When the postmaster general on Tuesday suspended the plan to shrink the U.S. Postal Service, "it was huge," says Chuck Bader, vice president of the Colorado AFL-CIO.
Earlier this month, USPS leaders announced plans to close 3,700 post offices and 250 mail processing centers, supposedly at a savings of $6.5 billion a year.
One of those processing centers, employing 350 people, is in Colorado Springs. Bader says it's roughly 10 percent of the city's total union-supported labor force. If the facility closes after the moratorium ends on May 15, Denver's processing center will handle an additional 1 million pieces daily.
Trucks that pick up mail throughout southern Colorado will head to Denver for sorting; trucks will then haul that mail back down for delivery. Overnight mail will be a thing of the past. Local employees would have to relocate or commute to Denver. But Denver only has room to take 100 employees, says area American Postal Workers Union president Ron Preston. Due to the union contract's no-layoff clause, other workers could stay home and collect 40-hour pay.
According to USPS spokesman Ron Perry, volume at the Springs processing center has decreased by 8 to 10 percent from last year. But Bader says, "It's not that we can't compete with the Internet." He points to a 2006 law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, that ordered the USPS to fund its future retiree health benefits 75 years into the future, and to pay it off in 10 years. "That cost us $5.5 billion per year, for people who aren't even born yet."
There is federal support for the USPS. Colorado's senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, pushed for the moratorium, and even U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn supports exploring alternatives to closures.
On Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., Bader says another rally will happen at the processing center on Fountain Boulevard, with speakers including state Rep. Pete Lee. That evening, the public can comment to postal managers starting at 6 at Mitchell High School, 1205 Potter Drive.