RG GUEST VIEWPOINT: If UO post office closes, everyone loses
(Please see related story in this issue of Inside Oregon.)
The following opinion piece by Ken Rosemarin, lead sales and service associate at the U.S. Postal Service’s Erb Memorial Union University Station, was published in the Dec. 16 Register-Guard.
By Ken Rosemarin
I love working with the public as a window clerk for the U.S. Postal Service. I get to spend each work day providing a needed service to appreciative customers while maximizing income for my employer. Management, craft employees and our customers all desire a healthy Postal Service. We all also agree that the Postal Service must reverse its huge losses if it is to survive.
In its choice of a strategy for reversing the losses, however, Postal Service management diverges from its craft workers, the public it serves and even its own long-term interests. The Postal Service narrowly defines savings in terms of reducing employee work hours and services to the public, cuts that can and do also result in loss of current and future income above and beyond the “savings” realized.
In pursuit of this strategy, the Postal Service announced that it would examine the possibility of closing post offices throughout the country that are not profitable and where another convenient post office is available.
Post offices targeted for consolidation include the one located in the Erb Memorial Union on the University of Oregon campus. On Aug. 5, 2009, questionnaires about the proposed closures were distributed to post office box holders and retail customers.
Does anybody believe that August was a fair time to gauge community interest in a post office on a university campus? Still, the Postal Service received only 17 favorable responses to the proposed closure, and 169 unfavorable responses.
In Salem, our local union president was a feisty retired ex-Marine. He organized public protests against the proposed closure of two stations in Salem. Both were taken off the hit list.
Here in Eugene, no organizations demonstrated for their post office. Yet the Postal Service announced that the lease for the University Station had been extended through April 2011. I thought that management had finally sobered up and would not close this station.
Then, on Oct. 21, the Postal Service issued a notice that it would close the University Station as of Dec. 31. Management arrogantly assumes that the station’s annual revenue of about $400,000 will automatically flow to other stations, yielding a 100 percent savings in employee pay and benefits and rent costs. Postal officials appear to have not even bothered to examine the unique qualities of the UO community.
There is virtually no parking available at the UO campus. The vast majority of the 30,000 people on the UO campus on weekdays do not drive to school or work. They cannot get into their cars and drive to the nearest post office on their lunch break to take care of their mailing needs.
The Postal Service can tell these customers to “suck it up,” but in the end, it’s the Postal Service that will be sucking up the lost profitable domestic mail business — and especially international express and priority mail business. The bottom line is that the Postal Service has no clue about whether it will save, or even lose, money from the closure of the University Station.
Campus groups have now become active, and more than 2,000 people have signed petitions to save their post office. An appeal has been filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission.
I spoke with the Regulatory Commission employee assigned to this case. She has serious concerns about the validity of customer feedback for a university post office that was gathered in August. Did I mention that the Postal Service doesn’t recognize that the Regulatory Commission can interfere with its “right” to close post offices? Unfortunately, the Regulatory Commission’s legal timetable to investigate this closure will extend beyond the Dec. 31 intended closing date.
Who actually can influence the Postal Service to stop this misguided action? Congress and public opinion. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio has chosen to let this process occur without taking an active role. He was part of a congressional committee that ordered the Postal Service to improve its financial picture. Perhaps he feels that it would be dishonorable and hypocritical of him to interfere with the Postal Service’s attempt to save money.
The Postal Service, however, has failed to demonstrate that this closure will save money. Our union and the university community ask the public to support the University Station by contacting DeFazio.
The craft workers of the Postal Service have as much interest as management in keeping the Postal Service solvent. We believe that if the Postal Service wishes to achieve savings, it can no longer afford to maintain unnecessary discounts for presorted letters, online mailing and commercial rates.
Closing of the thriving University Station is not a reasonable option from either a customer-service or a money-saving viewpoint.
Ken Rosemarin, a 26-year U.S. Postal Service employee, is lead sales and service associate at the Erb Memorial Union University Station. He wrote this essay on behalf of the Eugene local of the American Postal Workers Union.