USPS Plans to Slash Hours at Many Post Offices, Hoping to Save A Buck

"If I can’t make it to the post office,” one local union rep for postal workers said, “I’m not going to use the post office.”
July 29, 2020, 4:31pm
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Image: Pixabay

Post offices around the country are slashing their hours—including during the busiest times of day—with little notice as yet another abrupt cost-saving measure, according to interviews with union officials conducted by Motherboard and various local news reports. The USPS had also planned to close some offices entirely with just three weeks’ notice, likely in violation of federal law, but appears to be backtracking.

The sudden changes come as part of a slate of policies instituted by the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor with a history of anti-union practices at his private logistics firm New Breed Logistics, that are ostensibly about fiscal responsibility but have contributed to mail being delayed across the country and have postal workers concerned they’re no longer being allowed to do their jobs. Many postal employees also believe the changes will only make the post office’s financial situation worse.

“A lot of this has been dropped on us with little or no communication,” said Elizabeth Coonan, a steward for the American Postal Workers Union Local 3264 in the Clarksburg, West Virginia area. “The times that they’re slating [the offices] to close is when they do a lot of business.”

When asked about the hours reductions and closures, USPS spokesperson Kim Frum provided the same written statement the USPS has been providing to most national media inquiries over recent weeks regarding the USPS’s cost-cutting measures. The statement uses broad language about “developing a business plan to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide dependable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail and packages to all Americans as a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.” Frum then provided a link to DeJoy’s similarly vague “Statement on Operational Excellence.” Pressed for details on the closures, Frum said she could not provide any further information.

As a result, it’s difficult to get a complete picture of how many of the post office’s 31,322 retail locations nationwide are impacted by the new hours. Coonan told Motherboard that in her region of West Virginia 26 offices are being forced to reduce hours from the typical eight-hour weekday schedule to under four hours per day. Another 31 offices are being forced to close during lunch hours, typically among the busiest times of day at a post office. Frank Bollinger, the business agent for APWU Local 526 in southern New Jersey, told Motherboard that 10 offices in his region are dropping from nine open hours per weekday to four, while another 30 are slated to close during lunch hours.

Do you work for the post office? Are your post office’s hours being reduced? Have other changes made it harder for you to do your job? Contact Aaron Gordon at aaron.gordon@vice.com.

Included in those 10 offices is one in East Camden, a low income neighborhood with many unbanked residents who rely on the post office’s money order processing. Bollinger says that at the beginning of the month, that office typically fields “well above” $35,000 in money orders per day, which is now in jeopardy thanks to the reduced hours.

“If I can’t make it to the post office,” Bollinger said, “I’m not going to use the post office.”

In addition to West Virginia and New Jersey, post offices in Berkeley, California; Petersburg, Alaska, Youngstown, Ohio, and Knoxville, Tennessee have announced similar plans to reduce hours. All of the changes Motherboard has reviewed were announced only by signs hanging on the post office doors.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia sent a letter to DeJoy regarding the “imminent closure or significant reduction in hours and services” as post offices “in my state and across the nation.” Manchin’s letter noted that “this would likely be a violation of both federal law and United States Postal Service (USPS) rules that prescribe a specific closure process which requires, at minimum, 120 days’ notice,” a far cry from the three weeks under the current plan. By Tuesday evening, Coonan told Motherboard the post office had “walked back its position on closing the offices” and they are “currently reevaluating the situation.”

This is not the first time the USPS has moved to abruptly close post office locations without following the legally prescribed procedures for doing so. In 2011, the Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway protested in a letter to then-Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe that the USPS was closing offices nationwide without informing the PRC as they are required to do by law.

For her part, Coonan doesn’t think DeJoy—who has never worked for the USPS before becoming postmaster general in June—is putting the USPS on a path to success or that his cost-cutting measures will do anything positive. “Slashing and hacking has already been tried,” she said. “It’s not going to work.”