The “Postal Road Warrior” has parked his trusty steed — ‘Silver Bullet’ is a 13 year old station wagon — after a month criss-crossing Oregon throughout August, fighting to save post offices and mail processing facilities. “The Postmaster General is driving the postal service into a death spiral and he must be stopped,” said Jamie Partridge, a retired mail carrier from Portland. “Fortunately, on the local level, communities can fight back.” Partridge held organizing meetings in all four Oregon cities which have mail processing facilities that are scheduled for closure – Eugene/ Springfield, Salem, Bend and Pendleton. Through the Rural Organizing Project, he was invited to address gatherings in Powell Butte, Idanha, Foster/ Cascadia, Alsea, Lorane, Walton, Deadwood, and Rickreall – all rural towns whose post offices are threatened.
The postal service is required to hold community hearings before closing or drastically reducing service at a postal facility. Postal regulations mandate that the impact on jobs, services and the local economy be considered before cutting or closing. Because of its universal service obligation, the U.S. Postal Service is not allowed to close a post office just because it is losing money. Unfortunately, according to Partridge, the USPS is dodging its own regulations by pushing rural postmasters to retire — then claiming they can’t fill the positions; by selling post offices and leasing them back – then claiming they’re unable to renegotiate the lease; and by surveying local residents with three options available: closure, drastic cuts, or privatization – not offering the option of maintaining an eight-hour post office. The USPS has announced it will begin immediately scheduling hearings in those 30 Oregon towns which have no regular postmaster.
On July 1st, Patrick R. Donahoe, the Postmaster General began massive cuts and closures to mail processing plants and rural post offices nationwide, while changing delivery standards to allow the delay of first class mail. A majority of Oregon’s mail processing plants are slated to go down. A third of its post offices (124) are scheduled to lose their full-time postmaster, which Partridge claims is a set-up for closure. Rural residents face the double whammy of delayed mail delivery due to plant closures and loss of their full-service post office.
“The cuts and closures are not necessary. Donahoe is way out of line. The postal service is not broke,” says Partridge. The service is required by a 2006 act of Congress to pre-fund retiree health benefits seventy-five years in advance, a burden not required of any other agency or company. Without the pre-fund mandate, the USPS would almost break even.
“It’s not the internet, not private competition, not labor costs, not the recession — Congress is killing the US Postal Service,” says Partridge. “Allow the USPS access to its own funds — not tax but postage funds — from the pension surplus, and the finances can be fixed.” The pension surplus involves some $60 to $85 Billion overpaid into federal retirement accounts, according to the Office of the Inspector General and the Postal Regulatory Commission. Communities and Postal Workers United, a national grassroots network, is calling on Donahoe to restore delivery standards and reverse cuts and closures while allowing Congress to fix the finances by repealing the prefunding mandate and refunding the pension surplus.
Partridge’s journey was sponsored by the Rural Organizing Project, Jobs with Justice, and Communities and Postal Workers United.