U.S. Postal Service delays decision

Union says processing mail through St. Louis would lead to 33 layoffs, slower delivery times

While delays within the U.S. Postal Service are not usually applauded, one made this month by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was celebrated in Springfield.

The Postal Service has chosen to pause until January moving some functions of Springfield's packaging and distribution center to St. Louis. This is part of a national endeavor to consolidate processing centers. Proponents of the move say it will save money, but critics contend it will delay mail delivery.

In a letter to Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters on May 9, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy confirmed that mail processing facility reviews and changes will halt until next year.

U.S. Postal Service delays decision
PHOTO COURTESY LAKEISHA PURCHASE
Ward. 5 Ald. Lakeisha Purchase, with microphone, is flanked by City Clerk Frank Lesko, left, Mayor Misty Buscher and members of the Springfield City Council. A March 26 public meeting to discuss the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed plan to redirect Springfield’s mail to St. Louis for processing drew a crowd of more than 200 people to the Hilton Garden Inn, including city officials.

The announcement came in the wake of congressional calls to stop the postal reorganization.

U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, is one of the more vocal critics of the proposal.

"This gives us more time to continue to beat the drum on why this is bad for our communities," Budzinski told Illinois Times. "I introduced bipartisan legislation in the House that says in communities like ours that have a below average on-time mail delivery rate – until we can bring that percentage up – we should not see further downsizing of our services.

"It's been clear that in places where downsizing has happened, in states like Virginia and Georgia, it has very negatively impacted on-time delivery rates. And we just simply can't afford that. So, the delay in this implementation of their decision gives us room to continue to advocate on Capitol Hill to stop this."

Johnny Bishop, Springfield branch president of the American Postal Workers Union, said the proposed move would be harmful to workers at the Springfield facility. 

"We were informed it would be 18 (career employees) impacted. They don't say layoffs because they can't lay us off by our contract. So, they like to tell people in the public that there's no layoffs. ... The key word is 'impacted.' What that means is you either find another job within the post office or they can move you within 50 miles. If it's negotiated, they could go even further.

"You could have just bought a house and have a mortgage. Now, you've got to sell your house. You've got to move your family, your school, your doctors for your kids, everything like that."

In addition to the 18 career employees, 15 entry-level employees in Springfield would be laid off, Bishop said.

"And that's how the number goes to 33," he said. "But (USPS leadership) just wants to keep the number low to try to satisfy the general public."

What relocating the processing center means is that when a Springfield resident mails a letter to someone else in the city, the epistle will first be taken to St. Louis for processing, he said.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza has expressed concern that moving the processing and distribution center from Springfield will delay the delivery of state checks.

"My office sends out about 11,000 checks a day to home health care workers, child care providers and other state providers and vendors," she said in a prepared statement. "Even a one-day delay could cause serious hardship for these providers and businesses." 

Assistant comptroller Kevin Schoeben told IT, "It doesn't seem logical sending the mail out of state only to bring it back to Illinois."

He added the comptroller's office is working with Budzinski and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, to stop the proposed change.

"The comptroller's office sends out three million checks a year, and those are going out from Springfield direct to northern, central and southern Illinois," Schoeben said. "We believe that the seat of government, where the comptroller and other state agencies submit their mail, should have a distribution center."

Scott Reeder, an Illinois Times staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].