published Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Closure of Chattanooga mailing hub opposed

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    Rebecca Shaver works at the counter Tuesday in the Shallowford Road postal facility.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
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Should Chattanooga's postal processing be shut down?

Laurie Conklin survived one U.S. Postal Service closing, but if the organization closes the local mail processing facility where she works, it could send her into bankruptcy.

She worked at a local mail facility for years until it closed in 2009. She was transferred across several jobs until finally settling down back in Chattanooga. If the General Mail Facility closes, it could be the last straw.

"If we've got to go bankrupt, we've got to go bankrupt," she said. "We've done everything we can."

The Postal Service is looking to close the Shallowford Road facility by March, killing 110 jobs but saving the organization up to $2 million annually.

The Chattanooga facility is one of 252 across the country being scrutinized for shutdown. The federally mandated but not federally funded organization is trying to eliminate 220,000 jobs from its nearly 560,000-strong workforce by 2015 in the face of dropping revenues and rising overhead.

"I understand they're trying to cut costs and everything," Conklin said. "But it affects a lot of people. It destroys lives."

The average person will see first-class mail delivery delayed from a one- to two-day fastest delivery.

That might be an inconvenience when waiting for a Netflix DVD in the mail, but some Chattanoogans see serious repercussions.

"A lot of medications are received through the mail and elderly people pay bills through the mail," Brainerd resident Norma Chapman told USPS officials Wednesday night. "Two or three days can be costly."

Nearly all of the 140 people who attended Wednesday's town hall-style meeting to discuss the potential closing were postal employees.

Postal Service spokesman David Walton said cuts are unfortunate but necessary if the agency is to avoid financial collapse.

"The bottom line is, we no longer need all of these facilities because we just don't have the mail volume to sustain all of them," Walton said. "Our mail volume has dropped off substantially, and it's not coming back."

That volume tanked as Americans shifted their correspondence from pen and paper to computer and keyboard. To counter that, the Postal Service could efficiently roll the Chattanooga's facility into the Postal Service's North Metro Georgia center in Duluth, Ga., a USPS study begun in mid-September suggests.

But Robert Pettway, manager of mail operations for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, said the delayed delivery could hurt local business.

He worried the study didn't take population and business growth into account and may be making blind recommendations. He and several other business representatives spoke at the meeting about concerns that their time-sensitive businesses will suffer.

R.J. Hoffman, a state vice president for the American Postal Workers Union overseeing opposition to the closure, said the facility has performed well despite national declines in postal usage. With the city's new Amazon distribution center, he said, volume will increase by at least 20 percent and closing the center would be a mistake.

"There's cuts that can be made other places rather than shutting down plants," he said.

About 80 percent of USPS' budget goes to employees, most of whom are contractually protected from layoff. The median annual wage of mail sorters, processors and processing machine operators was $50,020 in 2008, according to U.S. data.

Still, guarantees against layoffs leave Postal Service officials fewer places to look when cuts are needed to get the business into the black.

"We haven't filled any jobs at the Postal Service probably in the last four years because we saw this happening," Walton said. "We no longer have the mail volume to sustain all these plants."

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fftspam said...

"The average person will see first-class mail delivery delayed from a one- to two-day fastest delivery."

huh? MAYBE cross town... ONLY.

Id bet a letter sent from anywhere would arrive two days EARLIER than now. Eliminating one stopping point from the network would INCREASE speed. One less point of handling is more efficient.

Paying bills?? the post mark date would still be the date it was picked up. Not rational thinking. OR reporting.

Medications? Isn't it the responsibility of your provider to get them to you on time?

I hate chicken little old people.

Netflix? They already come from GA. We would get them faster. DVDs by mail is a dying concept... listen to their CEO.

Amazon? I usually order something once a week... It has ALWAYS been delivered by United Parcel Service.

There is NO argument to keep that place open.

Union guy... google usps 'blue room'

paid to do nothing.... "Most of us bring books, word puzzles. Sometimes we just sleep."

December 1, 2011 at 4:40 a.m.
ThinBlue706 said...

The union is killing the jobs. By contract they can not lay off employees. This leads to entire locations being shut down. The average rate of pay for the blue collar jobs was over $50k three years ago! How about a pay cut like the rest of us are going through? The greedy union says they would rather have an entire location shut down and all the employees lose their jobs rather than a pay cut or "time in service" lay offs. Guess what, the union reps still have their jobs and the dues are still being paid. Just like a herd of lemmings marching off a cliff. When government gets involved in business or when unions become dominant the same thing occurs.....doors closed, once profitable business are bankrupt, and families unemployed and lives destroyed.

December 1, 2011 at 7:11 a.m.
allynda said...

Your mail will be delayed. You cannot get the same service that you have now. When your mail has to go to Duluth to be processed instead of Chattanooga. I Do Not want to see my post office closed and have my mail sent to Duluth to be processed before being sent back to Chattanooga for delivery. When I mail my water bill why should it go all the way from Chattanooga to Duluth and then back to Chattanooga, makes no sense.

December 1, 2011 at 7:39 a.m.
skyditch said...

If they loose their jobs, how will they keep up their Tea Party Dues? The Post office is irrelevant in the computer age, shut the whole thing down. Wait a minute,, let me address this envelope,, and put the stamp on it,, so I can send this comment?

December 1, 2011 at 8:29 a.m.
RetiredMarshal said...

What they should of tryed before closing all these hubs is stop saturday deliverys.thats more logical then shuting hubs down.then the goverment doesnt have anyidea what is logical and what isnt.

December 1, 2011 at 9:16 a.m.
fftspam said...

RetiredMarshal.... the 'goverment' (sic) does not run the USPS.

Why do you think that it is logical to keep hubs open when the amount of volume is going down year after year?

Ending Saturday delivery... do you expect the USPS workers to take a 1/6 pay cut... Yeah, I don't think so.

Ending Saturday delivery..... I would guess is #1 on the AARP's 'no way in hell' list.

December 1, 2011 at 9:29 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...

when i lived in hixson, i mailed my water bill to hixson (not PA). Now that I live in soddy, i mail my water bill to bakewell (not PA). And I mail my bills because I dont want everyone i owe money to having direct access to my bank account, it has nothing to do with kiting or floating checks.

December 1, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
thesmartguy said...

The misinformation and outright lies spread here is coming to an end.

First of all, don't listen to a word fftspam has said. He's very obviously biased against the USPS.

Next, removing the chattanooga hub will NOT speed up your deliveries in any way, shape or form. This is ESPECIALLY true the closer you live to Chattanooga. If you live in ANY rural area outside of the city limits. Expect shipping times to increase. If you order from amazon, the shipping that will be MOST affected is the FREE shipping. The FREE shipping option is send my FedEx SmartPost, which delivers TO the USPS to complete the last mile.

Next, what do you people actually expect to happen to the parcel industry if the USPS shuts down? The USPS is the fastest, most accurate, and the largest parcel shipper IN THE WORLD. Do you really think FedEx and UPS are going to keep their rates low after their biggest competition has folded? Do you have friends or loved ones overseas on a military base that you want to send a letter to? Well, that's just .45. How much does FedEx or UPS charge you to send a letter to afghanistan? You want to compare USPS to UPS? Ok, let's do that. Did you know the USPS carries 10 times the amount of mail with less than HALF the employees? ALL american employees.

Next, did you know the USPS is NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE A PROFIT? Did you? They're supposed to make a $150 million profit this month, but they're not allowed to keep it. Congress gets that money so the deficit doesn't look as bad. IT's why the USPS is having to prefund retiree benefits for WORKERS WHO AREN'T EVEN BORN yet.

Next, ending Saturday deliveries will solve but only a very small problem. The hours for that day lost will be rolled into the other 5 days they're working. It's not like the carriers (yah, the people ACTUALLY doing the work in the rain, cold, snow, sleet, hail) will lose 1/6th of their paycheck. They won't be paid the 100% but it won't be that cut and dry. It will be the same amount of mail, the same matrix for mail counts, and only a very small cost savings. It's NOT worth the price. Let's not forget that most carriers that work on Saturday are only part time workers. They MIGHT work 4 times a month.

Finally, the USPS does need to change. They're already paid less than most of the UPS and FedEx drivers out their, but I think their pay should be reduced slightly. Say 10%. I'd also suggest taking Perot's recommendation from 20 years ago. Get rid of 60% of management. It's all overhead, and theyre not the ones out doing the work. There's no reason for a Postmaster at EVERY post office. A territory postmaster that covers 5-10 post offices in a given area would be A LOT better.

Go ahead and rebutt my points. I've got time.

December 1, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.

Thinblue is right. Like so many other industries, the union is killing this one. You can't fix stupid.

December 1, 2011 at 9:57 a.m.
thesmartguy said...

@FlyingPurple

It's not really the unions that are causing the problem. It's the MULTIPLE unions. I think at last count, there are about 6 of them. You could reduce a good bit of hours, and even, increase workmanship if they reduced it down to 1 union. Right now, there's so much friction between workers it's horrendous to work there. A carrier can't even touch their parcels until a carrier has sorted it for them. If they do, a grievence is filed.

Reduce the bureaucracy of this place and save money, and jobs.

December 1, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
Nosense said...

Here are some numbers for all of you (in millions):

Operating losses- 2008: $2,806; 2009: $3,740; 2010: $8,374

Anyone notice a trend. The USPS is not a sustainable entity.

From the USPS 2010 Annual Report:

Workforce- Challenge: The rigidity of our current workforce structure leaves us little flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and economic downturns. Solution: A more flexible workforce for a greater ability to reposition and reassign employees would allow us to better respond to marketplace demands.

It’s a good read I recommend it to all those that are uninformed and keep spewing the “to my understanding” garbage that is just feeding the ignorant.

Here’s the link: http://about.usps.com/who-we-are/financials/annual-reports/fy2010.pdf

December 1, 2011 at 10:19 a.m.
Reardon said...

The USPS is subsidized beyond belief.

The truth is, beyond cutting the workforce and letting the free market in, USPS needs to raise stamp prices significantly, say, 20-30 cents.

But that won't happen, as many private business who's business model is based on direct mail (ie, spam mail), would never allow that to happen.

December 1, 2011 at 10:29 a.m.
fftspam said...

thesmartguy...

Who do you work for?

Do you work for the USPS?

I have no bias against the USPS.

I am what is called a 'customer'

thesmartguy.. You imply that I LIE??

I do not LIE.

thesmartguy... who do you work for?

I have no dog in the hunt, it seems to me that you you do.

If you work for the USPS.. I am sure you are fighting for what you have.. but... remember.. you can always fall back on making Buggy Whips.

December 1, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.
JaneCitizen said...

skyditch said... If they loose their jobs, how will they keep up their Tea Party Dues?

You're joking right? What does this have anything to do with the Tea Party. These are unionized employees. No tea party people there. You meant to say, "If they loose their jobs, how will democrats get votes?"

December 1, 2011 at 11:06 a.m.
thesmartguy said...

@Nosense

The USPS has been forced to pay BILLIONS of dollars in prefunded retiree benefits. It's not sustainable due in large part to the prefunding requirement that Congress enacted in 2005. It costs the USPS over $5 billion every year. The fund makes the deficit look smaller since the checks are written directly to the Treasury. Without the prefunding, the USPS would be in the black for the last 3 years, with room to spare.

December 1, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
thesmartguy said...

@Reardon

Actually, there's a law against raising the cost of stamps over the price of inflation. Congress won't change it, so the USPS is stuck.

December 1, 2011 at 11:14 a.m.
thesmartguy said...

@fftspam I work for a utility company.

I'll put your foolish posts in order:

"huh? MAYBE cross town... ONLY.

Id bet a letter sent from anywhere would arrive two days EARLIER than now. Eliminating one stopping point from the network would INCREASE speed. One less point of handling is more efficient" - That's counter intuitive. You're saying that changing the distribution center from Chattanooga to Atlanta will cause Chattanoogans to get their mail faster? How many stops along the way is that truck going to make going from Atlanta to Chattanooga? A LOT. You think the USPS can afford to separate the mail into hundreds of trucks? It costs a lot more to ship it by as few trucks as possible.

"Medications? Isn't it the responsibility of your provider to get them to you on time? " - No. Some medications are scheduled on a weekly to monthly basis. A lot of business have started charging extra for NOT scheduling a recurring medication to be available.

"There is NO argument to keep that place open. " - I've got plenty

"By the way.. allynda.. I don't think you actually pay a water bill... because if you did... you would know that your snail mail payment is sent to Pittsburgh PA... NOT Chattanooga. AGAIN busted argument... FAIL IDIOT." - Point was proven false above.

"I have no bias against the USPS.

I am what is called a 'customer' " - But you said you use UPS for all your parcels right? I don't believe that makes you a customer. Or are you saying you have a mailbox?

I don't have to work for the USPS to value it's service. That's right, it's a service. A service mandated in the Constitution. If you want the USPS to survive, get the politicians out of the equation.

December 1, 2011 at 11:25 a.m.
fftspam said...

I give up 'thesmartguy'. You are so right... I am soo Sorry.

I do not work for the USPS....but you seem to have a plan... you are the EXPERT!!!!!!

December 1, 2011 at 11:49 a.m.

Smartguy, about the water bill, if that allynda lives in Hixson, the waterbill lands locally. I am not sure which water company around here is based out of PA, but there are more of them that aren't.

About the unions, they are definitely the problem here. Their stupid counterproductive rules and "protections" for their dues payers run businesses right into the ground. They do that in every single industry they participate in. They don't start out that way, but they always end up that way. The pre-funded retirement benefits negotiated by the unions and approved by congress are the last nail in the USPS coffin. Those benefits represent the bulk of the USPS deficit.

December 1, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.
ThinBlue706 said...

To "thesmartguy"

Thank you for your information. I found it very informing about the multiple unions affecting the USPS. While I do not find it surprising, it is a sign of the overall problems we Americans are facing. Due to the changing times, the USPS must adapt. In large corporations there were secretary pools for all the typing and paperwork. Now push a button on a computer and what was the work of 2-10 employees is done. With e-mail and all the social networks the need for paper mail is greatly reduced. FedEx and UPS, being privately owned, operates much more efficiently and therefor attracts much of the package sending industry.

What does this mean? Like it or not, change. A large problem is the union(s) stance of "all or nothing". We all have a job or noone has a job. Lose jobs rather than pay cuts, No jobs rather than service reduction. But, most importantly, no jobs for the blue collar working people of the USPS but the management will either be transfered or take "early retirement" with benefits.

The USPS still has a place in every day America. But, it must be run as if it is a prive industry "for profit" organization. Then use what works and throw aside what does not. If down sizing is required and service reduction, then do so. If you need to lose 20,000+ overpaid union workers to save the jobs of everyone else, so be it. One suggestion start those job cuts at the top.

December 1, 2011 at 12:24 p.m.
thesmartguy said...

@ThinBlue The USPS employees close to 600k americans. That makes it the 3rd largest employer in the US. Laying off 20k people is just a drop in the bucket. The Post master general is asking for permission to lay off over 100k people. I have, and always will, believe that layoffs should be a last resort. The unions, honestly, are not a bad entity, as long as you're working for one. They've worked hard making the USPS employee more modern, but they've also done a lot of bad things. Inside a normal Post Office, you have Clerks, Rural, and City Carriers. Each of these groups have different unions. The city carriers are paid hourly, but unsupervised so they can take longer delivering the mail. They're not rewarded on performance. Clerks are the same way. Clerks can take an hour long break with a ton of work still to do, and the carriers are waiting to start their day, and they CAN NOT touch the packages waiting to be sorted by the Clerks. The Rural carriers are paid a set "hourly" amount. As in, a person will get paid 5-9 hours a day, regardless on how long they actually work. The rural carriers will still get paid for 9 hours, even if they only work 8 hours. They're rewarded with time off for getting the job done quickly. The USPS is in need of some major help, and NO ONE in Congress is capable of doing it.

December 1, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.
allynda said...

Yes, Hixson is considered Chattanooga and Hixson Utilities is located off Hixson Pike. Hixson's water is not part of Tennessee American.

December 1, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.
ThinBlue706 said...

Again, thank you for your information. The comment about 20,000 lay offs was just a flippant example. I believe years ago, when employers ran many businesses as if the workers were slaves, the unions were fighting for the very lives of many Americans. My family is American of Irish decent. I remember the stories of the brutal ways the Irish were treated even until the 1930's. The unions were the GOOD GUYS. The problems started in the 1960's and into the 70's. The unions got to big to control and as long as business was good, the ever growing problems were hidden. But, as always happens, the bubble burst and now all those union agreements and entitlements have come home to roost. The socialistic movements of the late 60's and up until the middle 1970's and their impacts are what is now collapsing Europe's economy. The unions activities of the same time period and later is what we are now having to pay for.

