Postal workers give out literature at Cape Girardeau picket

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Gary Dougherty, left, and Donna Stamp, members of American Postal Workers Union Local 4088, join with a dozen members for an informational picket outside the Cape Girardeau post office Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 in Cape Girardeau. They answered questions about several local postal facilities that are slated for closure. (Fred Lynch)

Postal workers at the Richard G. Wilson Processing and Distribution Facility in Cape Girardeau want customers to know closing the center will cause mail delays.

About a dozen members of the American Postal Workers Union's Cape Area Local 4088 held an informational picket Monday morning in front of the Cape Girardeau post office on Frederick Street during the busy lead-up to Christmas. They distributed literature packets titled "Keep the Mail Here" and talking to people about what this closure could mean to them.

"We want people to have a clear view of all the problems the Postal Service is facing. This is not the right answer to the problem," said Greg Davidson, president of Local 4088.

He said customers expressed their support for workers throughout the picket.

"They all think this is a really bad idea," he said.

Cape Girardeau's mail processing center, with about 100 employees, is one of 252 processing centers the U.S. Postal Service is studying for possible closure. The Postal Service hopes to save $3 billion by 2015 by closing those processing centers.

In response to a request made by U.S. senators, the service agreed to delay its decision on closing or consolidating any post offices or mail processing facilities until May 15.

Closing the Cape Girardeau center would save the post office more than $3.8 million annually, according to feasibility study information released by the Postal Service. By moving processing operations to St. Louis, the Postal Service will incur additional annual transportation costs of $851,808, according to its study. By consolidating mail processing operations in St. Louis, it would also eliminate 68 employee positions and three management positions in Cape Girardeau, the study says.

Union members have collective bargaining agreements with the Postal Service that include a no-layoff clause, so they must be offered the opportunity to relocate to another facility.

Richard Watkins, U.S. Postal Service spokesman in Kansas City, Mo., said he was made aware of the pickets and said it was within employees' First Amendment rights to do so.

With the deep decline in mail volume and current economic conditions, the Postal Service has an excess of employees and equipment in some mail processing operations, including Cape Girardeau, Watkins said.

A study was announced in September to determine the feasibility of consolidating redundant operations to see if any efficiencies and cost savings would be achieved. Initial study results show consolidating Cape Girardeau's operations with those in St. Louis would increase efficiency and improve productivity, Watkins said.

The Postal Service and union members differ on what effects customers would see as a result of the closure of Cape Girardeau's distribution center.

While first-class mail is supposed to take one to three days to reach its destination, if Southeast Missouri's mail is sent to St. Louis, it will take a minimum of three days to be delivered, according to postal workers.

Before the Postal Service can move forward with its plans, it must first request approval to change its delivery standards from the Postal Regulatory Commission. First-class delivery standards haven't changed since 1971. The Postal Regulatory Commission's opinion is expected in March.

The service is asking the commission to change its delivery standards, now one to three days, to two to three days.

From paychecks to prescription medicine, mail delays will cause problems from many people, said Billy Sturm of Scott City, who has worked at Cape Girardeau's processing center for 14 years.

"A lot of people don't know how much it will impact them," he said.

The Postal Service warns in its study that local collection box pickup times may change if the processing center is closed but says a local postmark will still be available for stamped first-class mail.

Bulk mail customers could lose the local discount they now get if they're mailing within the area if their mail has to be processed in St. Louis, Davidson said. But according to postal officials, commercial mailers who presort mail will continue to receive postage discounts. Mailers who ship to Cape Girardeau-area ZIP codes can expect to see changes if the processing center is closed.

The Postal Service will hold a public meeting to discuss its study and allow community members to ask questions and offer their opinions at 7 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Osage Centre.

Written comments may be sent to Manager, Customer and Industry Contact, Mid-America District, 300 W. Pershing Road, Suite 207, Kansas City, MO, 64108-9631. All comments must be postmarked by Jan. 13.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

475 Kell Farm Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

320 North Frederick Street, Cape Girardeau, Mo

Map of pertinent addresses

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