The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

October 2, 2010

Consolidation plan sparks protest

Union official: Charleston can’t handle current mail volume

BECKLEY — American Postal Workers union members and customers set up an informational picket line Friday at the Beckley Post Office, protesting a U.S. Postal Service study that proposes consolidating and moving the Beckley processing center to Charleston.

According to Stan Morgan, president of the union’s Beckley Area local, the consolidation means all Beckley mail would have to travel to Charleston for processing. That, he says, would result in delayed service, loss of jobs and the loss of the Beckley postmark.

“The feasibility study the post office did was to see if this would make sense,” he said. “But we don’t see how it does. Charleston can’t handle the amount of mail they have to process now, and now they want to add Beckley and Huntington mail to the load.”

Although the postal service is projecting a one-time savings of over $500,000, the consequences Beckley will face will be of much greater cost, according to Morgan.

If the proposal is adopted, Morgan says, it means major businesses will no longer consider Beckley a good place to locate, customers will notice delays in delivery and the area economy will lose a sizable chunk of money  over a period of time due to postal workers leaving the area.

He says local businesses, universities and nonprofit organizations will lose their bulk mailing discounts and next-day mail will be a thing of the past.

“They want to take all of our mail, drive it to Charleston to be processed and then drive it back to Beckley for delivery,” he said. “There is clearly no way Charleston can reliably provide next-day delivery given the distance between the two cities, the wrecks on the roadway and the adverse weather conditions that affect the West Virginia Turnpike.”

As of now, 15 or more jobs and all processing equipment are included in the proposed move to Charleston, he said.

John Obugene, a mail processing clerk for 39 years, says it’s a sad situation.

“They wanted to do this around 2007, but Sen. Byrd was instrumental in stopping that,” he said. “Unfortunately, he’s not here to help us now. It’s a sad situation that they built this $9 million building around 2000 and now they want to take the mail from us.”

Obugene says workers need community support to stop the consolidation.

“A great public outcry could stop this proposal,” he said. “But we have to do something now.”

Customer Crystal Bishop echoed the workers’ concerns. “It’s not worth the savings. We are all in a recession and the Postal Service needs to be patient like the rest of us and think of the long-term consequences of their decision instead of just looking to save a few bucks. This will break up families and our community, and we just can’t let that happen.”

Jerry Waldron, a mail processing clerk for 16 years who originally came from Charleston and now calls Beckley home, faces the possibility of returning to the capital city. And he agrees with Bishop.

“The post office is financially in the red and they are trying to find ways to cut costs,” he said. “The post office is supposed to provide service to everyone, but I believe management has taken the mindset of the private sector and are looking at it from a business standpoint instead of one of service.”

Cathy Yarosky, USPS communications specialist, stresses no decision has been made.

“We are facing extreme financial challenges,” she said. “Our goal is to remain viable for the American public well into the future, and in order to do that, we have to look at ways to cut costs. We are looking  at the entire network and determining how we can consolidate to increase productivity, save money and serve customers.

“This is only a feasibility study,” she said. “We cannot move forward until we hear all comments. We are not immune to the recession and we want to be around for many more generations, and I believe the public wants that, too.

“If we determine this is not feasible, then it will be stopped, but we won’t reach that decision until we have heard from everyone who wants to comment about the issue and our studies are complete.”

The USPS held a public hearing last week in Beckley where concerned citizens voiced their opinions. Citizens can still address comments to the USPS by letter that must be postmarked by Oct. 6, Yarosky said.

Daniels resident Robert Godbey stood in the parking lot Friday in support of  the postal workers.

“I plan on writing in to make sure my voice is heard. We need to do whatever we can to make this right. If that means standing in this parking lot, or going to Charleston and standing in their parking lot to raise attention, then so be it. We can’t let them take this away from us.”

Those interested in commenting about the consolidation should write to Consumer Affairs, USPS Appalachian District, P.O. Box 59631, Charleston, WV 25350-9632.

— E-mail: kvanpelt@register-herald.com

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