Don’t look now, but a key piece of the U.S. Postal Service’s downsizing drive this year is at risk of getting smoked before it even gets started.
It’s the piece that involves closing or consolidating 48 mail processing plants in July and August. As part of that effort, the Postal Service is seeking a legally required advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission on a related proposal to revamp first-class mail delivery standards. The problem is that the commission doesn’t plan to issue that non-binding opinion until early September—after the downsizing is supposed to have been completed.
That doesn’t sit well with the American Postal Workers Union, which represents some processing plant employees. In a 29-page complaint filed last week, the union called on the PRC to bar the Postal Service from proceeding until the opinion comes out. The commission plans to rule on the APWU complaint by July 1, a spokeswoman said today, and its decision in that case will be binding.
Not surprisingly, Postal Service lawyers argue in a rebuttal today that the union doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. But they acknowledge that even a short-term delay to the plant closings “will have real consequences.” That’s because the Postal Service has already agreed to suspend any further closings from September through December to avoid disruption to mail balloting in this November’s elections or shipments during the lucrative holiday shopping season.
So, if the five-member commission effectively opts to bar any closings this summer, it will likely be game over for this year. While the Postal Service intends to resume the plant closings early next year, a new implementation date would require “a significant overhaul to . . . current operations plans, leading to even more expense to the Postal Service in terms of costs and resources,” the agency said in today’s filing.