Guest Column: Results of study could send local mail to Palatine for processing

As part of an ill-advised cost-cutting scheme, the U.S. Postal Service has announced plans to conduct an “Area Mail Processing” feasibility study at the Rockford Processing and Distribution Center. This study was to be completed by Dec. 20, 2005, and changes (if any) announced in January. If these plans go forward, local originating mail for the entire Rockford area (611 ZIP codes) will be transported by truck to the Palatine, Ill., Processing and Distribution Center to be processed and sorted, then transported by truck back to Rockford for distribution.

According to an informational letter dated Dec. 1, 2005, from the Rockford Processing and Distribution Center’s Acting Plant Manager, Steve Webb, “The reason for the study is to address shifting mail volume and the need to manage capacity needs while improving efficiency.”

The most important thing that management failed to address in their written notice to the Union and the media was the likely adverse impact this change may have on delivery standards and service to our customers. Mr. Webb verbally assured me that our commitment to current service standards would not be compromised. I remain unconvinced based upon management’s own productivity figures.

The Rockford Processing and Distribution Center has continually been the leader in productivity and efficiency when compared with all other processing facilities in the entire District and across the nation. Shifting work from the most productive plant to a less productive facility could logically lead one to the conclusion that their major emphasis is not on service but rather on the economical aspect, and, ultimately, service standards will decline.

For many years, rumors have been circulating that Rockford’s outgoing and local originating mail would be taken into Palatine for processing. Now, it appears those rumors are close to becoming a reality.

In my opinion, this feasibility study is nothing more than a formality; management has already made up their minds to implement this consolidation.

The root cause of the Postal Service’s financial difficulty is a flawed postal rate structure that grants below-cost discounts to large business mailers and advertisers. Other major contributing factors include the requirement that the United States Postal Service pay for military retirement costs of its employees—unlike all other federal agencies—and then the requirement of public law (108-18) for the Postal Service to establish an escrow account consisting of billions of dollars per year. This law does not even stipulate how or what the funds are to be used for.

Despite the many predictions of gloom and doom, on Dec. 6, the Postal Service announced that total mail volume and total revenue reached all-time highs in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2005. First-class mail volume grew in 2005 as well, after three years of decline.

The Postal Service should stop giving money away to big business and keep the Rockford mail processing operations where they are. Let us continue to provide quality service to the small businesses and ordinary citizens that rely on it.

This news release is intended to inform the entire community of what is at stake here, and to seek their support in a letter-writing campaign opposing the consolidation. Anyone interested in supporting this opposition to consolidate Rockford’s mail into Palatine should write to our government leaders at the addresses provided in this news release. I can be contacted by phone at (815) 229-9080, or mail at Rockford, IL Area Local No. 79, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, P.O. Box 5002, Rockford, IL, 61125.

Contact your elected officials:

U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo, 415 S. Mulford Rd., Rockford, Illinois 61125, (815) 394-1231

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Kluczynski Federal Bldg., 203 S. Dearborn St. #3892, Chicago, Illinois 60604, (312) 353-4952

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, 203 S. Dearborn St. #3900, Chicago, Illinois 60604, (312) 886-3506

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, 425 E. State St., Rockford, Illinois 61104

From the Jan. 18-24, 2006, issue

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