No questions answered at meeting on Knoxville facility, the latest impacted by nationwide restructuring

Steve HutkinsBlog, News

wsws.org: No questions were answered at a public United States Postal Service mail processing facility review (MPFR) meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee on Thursday, which was held to share the preliminary findings of a facility review that began in October and take public comment on them. The audience of about 50 USPS workers was already well aware of the findings which had been published two weeks prior to the meeting.

Knoxville is one of 29 cities across the country currently undergoing MPFRs as part of the nationwide Delivering for America (DFA) plan, which will consolidate mail processing operations from local processing centers into mega regional centers. In addition to slashing costs, the program will result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and make access to postal services more difficult for many around the country, especially in rural areas. Pro forma public meetings, such as the one on Thursday, are window dressing for the process, which is well underway throughout the USPS network.

Gary McClellan, USPS executive plant manager in Knoxville, delivered the report of the facility review in a three-slide presentation that took less than 10 minutes to deliver. The Knoxville P&DC (Processing & Distribution Center) will remain open as a Local Processing Center (LPC). Originating package mail will be processed in Louisville, Kentucky, while the destination mail operation will remain in Knoxville.

McClellan announced at the beginning of the presentation, “Today, before we dive into our presentation, I want to make two points very clear. Based on the initial facility review, the facility is not closing. It will be repositioned as a local processing center. There will be no career layoffs as part of this initiative.”

If McClellen was waiting for cheers of relief from his audience, none came. Of the 463 employees, 63 will be reassigned. In other words, 14 percent of the career workforce at the Knoxville facility will either need to relocate to a USPS job elsewhere or start over in a new job. One worker, who had been reassigned once before, told local news, “I’d hate to move my family again, but I’d hate to start over, too, so I would have to move.”

Almost as an afterthought, McClellan stated that the number of pre-career employees, part-time workers, would be reduced “in accordance with the respective collective bargaining agreements.” A worker told the World Socialist Web Site after the meeting that there are approximately 150 pre-career employees at the Knoxville P&DC. “[T]hat’s 150 families that could have a detrimental impact—that may be looking for a job right after the New Year,” he said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, union officials from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) made statements against the initiative to shift originating processing to Louisville. Both denounced the initial findings of the MPFR, citing population growth in Tennessee and Knoxville and population decline in Louisville as reasons why the Knoxville P&DC should not be repositioned as an LPC.

But the APWU has done nothing to seriously oppose Delivering for America. Indeed, from the beginning the union bureaucrats have been enablers of Postmaster General Dejoy’s plans to cut 50,000 jobs and Amazonify the workforce by hiring temps and part-time workers. They have done little to alleviate the attacks on the wages and health of carriers caused by punitive route evaluation systems rolled out this year. Nor have they intervened in the accelerating package load carriers must contend with as last-mile carriers for Amazon.

Tensions during the 20-minute meeting grew as USPS spokesperson Evelina Ramirez repeatedly responded to audience questions about the findings of the MPFR by declaring that the purpose of the meeting was to gather oral comments, not answer questions. “We have a lot of questions,” one worker retorted amid the charged silence in the auditorium.

“Pointless!” was what one worker speaking to the WSWS said of the meeting. “Why even have us come down!” Another worker commented, “It’s a checklist. They’re contractually obligated to be here.” One worker correctly surmised the outcome of the meeting, “This process is nothing but a facade. They’re going to do what they want to do, regardless of what this input says today.”

Read more: Knoxville, Tennessee postal facility the latest impacted by nationwide restructuring program – World Socialist Web Site