‘Road warrior’: Fight for Cascadia P.O.

Sean C. Morgan

Retired postal carrier Jamie Partridge says that the U.S. Postal Service is not broke, and it doesn’t need to close post offices or processing centers, including Cascadia Post Office, which is among some 13,000 slated for possible closure.

Partridge is a self-described “postal road warrior” who has traveled around the Northwest to meet with residents in communities whose post offices are threatened with closure. He met with Cascadia residents Saturday afternoon at The Rez Church, next door to Foster Post Office, to help them organize and plan ways to oppose the possible permanent closure of Cascadia Post Office, which was already on the list before it burned on Nov. 19.

Processing centers will start closing next year, Patridge said. When Salem closes, letters to Salem won’t get there overnight. They’ll have to go to Portland first. On July 1, the Postmaster General changed the first-class delivery standards to allow this.

Foster Post Office is slated to have its hours cut in half, Partridge said. Communities will be offered cuts in hours, closures or village Post Offices, which offer minimal services.

But none of this is necessary, Partridge said. “It’s not broke, despite what you might be reading in the newspaper.”

Expenses and revenues are generally even, he said. The Postal Service is not suffering from the growth of the Internet. The Internet reduced the number of letters, but it has resulted in more parcels with online shopping.

“It’s a manufactured crisis,” Partridge said. In 2006, Congress passed a law forcing the Postal Service to spend nearly 10 percent of its budget prefunding retiree benefits 75 years in advance.

That includes employees who aren’t even born yet, Partridge said.

“The Postal Service has been going into debt ever since,” he said. On June 1, the Postal Service defaulted on that debt.

The Postal Service has a surplus in its pension fund, he said, and this money is stashed away so the agency can’t access it.

A bipartisan bill would correct the problem, Partridge said, but congressional leadership won’t let it out of committee for a vote until after the election.

Partridge said he believes that it is an attempt to soften up the Postal Service for union busting and privatization.

A significant number of Postal Service board members would like to privatize the service, Partridge said. They were appointed by the last presidential administration. The Postmaster General answers to the board.

Private interests would love to pick up downtown service while forgetting about rural service, Partridge said. “The communities most impacted are rural and low income.”

It affects senior citizens who rely on the mail for prescriptions, he said. It takes away the community bulletin board.

While congressional efforts are held up in committee, “it is possible to push back on a local level,” he said. “We’ve found it’s possible to change the Postmaster General’s mind.”

People showed up to community meetings about closures last year, and the decision to close post offices was delayed, he said. He came back in the spring and said he would cut hours instead of closing post offices.

That’s a step toward closing them anyway, Partridge said. People can’t make it to the post offices during work, and business slows down justifying closures.

The key is to get elected officials involved and get people to hearings, Partridge said. “You can’t close a post office just because it isn’t making money.”

Postal service is mandated by law in rural areas, he said. In one case, when the people made that clear, not only was a closure averted, hours were extended.

The Postal Service reported at the end of July it would fail to pay its prefund mandate of $5.5 billion due on Aug. 1 or the $5.6 billion payment due Sept. 30.

In the first three quarters of the fiscal year, the Postal Service reported a total loss of $11.6 billion. The largest contribution to the loss was $9.2 billion in accrued for prefunding health benefits.

The Postal Service reported in a news release that to cover the losses it must eliminate the prefunding mandate, refund $11 billion overfunding in its pension plan and transition to a five-day delivery schedule.

Partridge said Foster Post Office will get a hearing, with a time and date to be announced after Aug. 23. When that hearing is called, someone from the community can facilitate it. Everyone who shows up can testify and keep the postal representative there to hear about it. Cascadia residents can attend the meeting and talk about their Post Office too.

Along with the hearings, representatives and senators can make a difference, Partridge said.

For more information, Partridge suggested visiting savethepostoffice.com.