Local Snail Mail May Come to a Crawl

By Sandra Zunino

If the USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Easton closes, not only could postal workers lose their jobs, local mail service will experience delays according to an American Postal Workers Union (APWU) member.

The USPS officially began a study last March to determine if the Postal Service can reduce costs and still maintain efficiency by closing the Easton plant and diverting mail processing through Baltimore. On Sunday, May 23, APWU President Beverly Collins called a meeting of both union-member and non-member postal employees at Easton’s Comfort Inn.

According to an anonymous AWPU source who attended the meeting, Collins reported that while Baltimore officials are stating the study is still ongoing, the study has been completed and plant closure is nearly eminent. Collins stressed the importance of encouraging community members to attend a meeting on Tuesday, June 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Easton High School to voice opposition to the plant closure.

Representatives from the Baltimore office will conduct the meeting and provide information explaining how the plant closure will save money as well as conduct a question/answer session. U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both D-Md., and U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Md.-1st, who composed a letter to the postmaster general requesting the meeting, also plan to attend.

Additionally, APWU members are circulating petitions, as public outcry against the plant closure may be its only hope. In 2003, the small Neavitt post office near St. Michaels was slated for closure after sustaining flood damage from Hurricane Isabel but was reopened when citizens challenged the decision.

Currently, mail throughout the 216 and 218 zip codes is gathered by postal workers and taken to the Easton plant by 4:30 every weekday. Once at the center, the mail is sorted, bagged and sent on trucks for delivery by 6:00 a.m. the next morning.

Serving all 91 Eastern Shore post offices, the plant ensures that a letter mailed from Federalsburg to Easton, for example, will reach its destination the next day. An anonymous post office source estimates that if the plant closes, that same letter will be delayed three or four days before arriving in Easton.

Because mail transportation to Baltimore will require tractor-trailers, wind restrictions on the Bay Bridge as well traffic backups may further delay mail delivery.

Mail delays will not only be an inconvenience for residents, area business may suffer, especially those that rely on bulk mailing. Senior citizens, who receive social security checks and even medications through the mail, will also be hit hard by delays.

Fifty-Four postal workers who will be displaced by the cut will learn their fate at the end of August. This number does not include the many non-salaried part-time employees who work for the post office. Traditionally, the USPS offered workers the option of transferring within 500 miles.

For information about the plant closing, visit www.saveeastonmailprocessing.com. To challenge the plant closure write to Consumer Affairs Manager, US Postal Service, 900 E. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21233-9998 or APWU Local #4321, P.O. Box 856 Easton, MD 21601. To sign a petition, contact Beverly Collins at 410-714-4439.