By Sara Robinson and Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
A plan by the U.S. Postal Service to cut Saturday mail delivery has its share of supporters, but area USPS employees and some customers aren’t among them.
Several postal workers, who did not want to be identified, said they heard the news at the same time as the general public, and had no additional information on how the move could affect their jobs. The plan still needs congressional approval before it can become permanent.
However, Enola Rice, a spokeswoman for the USPS, said the move will have a minimal impact on staff.
She said any reductions would be “through attrition, reassignment and other tools available to us.”
Rice also said the Postal Service has reduced its workforce by more than 193,000 without layoffs.
Under the plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays. Packages would continue to be delivered on Saturdays.
Jerry Cowley, a customer at the Thomas Street post office in Tupelo, said he doesn’t think the change would affect him personally, but is concerned about postal employees.
“I hate to see this happen,” he said. “I believe it will impact postal service employees.”
The plan was announced a week after Tupelo’s outgoing mail processing operations were closed and its workload shifted to Memphis.
Belle Tapp, owner of Belle’s and Bows Flower Shop in Baldywn, said she didn’t like the idea of not getting Saturday mail.
“I want to have my mail on Saturday, and I want it every day,” she said. “The checks are in the mail, the bills are in the mail . … I send my statements out the first of the month, and people start sending them back in three or four days. If the mail doesn’t come, I don’t get them. I don’t want to have to wait.”
But members of Congress seem to support the move for the financially strapped Postal Service.
Ranking members on the House and Senate committees responsible for overseeing the USPS voiced strong support for the measure in a public letter to congressional leaders.
In a letter Wednesday, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Darrell Issa and ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Tom Coburn said support for the measure is widespread among consumers, congressional members and the White House. President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for the USPS to switch to five-day delivery of mail.
Opponents argue that the move would negatively impact small businesses, the elderly, rural customers and the disabled. The postal workers’ union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, blasted the decision and called for the “immediate removal of the postmaster general.”
Mississippi 1st District Congressman Alan Nunnelee, like many others, said the Postal Service had little choice.
“The Postal Service is very important, especially to rural communities,” he said. “…The Post Office needs flexibility if it is going to survive in the 21st century world of emails, FedEx and UPS.
“While I understand the concern regarding the timely delivery of essential items, it is important to note the Postal Service is maintaining a six-day delivery schedule for packages.”
Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, opposed the end of Saturday delivery.
“Last year, I supported legislation that would have placed a two-year moratorium on ending Saturday mail delivery and required a study to find other cost-saving options,” said Wicker. “Unfortunately, the Senate postal reform bill stalled. I hope Congress can work on a bipartisan bill that would help ensure postal customers receive adequate service.
“We have asked the Postal Service to run its operation more like a business. In my judgment, we have to give them some leeway based on economics, but stopping Saturday delivery is the wrong decision,” Wicker said.
Jeff Chambers, president of Alliance Collection Service in Tupelo, said he, too, doesn’t support the measure.
But, he added, “I suppose if my choice was between eliminating Saturday delivery or postage increases, I would prefer the former.”