CHARLOTTE, N.C. – About 75 letter carriers withstood cold drizzle and brisk temperatures Sunday to protest a plan to cut Saturday mail delivery.
The workers, wearing matching American-flag T-shirts, lined Carmel Road outside Carmel Station post office for three hours Sunday afternoon, chanting and waving signs at passing traffic. Some cars honked in return.
They’re protesting the U.S. Postal Service’s plans to cut back to five-day-a-week home mail delivery, from its current six days. Packages would still be delivered on Saturdays in the new plan, and post offices hours would remain the same. Mail would still be delivered to postal boxes, too. Only delivery to individual addresses would be affected.
The USPS has said the change could save them $2 billion a year. The letter carriers estimate the change could cost them between 22,000 and 35,000 jobs nationwide – without solving the problem that’s costing the most money.
“It's not about the mail,” said letter carrier David Meeks. “It’s about Congress has us pre-funding our healthcare, and in doing so it puts a burden on the postal service.”
The letter carriers say a Congressional mandate to pre-fund retirement healthcare for the next 75 years – and pay for it in just 10 – costs the service $5.5 billion a year. The workers point out that the postal service was self-sustaining and even earned a profit before the mandate was put in place.
“We're paying way more than any corporation in America to prefund retirement healthcare benefits,” said local union president Kevin Baker. “Just to manufacture a crisis and say we don't need Saturday delivery to save money -- it's a false statement, it just is.”
Letter carriers protest that the cutbacks would hurt service and cut revenue in the long run. The USPS states on its website that multiple polls show them that roughly 70 percent of customers won’t miss Saturday service.
“It just seems like an extra,” agreed Ben Rhodes, a postal customer. “It's just something that I don't know we necessarily need.”
“We get very little that's valuable in the mail anyway,” echoed Luanne McAuliffe. “Typically all comes electronically nowadays.”
For now, the letter carriers get a reprieve. The Government Accountability Office said the postal agency did not have the right to end Saturday mail on its own, and Congress has delayed the cutback in deliveries until the end of September.
Associated Press contributed to this report.