published Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Snail mail to slow down: USPS proposes delayed deliveries

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson
Connie Kelley, a sales and service distribution associate who has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 21 years, serves Melba Clift at the Shallowford Road Post Office. Ms. Kelley is very worried about her job as well as the customers who will face longer lines if other post offices are shut down.
Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson Connie Kelley, a sales and service distribution associate who has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 21 years, serves Melba Clift at the Shallowford Road Post Office. Ms. Kelley is very worried about her job as well as the customers who will face longer lines if other post offices are shut down.
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BY THE NUMBERS
  • 30,000: Full-time jobs at risk
  • 5,000: Part-time jobs at risk
  • 220,000: Jobs to be cut by 2015
  • 559,026: Total USPS employment

Source: USPS

Poll
Should Chattanooga's postal processing be shut down?

The U.S. Postal Service's proposal to close 252 mail processing plants, including one on Shallowford Road, likely will have ripple effects in Chattanooga beyond the 110 jobs that could be lost here.

With 90,000 to 100,000 pieces of mail sent daily, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the city's biggest mailer. Slowing first-class delivery standards, as the postal service has also proposed, would mean the company's checks, bills and time-sensitive membership information would all be delayed with potentially costly consequences, said Robert Pettway, the insurer's manager of mail operations.

"That kind of information needs to get out quickly, so that's a real concern," he said.

Bill Hope, chief executive officer of local Kickoff Publishing, said it would be a big problem for his business, as well. His company sends mailers and, during football season, produces a weekly sports roundup newsletter.

If the local plant operations are rolled into a metro Georgia center, he said, "that stuff's got to go to Atlanta, come back here and go all the way around the world until anyone looks at it.

"There's just all sorts of problems it's going to cause, not only to us, but anyone who sends out any type of mail," he said.

No decisions have been finalized. Even if delivery standards are slowed, Chattanooga could keep its distribution center and mailers who pre-sort their mail could see a one-day turnaround, David Walton, spokesman for the Postal Service, said.

Or, he said, Chattanooga's processing center could stay open at reduced capacity, serving as a hub for the area.

"It's a long process," he said. "It's all up in the air."

The U.S. Postal Service proposed sweeping cuts to stave off its fall towards bankruptcy. The moves are expected to save $2.1 billion annually for the federally mandated but not federally funded organization, which has seen a 25 percent drop over the past five years in the amount of first-class mail it handles.

On Monday, the service asked the Postal Regulatory Commission whether it supports the shutdowns, which would slow first-class mail delivery standards from the current one to three days to two to three days. The commission will look at the proposal for the next three months, but USPS isn't bound by the decision.

  • photo
    Rebecca Shaver works at the counter Tuesday in the Shallowford Road postal facility.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

"The way they're going about it and everything, it's like they already know it's approved," said local American Postal Workers Union President Judy Stocker. "It's just a sales pitch to the general public."

The Postal Service began studying which centers could be closed in mid-September, a costly process Stocker figures could have been avoided if the service wasn't sure delivery standards would change.

That assurance could spell doom for the 100-plus local jobs if the Chattanooga distribution center's operations are taken over by the Duluth, Ga., processing facility.

For the Postal Service, the choice may be between losing those Chattanooga jobs -- and as many as 35,000 nationally -- or declaring bankruptcy.

"There's not much of a choice there," Walton said. "We're struggling, and we're having to make changes."

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said he understands the Postal Service is going through a necessary transformative period, but he hopes the local center can stay.

"We've heard it's a vital facility. It's a good facility," he said. "Decisions will ultimately have to be made."

Staff writer Mike Pare contributed to this report.

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
larwilb60 said...

Well Chuck Fleischmann, instead of:"We've heard it's a vital facility. It's a good facility," he said. "Decisions will ultimately have to be made."Why dont you take a tour of the facility and talk to the workers there? Why dont you get involved? These people are your constituents and DO VOTE! Amazon is here now and ship a LOT via USPS! Blue Cross has voiced its opinion....Wake Up and get involved or fresher blood in office is looking pretty good!

December 6, 2011 at 6:21 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

Where is Bob Corker? These 100+ people ARE your constituents too! Voters also! Why are all our reps laying low and not even mentioning the Postal Service or make comments like "We've heard it's a vital facility. It's a good facility,"! We've heard??????? All elected officials say they want to save jobs or create new jobs but run like hades when it's time to take a stand! Vote them out! There 300K Postal Employees and we do have a memory and our votes count!

December 6, 2011 at 6:24 a.m.
ldurham said...

Does this mean service at the post office counter will be slower too? Or is that even possible?

December 6, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
PostalWife said...

Once again the information is incorrect. ALL 300+ employees at the Chattanooga Processing & Distribution Center will lose their employment at that location. There are 110 employees (104 craft, 6 supervisory) that will be unemployed if this closing occurs. Apparently our congressional representatives don't care because they snagged Volkswagen and Amazon. Y'all can complain about stamp costs (44 cents to mail a letter ANYWHERE in the U.S.) and slow service all you want. I know I get slower service in Wal-Mart.

December 6, 2011 at 8:19 a.m.

Boo hoo, USPS. You had a monopoly and you blew it. Time to moveon.org.

December 6, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.
elkhart007 said...

It's the USPS, it's not really expected to be blazingly fast. Just like autoworkers, paid too much for a simple job. There's less demand, therefore less employees required. It doesn't take a PhD to figure this out.

December 6, 2011 at 2:55 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Nada....Not a word about the Republicans in congress making the post office fund 100% of the pension. Any business would have a hard time under those conditions. This is why the post office is in trouble. And that was the plan all along.

It may come as news to you nay-sayers, but businesses use the post office quite a bit; contracts, notarized papers, etc. I think it is the best value for the money when actual paper must go. Even if the prices doubled, it would still be a good value.

Tip of the hat' to all you postal workers! I, for one, thank you!

December 6, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
ginagirl43 said...

This is a highly overpaid group, and the mail is already slow.

December 6, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.
HiDef said...

The mail is already slow??? Don't you have a choice on delivery times?

December 6, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.
ordinaryguy said...

LOL...Blue Cross thinks they own the damn city...

December 7, 2011 at 10:56 a.m.
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