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.</p><p>Operation Santa has been operating since 1912, when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock allowed postal employees and citizens to respond to letters.</p></p> Tue, 11 Dec 2012 08:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagoans-read-santa-letters-help-grant-wishes-104309 Elderly expect brunt of postal closures http://www.wbez.org/story/elderly-expect-brunt-postal-closures-94620 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-05/photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Postal Service announced that during the busy holidays it will take a break from a controversial plan to close post offices, but the issue is still stewing in some neighborhoods - especially among elderly residents.</p><p>Eleven post offices in Chicago are on the list of potential closures, nearly all on the city’s South and West Sides. Those are the communities where many say that older residents will bear the brunt of the hardship of having to travel farther to use a full-service postal facility.</p><p>Residents near those locations received letters over the summer notifying them of the proposal to close their local post office, and inviting comments. Dorothy Sumpter, a 73-year-old resident of the North Lawndale neighborhood, said as soon as she received the letter, she put the date of a public town hall meeting on the proposal on her calendar.</p><p>“People like me need the post office,” said Sumpter, “so that’s why I wanted to be in on it. I’m a citizen and I use every right that I possibly can.”</p><p>Sumpter uses the Otis Grant Collins Post Office, where revenue dropped $200,000 between fiscal years 2007 and 2010. Throughout the nation, post offices are seeing a decline in revenues and foot traffic, attributed to the shift to online bill-paying and correspondence. But Sumpter says she and many other elderly people like her aren’t part of the internet-using trend.</p><p>“I don’t feel comfortable using it,” she said. “I’m old-fashioned.”</p><p>Sumpter goes to the post office every week because she has a P.O. Box there, but also to buy stamps and mail her bills. She said she feels comfortable going there because it’s easy to access on foot and by bus, and she knows all the workers by name. If the Otis Grant Collins branch closes, the next closest post office would be in Cicero. “Which I don’t even know where the post office is in Cicero,” Sumpter laughed. “And I don’t really want to have to go over there just to go to a post office, because many times I can walk to the post office in less than 15 minutes.”</p><p>Sumpter said she fears that the elderly will become more isolated if they lose their neighborhood post offices, because many are less mobile to begin with, and sometimes walking to the post office is a crucial part of their social interaction and weekly exercise regime. Karen Schenck, Chicago District Manager/Postmaster, said many share Sumpter’s view.</p><p>“That was the largest concern. If you had to ask me what was the biggest concern of all the town hall meetings,” said Schenck, “was people were concerned about the elderly in their own community.”</p><p>The list of proposed closures came from USPS headquarters in Washington, D.C., said Schenck.</p><p>“Nobody took into consideration any other fact except for how much revenue,” she explained, “and if there was another post office within two miles close to it that could service the community.”</p><p>Schenck says the district office is now looking at population data to see how many elderly live near the post offices that may close. She says that’ll help them make a final decision. Schenck says of the 11 offices on the shortlist, some will be spared.</p><p>But concern for the elderly may be loudest in Chicago’s Chinatown. Of the zip codes where offices may close, Chinatown’s is the one with the greatest portion of residents over age 65, with several senior housing high rises in the immediate vicinity of the post office. Chinatown’s elderly also say they have an unique need - a place where people are bilingual.</p><p>“The employees, they don’t speak Chinese,” said 60-year old Harry Wong.</p><p>Wong is like many elderly Chinese immigrants in Chicago who speak limited English. He uses the Chinatown post office because if there’s a language barrier, he can turn to other customers in the store for help translating. That’s the reason that many elderly Chinese who live in other places will often bypass a closer post office to go to Chinatown’s.</p><p>Chinatown organizers have gathered hundreds of handwritten letters from residents to protest the potential closure of their post office. USPS is still accepting those comments, and says no post offices will close before March.</p></p> Tue, 06 Dec 2011 23:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/elderly-expect-brunt-postal-closures-94620