Tupelo postal workers fight to save operation

TUPELO – A potential plan by the United States Postal Service to relocate mail processing from Tupelo to Memphis could mean job loss, as well as delayed delivery in 46 cities, postal workers here say.
Members of the American Postal Workers Union asked Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and the City Council on Tuesday to prevent such a move by urging congressional leaders to get involved.
“The Postal Service says there will be no change in service, but we know better,” said Patience Davis, who works at the Tupelo Customer Service Mail Processing Center on Thomas Street.
Davis and her colleagues spoke during a council meeting at City Hall.
The USPS last month revealed it was considering a plan to consolidate Tupelo’s mail processing operations with those in Memphis due to declining mail volume.
“We’re doing a study to determine if it’s a good idea or not,” USPS spokeswoman Beth Barnett told the Daily Journal at the time. The study will take about five months.
She also said that if a consolidation does occur, it will involve only outbound mail from Tupelo and not mail coming into Tupelo, so deliveries in the area would not be affected.
Not true, said Davis. Overnight delivery of mail sent within the same ZIP code area will stop if the local processing center moves to Memphis, she said. That area includes 46 communities whose codes begin with 388.
In addition to waiting two or three extra days for mail, the area will lose its Tupelo postmark.
“You don’t want to lose your identity,” said union representative Billy Woods.
Barnett said Wednesday that these claims are typical anytime the USPS studies consolidation. And while she lauded the workers for speaking out, she challenged their statements.
“A lot of it, quite frankly, is misinformation,” she said. “Any changes, if made, would not have an adverse effect on service.”
But Woods questioned how the USPS can maintain adequate service by moving operations to an already overburdened city.
Located 110 miles northwest, the Memphis center fails to meet USPS time standards, Woods said, and that’s without the added load of processing Tupelo’s mail.
Year to date, he said, Memphis is running a 150,000-hour deficit in processing its mail. In other words, it’s 15 percent behind where it should be by now.
That compares to Tupelo, which is running about 10 percent ahead of the game, having shaved more than 8,500 hours from its processing time, Woods said.
Countered Barnett: “We would not even be considering consolidating Tupelo to Memphis would there not be the capacity in Memphis to
handle the volume.”
Even if that were true, local union president Amanda Berryhill said Tupelo would suffer job loss due to the consolidation. It’d hurt employees and the economy, she said. She also urged city leaders and residents to call their congressmen to stop such a move.
The calls might not deter the USPS, which faces dwindling business in the digital age.
“It’s understandable they’re uneasy about the possibility of change,” Barnett said. “But I want to assure you and your readers that the postal service really needs to improve productivity and efficiency, and we’re going to continue to focus on customer service.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Contact congressmen
To voice off about a potential plan to move mail processing from Tupelo to Memphis, contact:
* U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. at (662) 844-5010
* U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. at (662) 236-1018
* U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss. at (662) 841-8808

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

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