SOUTH BEND – An unclear number of workers could lose their jobs in May if South Bend’s mail processing facility closes. But the U.S. Postal Service says Congress has the power to keep that from happening.
The U.S. Postal Service released its decision Thursday, citing it as a result of studies conducted over the past five month. USPS can't afford to continue business as usual, with a 25 percent decline in First-Class Mail volume and no financial help from the government.
Workers have rallied and pleaded at protests and hearings last fall, but the Postal Service will close mail processing centers in South Bend, Gary, Kokomo, Terre Haute, Bloomington, Lafayette, Muncie and Columbus in May.
Rick Dainelli, local American Postal Workers Union president, heard the news Wednesday night when a fellow union member called him.
“Everything has led to this,” Dainelli told WSBT.
If South Bend’s processing center closes, all South Bend area mail has to go through Fort Wayne. That could delay service by a day or two.
“There will be delays,” Dainelli said. “What would normally be overnight or two day [service] will turn into four days. It could be worse. When you have Monday holidays such as Presidents Day that we just had, that's going to set it back even further.”
“I probably wouldn’t like that at all. I expect my bills and things to be on time and I expect to get my mail on time,” said USPS customer Jenny Schultz.
“It’s going to be an inconvenience,” added customer Michael Quigg.
Mail carriers aren’t affected, but Dainelli estimates up to 180 of the processing center’s 230 employees could lose their jobs. Another report says 60 workers would be affected. However, it’s not a done deal.
“We just welcome and anticipate action from Congress,” said USPS spokeswoman Mary Dando.
The USPS overpaid into its own pension system, causing a large deficit. The Postal Service says Congress could step in before May 15 and take that financial burden away.
But until then, workers like Rick Dainelli know their jobs could be gone by summer.
“Everybody’s been on pins and needles,” he said.
Congressman Joe Donnelly said in a statement Thursday he’s disappointed that the Postal Service intends to follow through with its proposal. He's co-sponsoring a bill that would correct those pension over-payments, but there hasn't been much movement on the bill since last fall.
WHY THE CHANGES?
Studies about changing processing center locations and shuttering others began five months ago.
"The decision to consolidate mail processing facilities recognizes the urgent need to reduce the size of the national mail processing network to eliminate costly underutilized infrastructure," Megan Brennan, chief operating officer is quoted in a news release.
A list of mail processing studies and their status is available at usps.com/ourfuturenetwork.
Specific information about individual studies, including public meeting summaries and summary briefs, is posted on the website, usps.com/areamailprocessing, as it becomes available.