You are totally correct when you say Congress can't fix it. There is no collective gonadial fortitude to do what is right. Even changing the law to be able to raise the price of stamps above the inflation rate can't be done. Congress as a whole would rather see the USPS collapse and all those AMERICANS lose their jobs than do something. Why? If they do nothing then they can sit back and blame someone/everyone else. But you must have said fortitude to make a stand and therefor become a target yourself for critisism and how you want to "destroy" the USPS. Special interests, Unions, Lobbyist; the Un-holy Trinity of American politics.

December 1, 2011 at 12:57 p.m.
Beamis said...

When I lived in Utah they closed our processing center in the southern part of the state and routed all the mail to Provo, some 250 miles north. There was never any noticeable delay in mail delivery and if I sent a letter to someone in my town it arrived the next day postmarked Provo, Utah, which again, was located 250 miles to the north. Close the Shallowford center and we'll never notice a change in the speed of delivery.

December 1, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.

Exactly right ThinBlue. The abuse of the American people at the hands of our elected representitives has to stop. When will we learn to quit electing politicians?

December 1, 2011 at 1:07 p.m.
obama4president said...

Personally, I don't have enough information to know if I am for or against eliminating this facility. The responses highlight why Government cost-cutting is so difficult. Everyone wants to cut out all Government expenses except for the ones that they benefit from. How many of you that do not want the Chattanooga mail facility closed want the Government to cut spending? What reasons can you give for keeping it open that justify the $2M cost? How many of you have been all about privatizing the entire USPS, yet are now complaining when business decisions are made that cut expenses too close to home?

December 1, 2011 at 3:41 p.m.
hambone said...

The Lame-Duck GOP congress pass a bill in 2006 forcing the USPS to fund retirement for future employees that haven't been born yet as a backdoor way of raising money for 2 wars they would not raise taxes for.

December 1, 2011 at 6:21 p.m.
jerwhe30 said...

Unions have nothing to do with the Post Office failing. The contracts are agreed on by both parties. Although mail volume is also to blame it is actually the prefunding of retirement benefits. The Postal Service is required to pay 5.5 Billion a year for a 10 year period. That funds 75 years of benefits. No other organization is required to do this. The ones supporting the closure with be the first ones to complain when any mail or package they mail/recieve will take a week to get where its going. North Metro productivity rate is awful. Chattanooga on the other hand is very productive.

December 1, 2011 at 8:33 p.m.
jerwhe30 said...

Beamis they are wanting to change the mail delivery standard to 2-3 day delivery on first class mail. Yes there will be a big change in delivery. A letter from chattanooga to ooltewah will take at least two days to get there. No overnight anymore. Also there is no way you got an overnight letter 250 miles away. Thats 500 miles roundtrip plus processing time. If you mailed it in town it was probably worked in town as some small offices can still do. By the way thanks for you support in keeping some 323 jobs here locally. we appreciate it. Maybe the same thing will happen to you one day, maybe that will change your tune.

December 1, 2011 at 9:32 p.m.
fftspam said...

jerwhe30 ... other than old people mailing a birthday card... who actually mails anything from Chattanooga to Ooltewah? Are you worried about paying off your tab at the Honor's Course??

One day delivery.... Bullsheet. I live in downtown Chattanooga... Sometimes to keep organized I mail something to my office in Hixson... it NEVER takes less than three days after pickup to travel 8 miles to Hixson.

If you work for the USPS or have a dog in the hunt.. you must acknowledge it. If you don't everyone can see right through your post and laugh at it.

December 2, 2011 at 9:38 a.m.
jerwhe30 said...

fftspam...Only one thing to laugh at. Your post. Chattanooga to Ooltewah was an example but you're probably too slow to figure that out. Its more than old people. Utility bills, meds, parcels, magazines, etc. are all in the mailstream. If you need to mail things to another office to be organized then you got bigger problems than what I'm talking about so I dont think your opinion is really wanted or needed. Anyway if it does take 3 days to get it to your office it will now take a week. Yes I do have a dog in the hunt as its perfectly obvious along with another 323 employees who are getting screwed in the deal. Now go run along and get organized sounds like you need to.

December 2, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.
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