Protestors occupy private airport mail facility; five arrested
Five protestors, calling themselves "postal protectors", were arrested today in an occupation of a private air cargo facility slated to handle and process US mail.
"Postal mail handlers and mail processing clerks are losing their jobs to profiteering, private corporations," declared Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier who joined the civil disobedience action at the Matheson Flight Extenders facility, just next door to the US Postal Service's Portland Air Cargo Center. "We protest the privatization of the public postal service. We oppose the destruction of family wage, union jobs and the delay of the people's mail. We intend to disrupt this attack on our communities."
Protest organizers, Portland Communities and Postal Workers United, are demanding that Matheson management pull out of negotiations for the subcontracting of postal jobs. PCPWU is also targeting postal operations manager, Lisa Shear ( Lisa.email@example.com 503-294-2206)
demanding that she put a halt to the privatization.
PCPWU has been fighting cuts and closures to the postal service for the past year. In May of 2012, ten activists were arrested occupying Portland's University Station post office, which has since been closed. In April of this year, five protesters went to jail for a civil disobedience action at the Salem mail plant, which is now being dismantled with mail processing machines moving to Portland. In June, the Portland-area USPS District had the slowest mail delivery in the nation -- 83% overnight first class compared to the 98% goal.
Postal mail handlers and processing clerks are losing their jobs in Salem as the work is being subcontracted to the low-wage, non-postal, non-union Matheson corporation in Portland.
At the same time, Portland postal truckers are being put on standby while the low-wage, non-postal, non-union Dill Star/ LAPO trucking company takes their work.
"This privatization and union-busting is being carried out in the name of a phony financial emergency," said Rev. John Schwiebert, one of the protesters occupying Matheson's facility. "The security, safety, and timely delivery of the mail are all at risk. Rural communities, seniors and the disabled, small businesses and low-income communities are hit the hardest. Postal management needs to stop and reverse these closures, cuts, and subcontracts which are sending our beloved postal service into a death spiral."
MAIL HANDLERS AND PROCESSING CLERKS
Mail sorting machines being moved from Salem cannot fit into the Portland Air Cargo Center, so space is being leased next door in the Matheson (Asiana Cargo) facility. But when the SWYB machine is moved into the Matheson space, it will be worked by twelve non-postal mail handlers and six non-postal processing clerks, hired by Matheson. USPS management says the sub-contracting is necessary to save labor costs in this "financial emergency".
PHONY FINANCIAL EMERGENCY
The "financial emergency" is phony. Since 2006 the USPS has been forced to spend nearly 10% of its budget pre-funding retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. No other U.S. agency or private business faces such a crushing financial burden. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, the USPS has also over-paid tens of billions into two pension funds.
COSTLY CUTS, CLOSURES, and CONTRACTING-OUT
In the past year, the Postmaster General has closed 30% of mail processing plants, reduced hours by 25% - 75% in half of post offices, put 10% of post offices up for sale, subcontracted trucking and mail handling, eliminated tens of thousands of family wage, postal jobs and delayed mail delivery.
The USPS own studies (revealed at the March 22, 2012 meeting of the Postal Regulatory Commission), showed that big mailers leave the system as a result of such delays, costing more in lost revenue than is saved by lowering labor costs, not to mention the dramatic increase in trucking costs as mail is transported hundreds of extra miles to be sorted in the closest still open facilities.
Postal workers have seen their wages cut by 25% for new hires. Bottom-tier Postal Support Employees (truckers and clerks) and Mail Handler Assistants now make less in wages and benefits than the non-postal, non-union sub-contract workers.
The postal service is not broke. Subcontracting work is unnecessary and costly. However, the agenda of corporate America, their friends in Congress and in postal management, according to the CPWU, is to cripple the USPS, to soften it up for union busting and privatization. The USPS is a $65 billion annual business with over $100 billion surplus in its pension and retiree health benefit funds, over 30,000 post offices and 200,000 vehicles. Postal activists claim that America is being confronted with a huge transfer of public wealth to for-profit, private corporations.
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