Postal Service announces 30 more consolidations

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

The Postal Service has published notices of intent to consolidate thirty more processing & distribution centers. According to the notices, “it is highly likely” that each P&DC “will be modernized and repurposed as a Local Processing Center, a Sorting & Delivery Center, or both, consistent with the broader network redesign outlined in the DFA Plan.”

This means that the outgoing mail operation — sorting equipment and some personnel — at each of these thirty “losing” facilities will be consolidated to another P&DC. Most of the losing facilities will then be repurposed as Local Processing Centers (LPCs) that handle only incoming mail and parcels. Most of the “gaining” facilities will be reconfigured as one of the new network’s sixty Regional Processing & Distribution Centers.

The Postal Service no longer uses the terms “gaining” and “losing” in consolidations because most of the facilities that lose their outgoing operations will “gain” a Sorting & Delivery Center. This part of the facility will house letter carriers being relocated from delivery units at post offices, typically those within a 30-minute drive. The excess space created by consolidating the outgoing operation will be used for carrier distribution cases and, if the facility doesn’t already have one, a new package sorting machine.

Here are a list and map of the thirty losing and thirty gaining facilities (color coded to show the pairs). Additional information — like locations, distance between the gaining and losing facilities, etc. — can be found on the tab “30 consolidations.” This list is on Google Docs here.

Below is a list of the notices of intent, with links to Google Docs. All of the notices are in a pdf here. The notices also appear on this USPS page, where all status reports on the consolidations are located, but you need to download them from there. These notices include links to the online survey where the public can submit comments.

Consolidation studies are underway or completed for about 29 other facilities, bringing the total to 59 so far. This does not include some consolidations that, for one reason or another, did not required a Mail Processing Facility Review (MPFR). Eventually more than 150 such consolidations will take place, and nearly 200 Local Processing Centers (LPCs) will be created.

For fourteen of the thirty consolidations, mail sent across town will have to go out of state for processing. That’s likely to lead to delays, though the Postal Service says the network transformation will actually improve service performance.

It’s hard to know what to make of that claim. As the APWU’s Don Cheney points out, the service standard for local First Class Mail is two days, yet the service standard for mail sent between the ZIPs of most of the losing and gaining facilities is three days. Of the thirty consolidations, there are 19 where there’s a three-day standard for mail sent from the ZIP of a losing facility to the ZIP of a gaining facility (see the main table, tab “30 consolidations,” column “FCM Service Standard.”) Here are a few examples:

  • Grand Junction CO 81505 to Denver CO 80266 (253 miles)
  • Missoula MT 59801 to Spokane WA 99224 (204 miles)
  • Yakima WA 98903 to Seattle WA 98168 (153 miles)
  • McAllen TX 78501 to San Antonio TX 78284 (244 miles)
  • Casper WY 82609 to Billings, MT 59101 (280 miles)

If it takes three days to send a letter from Grand Junction to Denver — a one-way trip — how will the Postal Service achieve a two-day standard for mail sent within the Grand Junction area if it has to travel to and from Denver? Plus, this mail will need to be processed not just in Grand Junction (being prepared for the trip to Denver) but also in Denver (the RPDC handling outgoing mail) and then, again, Grand Junction (the LPC handling the incoming mail).

It’s not clear yet how many employees could be impacted by the consolidations. The notices of intent say, “This modernization evaluation will not result in this facility’s closure or career employee layoffs.” But there are other ways to eliminate jobs besides layoffs. One of the goals of the network transformation is clearly to cut jobs — 50,000 of them — and a large portion of these will come from consolidating the processing network.

For consolidations where the Postal Service has provided numbers, the initial findings have averaged about twenty career positions “excessed” per facility. But the final reviews have shown much higher numbers: 116 career positions impacted in the Greenville, SC, consolidation; 99 in Minneapolis, MN; 43 in Provo, UT; and 63 in Trenton, NJ. If the consolidations average 80 impacted positions each and there are 150 consolidations, about 12,000 positions would be impacted.

Many employees may be eligible to take a new job in another facility, but they won’t be able to do so because it’s too far away. The average distance between the thirty losing facilities and their gaining facility is 150 miles. In a couple of cases, the distance is 27 and 35 miles, but for most consolidations, the distance is more than 100 miles – much too far for a daily commute.

While the MPFR process requires notifications to unions, management and the public, as well as a public comment period and a public meeting before a final decision will be made, it’s all mostly a formality. The notices of intent say, “The studies are just beginning, and the Postal Service anticipates communicating initial findings in the coming month or two.” But in almost every case, the Postal Service will decide to go ahead with the consolidation.

Not that there aren’t exceptions. The South Suburban P&DC in Bedford Park, IL, was studied for consolidation of its outgoing operations to the new Chicago South RPDC in Forest Park, IL. Earlier this week, the Postal Service announced that it had decided not to proceed. Instead, the Peoria P&DC is being studied for consolidation of its outgoing operations to the South Suburban facility.

Nearly all of the thirty facilities have already appeared on our list of potential consolidations. An article about the network transformation is here, and the latest version of the list is here. Note that the lists, while derived from various USPS notifications, probably contain errors.

— Steve Hutkins

(Featured Image: Brockton MA P&DC, studied for consolidation to Providence RI)