200 postal workers denounce Pontiac move:

No to anti-worker 'consolidation'!

from Detroit Workers' Voice #70, November 12, 2007
(CV #41, February 2008)


. Two hundred postal workers turned out for a public meeting on Thursday, November 1st to denounce postal management's planned move of Detroit cancellation operations to Pontiac. The meeting was called by Detroit city council members to question postal management about the proposed move. Postal workers -- some of whom took off from work to attend -- came prepared with hard questions and facts to put postal management on the spot. The message they gave was loud and clear: the proposed move is a burden to workers and logistically stupid. In a show of hands at the end of the meeting, those in attendance voted unanimously to oppose the move (shamefaced postal managers abstained). The plan should be scrapped, now, for good.

Plans to move cancellation

. Postal management's plan was first publicly announced at a meeting on the Wayne State campus the week before. Management says they have a "feasibility study" showing it would save them $4 million a year to consolidate Detroit cancellation operations into the new Pontiac facility due to open next summer. Cancellation workers and machinery now located at the GWY facility on Fort St. in Detroit would be moved 32 miles north to Pontiac. The first stage of mail processing involving the printing of bar codes on mail would also be moved. By consolidating operations there, management says, they would be able to eliminate 80 of 160 jobs now performed at GWY. This would be accomplished through attrition and transfers -- no workers would actually be laid off. Nonetheless there would be a net loss of jobs. This move is part of postal management's national reorganization which includes the closing of scores of mail processing facilities and consolidating their operations into new mega-facilities.

. The Pontiac facility was built ostensibly to consolidate Royal Oak processing operations. Seven facilities in the Royal Oak area are moving their operations there. But given their big new building, postal management started looking around for what else could be included. First their eye fell on Flint, and Flint's mail processing is now due to be moved to Pontiac. Then management began eyeing Detroit. This is the first public announcement of a move from Detroit to Pontiac, but no doubt if everything goes smoothly for them management will try to consolidate more Detroit mail processing to the new facility. The bottom line for workers is, this is yet another move by postal management to increase productivity and profits at the cost of jobs.

Hardship for workers

. For cancellation workers, this move would require driving an extra 50-60 miles every day. For those who rely on public transport, they would have to somehow hook up with a bus making the trek to Pontiac. Either way it means additional expense and hours more on the road each week. It also means breakup of the Detroit cancellation operation with loss of friends and contacts. And it means being much farther from home while at work, consequently less able to respond to family emergencies, school events, doctor appointments, etc. It's just a big headache to workers, and they voiced this at the public meeting of November 1st.

. Would transferred workers be allowed extra time to make the trip? Would they be given extra money to compensate them for transport costs? Management isn't saying. And what about seniority? Would cancellation workers lose all their plant seniority? Would transferred clerks still be regulars, or would they be busted down to PTF (part-time flexible) because of transfer to a different city? Management isn't saying. All they're saying is, they will take volunteers first before they start moving non-volunteers. And they're also giving workers an "option" ­ they can avoid the move by accepting a job delivering mail as a letter carrier in Detroit. But for most cancellation workers and clerks, who have spent years working inside as machine operators, this is a laughable "option."

. Management makes a big deal about their opinion surveys, and they say they listen to the "voice of the employee." But in the end all they care about is their bottom line, their profits and bonuses. The voice of the employee says NO to the Pontiac move!

Delays in service

. Postal management is trying to convince everyone that moving cancellation to Pontiac will not mean any delay in mail processing or delivery. They have to say this because they're supposed to be committed to service and listening to the "voice of the consumer." But who do they think they're kidding? We're supposed to believe that trucking the mail out to Pontiac, cancelling it there and then returning it to Detroit for processing, won't take any more time than cancelling it right here in Detroit? Get real!

. Management's "feasibility study" says everything will be on time. But these are the same people who told us the DBCS (direct barcode sorting) machines would speed things up. Instead they had to move carriers' starting times back two hours because of all the foul-ups. These are the same people who told us the recent closing of the airport mail center facility would be well planned and executed. Now airmail and registered mail is backed up on the ground floor of GWY because no one knows what to do with it. Every postal worker knows of numerous other "brilliant plans" by postal management.

. Management may well have figured out a way to save $4 million a year. But did their "feasibility study" take into account the hardships ­ travel time, cost of gasoline, etc. ­ imposed on transferred workers? Did it include a realistic assessment of the extra burden on Detroit carriers trying to make up for delays? Of course not ­ all they care about is their financial bottom line with the prospect of greater profits and bonuses.

Give them an inch, they'll take a mile

. For the last year and a half Detroit mail has been trucked to Royal Oak on weekends for cancellation. No doubt this gave management the idea they could do it all the time and consolidate all Detroit cancellation operations with those of Royal Oak and Flint. This shows the danger of letting management get away with any little concession. If we let them get away with shipping cancellation to Pontiac, then no doubt their next move will be to consolidate more Detroit mail processing to Pontiac, with more hardships to workers and more disruptions to mail service. Postal management's national reorganization will continue to push for such consolidations, and if workers don't get organized to resist it they will be chewed up in the meat grinder.

. The postal unions have been slow to respond to this danger, and now their campaigns against it are focused on side issues. The president of the Detroit APWU (the clerks union), in a recent letter to the Detroit News, downplays the effect of the move on postal workers when he says, "The main impact of the move won't be on employees At worst, employees will face a longer commute to work." In fact postal workers are those most directly and worst affected by the move. A frank and angry admission of this is the best way to organize postal workers. It's also a good way to generate public support, since the working class in general is sick of seeing workers kicked around by profiteering management. The union leadership does little to organize the workers for action, however. Instead it thinks that merely petitioning government officials suffices. But we need mass mobilizations to galvanize postal workers and generate public pressure. Hundreds of postal workers turned out for and spoke up at the November 1st public meeting. We need more such protests along with demonstrations and pickets. Postal workers should demand that management respect our needs ­ say NO to the Pontiac move!

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Last modified: November 12, 2007.
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