Postal workers ignore cold, protest closing of Martinsburg processing plant

March 17, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — About 50 area postal workers ignored Sunday afternoon’s windswept cold to protest plans by the U.S. Postal Service to close mail processing plants in Martinsburg and Cumberland, Md., and to end Saturday mail delivery.

Postal union members from the Eastern Panhandle; Washington, Allegany, Garrett, Frederick and Carroll counties in Maryland; Winchester, Va., and Baltimore joined the protest in front of Ryan’s Grill Buffet and Bakery on Foxcroft Avenue.

Phil Jones, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 513 in Cumberland, was one of several spokespeople at the rally, dubbed Save Your Post Office. He held a sign with a photo of his nemesis — Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.

Jones said his union represents about 75 employees working in 40 post offices in Allegany and Garrett counties, and in Hampshire and Mineral counties in West Virginia. Jones works in the post office in Cumberland.

“I’m here to support my local brothers and sisters,” he said.

The U.S. Postal Service, which has been operating at a huge loss for years, announced plans to consolidate Cumberland and Martinsburg sorting operations in Baltimore. The Frederick sorting center moved to Baltimore in 2011, said Amy Garrison, a window clerk in the New Windsor (Md.) Post office.

Jones said 44 employees work in the Cumberland processing center. Eleven or 12 are supposed to transfer to other jobs in Cumberland, he said.

Jones said the U.S. Postal Service promises to offer other positions to the affected employees, but he said he doesn’t believe it.

Neil Laggan is one of five electrical technicians and four mechanics who keep the sorting machines working in the Martinsburg processing center. There are 37 clerks working the machines, he said.

The plan is to eliminate the evening shift June 1 and the night shift July 1, Laggan said.

Jones and others on the protest line said moving the work to Baltimore “is ridiculous.”

It will delay the mail, Jones said.

“If I mail a letter to my father-in-law down the street, it gets there the next day. How can that happen if the mail has to be trucked to Baltimore for sorting then trucked back to Cumberland, a 272-mile round trip from Cumberland to mail a letter across the street.”

According to one of the fliers handed out at the protest, the cuts are about “privatization.” The flier reads: “The same greed by Wall Street & the banks that trashed our economy, put millions out of work & forced millions to lose their homes, now want to privatize, steal the post office from the American People. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Get angry, get active, rise up.”

Sunday’s protest was organized by Tom Dodge of Community & Postal Workers United, a movement of communities, businesses and postal workers whose goal is to save the post office from privatization.

The Martinsburg rally was held in conjunction with the group’s National Day of Action on St. Patrick’s Day.

At one point Sunday, Dodge and other protesters bucked the busy Foxcroft Avenue traffic to work the other side of the street.

Dodge grabbed his bullhorn.

His voice, carrying over traffic noise, urged the crowd with slogans like, “Five days, No Way,” “The postal service is under attack so what do you do?” To which the crowd responded, “Stand up and fight. People united will never be defeated.”

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