The American Postal Workers Union has returned to national television with three new 30-second commercials. But unlike a softer-focus ad campaign that ran last summer, these spots have a definite target: the U.S. Postal Service’s downsizing agenda and, in particular, its plans to close or consolidate more than 220 mail processing plants.
If a Maine plant closes, “we would have to consider layoffs” because of increased mailing times, says the president of a Bangor company that produces billing statements, appointment reminders and other documents, in one ad. The other commercials suggest that the processing plant closures could slow delivery of mail-order prescription drugs and warn that the Postal Service wants to lop 100,000 jobs from its payroll overall.
“They’re going to be putting people out of work everywhere,” says Walt Gale, a retired USPS manager from Colorado. “The American people depend on the Postal Service.”
The ads, which began airing last week on NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, are set to run through May. APWU spokeswoman Sally Davidow declined to give a dollar figure for the total buy, but in an email described it as “a significant amount.”
The timing is no accident. Late last month, the Postal Service released the list of processing plants targeted for demise by next year; meanwhile, the Senate could soon take up legislation that would authorize the mail carrier to offer buyouts or early retirement incentives to up to 100,000 employees and relax requirements for funding retiree health care in advance. But while the legislation would make the Postal Service jump through a few more hoops before shutting post offices and mail plants, it wouldn’t bar such closures outright.
Union-backed proposals, however, by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and 26 Democratic senators would effectively prohibit large-scale plant closings for at least four years and also make it much harder to shutter rural post offices. The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has not said where he stands on those proposed amendments, but postal observers see the tug-of-war as one reason that the bill–which was cleared for Senate floor action almost two months ago–has not yet been brought up for debate.
One final footnote: The bill’s co-sponsors include Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from–yes–Maine.