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Local postal workers to rally against bill to cut services

September 23, 2011

Local postal workers, feeling under fire from all sides as Congress and the nation debate the future of mail service, will hold a rally Tuesday at Colorado Springs City Hall.

Postal workers’ unions across the country are holding rallies, billed as a “Day of Action to Save America’s Postal Service,” to oppose legislation they see as threatening and to remind people that no tax money goes to the U.S. Postal Service.

“The main reason we’re having the rally is to educate the public about the truth of what’s going on with the post office,” said Chuck Bader, postal worker and vice president of the Colorado AFL-CIO.

While competition from the Internet has hurt mail volume, Bader said the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 is causing the Postal Service’s woes.

He said the law puts an “unfair mandate” on the agency, requiring it to pay billions toward 75 years of future retirees’ benefits, all within a decade, something no federal agency is required to do. Rally attendees will urge Congress and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, to support House Resolution 1351, which would provide relief from this pre-funding mandate.

The unions will also urge Lamborn to oppose House Resolution 2309, the Postal Reform Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., which would eliminate Saturday mail delivery, rewrite collective bargaining agreements, set up a commission for closing post offices, and allow advertising to be sold on mail trucks.

Lamborn’s office did not return a message for comment Friday.

The first bill is stalled in a committee. The latter is headed toward a vote in the House of Representatives.

Bader said its passage would result in up to 225 jobs lost locally and the closing of three post offices in Colorado Springs. And he worries it is a step toward privatizing the mail.

“If we as the Postal Service do not deliver mail on Saturday, people who have to have medicine, paychecks or things like that are going to have to get the services provided by a private company,” he said. Bader expects about 300 people at the rally, including postal workers who work the night shift and local Democrats and their allied organizations, such as the Sierra Club and the NAACP.

The rally comes at a time when the Postal Service is increasingly criticized by conservatives for generous pay — an average of $52,747 a year, according to the American Postal Workers Union — despite years of financial struggles by the service. With such a large number of employees belonging to unions, the discussion on the agency’s future has also become a debate over organized labor.

“In this economy, you have a lot of people who aren’t making much money. There’s a lot of talk radio that gets them jealous and their opinion is, ‘We need to pull down the wages of people who are paid well,’” said Bader.

“It’s not just about postal workers. It’s about all middle-class Americans. What’s going on is class warfare against the middle class,” he said.

Independent of the legislation, the Postal Service is eyeing cuts.

The central mail processing center at Fountain and Academy boulevards in Colorado Springs could close, delaying mail service within Colorado Springs by a day.

Al DeSarro, spokesman for the agency in Denver, said as many employees as possible would be reassigned to other positions. The agency also supports cutting Saturday mail delivery.

“We’ve reduced our national workforce in four years by 110,000 positions without doing layoffs while still keeping our postage rates among the lowest in the world,” DeSarro said.
The Postal Service employs about 1,300 people in Colorado Springs.

Tuesday’s rally is being organized by the union. The Postal Service had no information Friday regarding Bader’s assertion that Issa’s bill would lead to three post office closings here.

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