(This article first appeared in the July-August 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine) By Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy
Picture this scenario… your manager posts a formal notification stating the USPS’ intention to move your post office to an industrial park, or a carrier annex, or some other inconvenient and out-of-way location.
Maybe the posting says days and hours of operation will be cut, or the office will close indefinitely (suspended), or it will be closed and consolidated with an office in another neighborhood or town, or your office will be shuttered permanently. Perhaps the Postal Service proposes to substitute the closing office with a village post office or rural letter carriers or a retailer selling stamps.
Such possible outcomes will adversely affect a neighborhood or community. Access to postal services for the community becomes limited and inconvenient while stable jobs with decent wages and benefits disappear.
Mobilize Your Community
The Postal Reorganization Act states that the Postal Service “shall provide prompt, reliable and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”
So how does the Postal Service get away with taking these services from everyday citizens who depend on their post office? They do it when the community is unaware of their right to fight back.
The Postal Service is required to notify the public and all patrons when there is a proposal to close, suspend, cut hours or relocate a facility. The notice should contain a date, time and location for a public meeting. Notice must be posted two weeks before the scheduled meeting date.
If the location, date and time are not best for the community, you have the right to request the meeting be rescheduled to a location and time that allows individuals and businesses to be present, raise concerns and ask questions of the Postal Service.
Make your voices heard. Get your city council involved to help find an adequate space and time for the meeting.
For your convenience, a sample letter asking to reschedule the meeting can be found in the booklet Organizing to Save the Post Office. It can be found on the Vice President’s web page, under “Resources,” at www.apwu.org/departments-divisions/vice-president.
The booklet also contains pointers about organizing your community to fight closures and other reductions of postal services. It has advice and tactics about reaching out to the public, building arguments to continue the local post office services and it details the appeal process to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).
Getting Out the Message
Community residents and businesses should know these public meetings are important and require their participation.
Be prepared to contact politicians, community groups, businesses and individuals. Educate them about the proposal and the process. Time limits are short. Anyone making written comments to the Postal Service must do so within 60 days from the day it posted notice of its proposed action. Once the Postal Service posts its final decision, any appeal to the PRC must be done within 30 days.
Doing the Heavy Lifting
The booklet Organizing to Save the Post Office is full of ideas and tools for analyzing proposals, suggesting alternatives and actions to publicly oppose closures. They include:
- Building alliances with politicians, businesses and community groups;
- Doing your own survey of residents;
- Circulating petitions;
- Writing letters to the editor to local papers;
- Making requests for information from the Postal Service;
- Setting up your own community meetings;
- Asking the Postal Service to meet – in addition to the public meeting – with various business, community groups and politicians.
The Vice President’s web page on apwu.org has many other resources to help your fight against a closure in your community.
- If your post office is a historical site, there are additional considerations. Download Preserving Historic Post Offices for more information.
- The Postal Service may also be obligated to do an environmental impact study. Look at Handbook RE-6 Revision: Facilities Environmental Guide and Handbook PO-101.
- Use Planning Town Hall Meetings to set up a meeting in your community.
There are success stories. Not all post offices get closed or consolidated. Don’t give up your right to a neighborhood post office in your city or town!