News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 7, 2013

Saturday mail news shocks local postal union

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Saturday mail delivery and potentially jobs could be eliminated following yesterday’s announcement by postal officials.

Moving in spite of ongoing congressional discussion on the matter, U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said Wednesday the U.S. Postal Service will cut services back to five-day-a-week deliveries for everything except packages beginning Aug. 1.

Ann Barnes, president of American Postal Workers Local 618 based in Terre Haute, said the news came as a shock.

“I got a phone call at 7 in the morning and it was the first I’d heard about it,” she said, adding her phone was buzzing all day with concerned workers. “I don’t think this is the solution. I think it’s going to make matters worse. Congress needs to act on it.”

The postal service’s financial woes have been under discussion long enough that people were familiar with the idea of cutting Saturday mail service, but no one thought the decision would come this quickly, or without congressional input, she said.

Her union is still reeling from the decision to close the processing plant on Margaret Avenue.

Many of the people in positions being eliminated had hoped to be transferred into the letter carriers craft, she said, noting that’s not looking good at present.

“Right now, they’re telling us we’ll probably be processing until the end of May,” she said of workers at the Margaret Avenue facility, the mail volume from which has been split between Indianapolis and Evansville in another previous cost-cutting move.

But Barnes, a postal employee of nearly 19 years, said cutting Saturday delivery will mean the elimination of about 35,000 letter carriers. Whether those reductions will be made through retirement packages or attrition has yet to be addressed, she said.

President of her union the last seven years, she said 18 years ago Local 618 boasted about 140 members. Today, there are only about 75 members left, and only 35 are from Terre Haute, she said, likening her role recently to that of a grief counselor.

Customers also expressed concern Wednesday.

Vigo County Clerk Dave Crockett said slowing up mail delivery could impact county business.

“It’s not going to make things any easier,” he said.

Before being elected clerk in November, Crockett served the  previous seven years as Vigo County Treasurer, after more than two decades with the sheriff’s department. The volume of mail issued by the county is tremendous, he said, pointing out much of it is certified and time sensitive.

“We do a huge volume from the clerk’s office, and I can tell you that we receive a huge volume,” he said, adding multiple tubs full of documents go out the door daily. “And that doesn’t include the court.”

Considering the volume of letters issued on Thursday and Friday, the elimination of Saturday mail delivery will only hurt matters, especially because many working families can’t pick up certified mail until the weekend.

John Stadler, owner of Stadler’s Barber Shop on Wabash Avenue, said he’s been getting mail delivered on Saturdays for years and feels that shouldn’t change.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.