Image: Flickr user DaVonte Johnson
Earlier this week, post offices around the country suddenly announced they were going to reduce their hours or close entirely, spurring confusion and perhaps violating federal law. But this was all just a big misunderstanding, according to the United States Postal Service government liaison in a letter sent to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin on Friday.The USPS letter is responding to Manchin, who asked the USPS for details regarding the rumored closures and hours reductions on Tuesday and specifically about the 12 offices in West Virginia that posted signs saying they would be closing. In a response letter, government liaison manager Sheila Meyers told Manchin that the 12 Post Offices that put up signs saying they would be closing had merely been “identified for feasibility studies for potential closure,” and that the people working in those offices were mistakenly instructed to put up signs saying they were closing. Likewise, the post offices slated for drastic hours reductions have been told to take down their signs and operate as normal for the time being.
“Please know that this was a misunderstanding,” Meyers added, “and we sincerely apologize for any frustration or confusion this may have caused you and your constituents.”
Motherboard has also learned that the post offices in southern New Jersey slated for drastic hours reductions will continue to operate with normal hours for the time being, according to a local union official. They have also removed the signs from their windows.“I do not know how long lasting this will be but it is a step in the right direction,” Frank Bollinger of the local American Postal Workers Union chapter in southern New Jersey said about the temporary removal of the hour reduction signs. But he thinks the reasoning put forth in the letter to Manchin is “an attempt at damage control at the highest level and blame the underlings.”Meyers’ letter is also unclear about the future of post offices scheduled to slash their hours. According to the letter, the USPS will conduct a review of why the hour changes were announced mere weeks beforehand, as opposed to at least 30 days prior per USPS policy. But the letter doesn’t say anything about keeping existing hours.After explaining the snafu, Meyers then expounded on the USPS’s “financially unsustainable position, stemming from substantial declines in mail volume, and a broken business model,” echoing the language the USPS has been sending to reporters in recent weeks. In the letter, Meyers does not mention the “broken business model” largely stems from a unique government mandate passed by Congress under the George W. Bush administration that requires the USPS to pre-fund health benefits for employees decades into the future that financially kneecapped the agency. The law also bans the USPS from offering any new or different services customers might be willing to pay for. The letter also foreshadows that the business plan the USPS is developing and will present to the Board of Governors next week will “certainly include new and creative ways for us to fulfill our mission.”
Do you work for the post office? Have you been instructed to do your job differently in recent weeks? We’d love to hear from you. Contact Aaron Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The letter also does not address the slowing of mail that has occurred in recent weeks after the new postmaster general Louis DeJoy dramatically altered the way the post office functions in order to limit overtime despite short staffs and to prioritize certain pieces of mail over others.“While I am relieved to hear that these locations will not be closing at the end of August, I have more questions now than before I got this response,” Manchin said in a statement. “Where are these post office locations that might be shut down or have their hours reduced? Why were these locations selected? Why wasn’t any of this information included in the letter as I requested? The people of West Virginia deserve answers, and I will continue to closely monitor this issue to ensure our post offices stay open to provide West Virginians with this vital service.”Read the USPS letter to Senator Manchin here: