SOUTH BEND -- There are major ramifications if the U.S. Postal Service goes through with its announced plan to close the U.S. Post Office mail processing center in downtown South Bend.
That’s what about 40 postal workers wanted the public to know as they stood in the cold carrying signs that read “Save America’s Postal Service” and “Congress is the problem” outside the sorting center in the rear of the downtown post office site Wednesday afternoon.
“In essence what’s taking place here is that they’re making South Bend a second-class city,” said Rick Dainelli, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Local 210, speaking of the decision-makers in the USPS.
South Bend has already been called by some a dying city, Dainelli said, referring to an online Newsweek article earlier this year. “And if the post office goes, that’s putting the nail in the coffin,” he said.
It will hurt Notre Dame, Indiana University South Bend, Bethel College, St. Mary’s College, Ivy Tech Community College and Holy Cross College, he said. It will hurt businesses and it will also hurt the public in general, he said.
“You’re not going to get your mail overnight,” Dainelli said. “If the mail is sorted out in Fort Wayne ... it’s going to take four to five days compared to what we’re used to getting it.”
As many as 200 jobs could be lost workers believe, as well. And even if some are able to get jobs, it could require them to move.
Dainelli and others want the public to come to Thursday night’s public hearing at 7 p.m. at Century Center and express their thoughts and possibly get the U.S. Postal Service to change its mind.
It already claims a preliminary study conducted shows such a move would save more than $6 million annually.
So far, local postal workers don’t really know if their cause has resonated with the public. They fear by the time the public realizes what they have lost, it could be too late.
“It’s going to take the public to come on board with this,” Dainelli said. “They have to realize what they want. Postal service is designed to be a service of the people. And if they want the service, they have to speak up and keep it.
“If they don’t care about the service, they have to take a look at what they are going to do because businesses are going to diminish.”
Businesses, like the public, currently enjoy overnight delivery within a 75-mile radius, a union rep said.
Dainelli noted that the volume of work done by UPS and FedEx is very small compared to what the Postal Service does.
Tom Landis, secretary for the Michiana Coalition for Postal Services, spent 37 years with the postal service and is now retired. He wants the public to know this is one of many possible changes.
Others include having neighborhoods have one mail delivery area with boxes and reducing days of delivery.
Consolidating South Bend’s sorting center into Fort Wayne’s is merely one of the most egregious proposals, he said.
“What’s most egregious is the loss of 35,000 jobs nationwide,” he said.
Postal officials have admitted more than 250 post offices could close.
The U.S. Postal Service said Tuesday it lost $5.1 billion last year, and that it expects operating revenue to drop to about $64 billion this year.
Tony Flora, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 330, warns that if the USPS follows through and closes the South Bend sorting center, service Michiana has been used to for generations would be lost.
“The public needs to stand up here and say our country is not going to go down the pathway and say we have to get rid of our post office now,” he said. “We’ve built the postal service up for over 200 years.”
Staff writer Jim Meenan: