Terry Grant, state president for the American Postal Workers Union, says Congress got the postal service into its financial mess and should fix those problems.
A public meeting Thursday night to explain -- and take comments about -- the proposed closing of the U.S. Postal Service's Toledo mail-processing center resembled a rally at times.
More than 500 people assembled in the Stranahan Great Hall for the two-hour session, some wearing union T-shirts; some holding placards that read, "Save America's Postal Service."
Applause greeted speaker after speaker who decried the plan to shutter the Toledo facility and shift mail processing to the Michigan Metroplex in the Detroit area or to Columbus.
The crowd rose as U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) took the microphone. She held the floor for more than 15 minutes as she expressed her support for the facility and urged the audience to take action.
"This is a fight. This is a really big fight," she said.
Miss Kaptur said members of the Ohio congressional delegation are asking for an independent review of the criteria that postal management used to come to its decision to close Toledo's processing center on South St. Clair Street near downtown.
Jerry Brust, a Toledo postal worker, focuses his attention on a speaker during the session at the Stranahan Great Hall in South Toledo. The meeting Thursday night on closings of Toledo postal facilities drew more than 500 attendees.
Todd Hawkins, U.S. Postal Service district manager for northern Ohio, began with a 35-minute presentation, which included a video and slides with charts and graphs showing precipitous declines in first-class mail volume -- from 98 billion pieces of mail a year in 2006 to 78 billion in 2010 to a projected 39 billion in 2020.
He attributed the decline, in part, to the use of email and electronic payment of bills.
"Our mail-processing network is much larger than we can afford," Mr. Hawkins said. "The sobering reality is that first-class-mail volumes will not return."
Processing capacity by 2013 will be at 1970 levels, one slide showed.
Consolidation was studied and proposed to address the excess capacity -- and processing functions have already been consolidated.
The postal service has 487 processing centers, compared with 673 in 2006. It proposes to have fewer than 200 by 2013.
Reducing the number of centers "is at the core of returning the postal service to profitability," Mr. Hawkins said.
Job reductions have occurred through attrition, but the Postal Service is asking Congress for the authority to lay off workers if it needs to, he said.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) says, 'This is a fight. This is a really big fight.' She said the Ohio congressional delegation is seeking a review of criteria for the closings.
The postal service announced on Dec. 5 that it was pursuing plans to close the Toledo mail-processing center near downtown and 251 other such plants nationwide to cut costs by $3 billion a year. Less than 10 days later, it agreed to delay the closings.
After the closures, the postal service standard for the time for delivering first-class mail would be revised to a span of two or three days from a span of one to three days.
The Toledo center, which has about 400 employees, absorbed the functions of the Lima processing plant last summer.
The cuts are part of $3 billion in reductions aimed at helping the agency avert bankruptcy next year.
The plan technically must await an advisory opinion from the independent Postal Regulatory Commission, slated for next March.
Postal authorities said they had not made final decisions or issued notices of closures.
In addition, 3,700 post offices, including five in Toledo and several in rural northwest Ohio, are under review for shutdown.
Postal officials did not discuss that review during the Thursday meeting. Those closings also have been delayed.
At the public meeting, union leaders and elected officials lined up to speak. The latter group included Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, several members of city council and the Toledo Board of Education, and representatives of the Lucas County commissioners and of U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), and Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio).
Mr. Bell touted the area's roadways and airport and asked whether the city could work with the postal service to keep the facility open.
Todd Hawkins, postal service district manager for northern Ohio, outlines the reasons for the agency's decision to close facilities across the United States.
"I think we're more centrally located than anything you're going to do in Detroit," he said. "I don't want to waste our time, but I really want to get you something that will actually work and I think will be very beneficial for our region."
Mr. Hawkins said Mr. Bell's comments will be taken into consideration, adding that other proposed consolidations are being re-evaluated.
"It's always a possibility," he said.
Councilman George Sarantou and several other speakers noted that the postal service is hobbled by a congressionally mandated requirement to fund retiree health benefits 75 years in the future.
Terry Grant, state president for the American Postal Workers Union, said, "Congress created this mess, and Congress can straighten this mess out."
Written comments, postmarked by Jan. 13, may be mailed to "Manager, Consumer & Industry Contact" at the U.S. Postal Service Northern Ohio District, 2400 Orange Ave., Room 25, Cleveland, Ohio, 44101-9631.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.
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