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Queens Chronicle

Pols and union officials decry possible job cuts

Hold rally at Whitestone postal plant, which may be consolidated or closed

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Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:10 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

Waving signs that read “Keep Queens Mail in Queens,” and “Save our Service,” postal workers and their union representatives rallied early Friday afternoon outside the Queens Processing and Distribution Center in Whitestone, slated for possible consolidation or closure, which would result in the displacement of hundreds of workers.

They were joined by more than a dozen elected officials representing every level of government, unified in their belief that the Postal Service, which claims it has lost billions as the economy has slowed and people have turned to the Internet, must examine other money-saving measures rather than sacrificing employees and service.

On Tuesday, the Postal Service agreed to place a five-month moratorium, ending May 15, on closing postal facilities. Lawmakers said that gives Congress more time to implement reforms that could help the financially strapped agency and allow the USPS to further study the impact of the proposed closures and solicit community input.

“We welcome this delay by the Postal Service,” Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens and Nassau) said in a prepared statement. “In the meantime, we will continue to keep up the fight to save this important facility.”

The USPS is in the midst of evaluating cost-saving measures based on the idea of changing the one-day standard of delivery for first-class mail to two to three days, something that has not been approved yet.

Queens mail would be transported 12 miles to be sorted at a plant in Brooklyn, producing an estimated annual savings of nearly $30.8 million, but cutting anywhere between 700 and 1,000 jobs here.

“We cannot at this time, when we are just trying to come out of a tremendous recession, have this economic dislocation,” Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) said at the rally. “Other things can be done. So I say to the Postal Service, ‘Go back, look at this again and come back with a better way.’”

Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz (D-Flushing) also slammed the plan.

“Let me say thank you to the United States Postal Service for giving the men and women of this facility an early holiday present,” Simanowitz said. “There is nothing like worrying about whether or not you are going to have a job come January to fill your stocking.”

First-class mail is processed between midnight and 6 a.m. to allow for next-day delivery. But under the Postal Service’s plan, processing would be done from midnight to noon the next day, allowing far fewer facilities to do much more work.

On Dec. 2, at a meeting at Bayside High School conducted as part of the public comment period, dozens of the approximately 200 people in attendance voiced their outrage over the plan. Not a single speaker thought the agency’s latest cost-saving idea is a good one.

Many believe part of the USPS’s financial woes is due to its being forced by Congress to pre-fund 75 years worth of retirees’ health benefits 10 years in advance, putting the agency over $5 billion dollars in debt.

“We’re like a big family here and they’re breaking up our family,” said Robert Yaccarino, president of the Flushing branch of the American Postal Workers Union. “... The rumors are they are going to close the building in March. The rumors are they already have a buyer for the building.”

Connie Chirichello, a spokeswoman for the USPS, said Friday that the agency has not decided to close the building yet, nor has it been sold.

Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said that overnight service conducted by FedEx and UPS is going through the roof, which proves that there is a demand for fast, efficient letter and package delivery. Simanowitz agreed, adding, “If you want to compete you don’t offer a lesser product.”

“The Constitution doesn’t say that FedEx has to be here,” Halloran said. “It doesn’t say UPS has to be here. It does say that the United States post office has to be here, and it’s about time we start remembering that.”

Chandrak Desai, a mail processor at the Whitestone plant, was standing outside the facility during the rally waving a sign that read “Save America’s Postal Service,” as passing motorists honked their horns in solidarity.

“It’s not just about losing jobs,” Desai said. “People depend on this facility to get their medication and the rest of their mail. They are going to suffer a lot.”

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