Dozens of US postal workers and their supporters gathered outside ’s Mercer Island office Tuesday, Sept. 27 — a few hundred yards down the street from the Island's main — to seek his support for a bill that they say would save the postal service from its current financial crisis.
The rally was part of a national call to action by postal unions, including nine such events in Washington state. The unions support a bill, H.R. 1351, which would allow pension overpayments in 2011 to be reallocated and transferred to the postal service’s health benefits fund, which it is mandated to pre-fund for future retirees, or the employees’ contribution fund.
Darin Edwards, a Bellevue resident who works at the Post Office in Ballard and serves as customer service craft director for the Seattle area local of the American Postal Workers union, AFL-CIO, said the unions have previously met with Reichert and asked for his support.
“He did not indicate absolute support, but he seemed concerned and his interest was sincere,” Edward said. Edwards said Reichert particularly expressed concern for retirees. That bill currently has 216 congressional sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, but Reichert is not listed among them.
Another bill, H.R. 2309, which recently passed a House subcommittee, would establish a commission to reorganize the postal service, which could close or consolidate postal facilities and could reduce mail delivery to five days a week. The APWU asserts that that loan could mean as many as 120,000 postal workers would be laid off and undermine collective bargaining rights.
Edwards said a lot of cities that have more than one post office would be affected. For example, he said, Renton recently moved its carrier operations from its downtown station to the Renton Highlands. If H.R. 2309 became law, the USPS could close the downtown Renton Post Office once the lease for the building is up.
“H.R. 2309 is too extreme,” Edwards said.
Local mail carriers from Mercer Island's two locations — a and a on the South-end — were among those at the rally. Okey Akres, a Milton resident who has worked for the for 27 years, currently as a shop steward, said he’d like to see the USPS saved, noting it’s one of the few jobs delineated in the U.S. Constitution.
“Obviously it’s a tough economy, but we’re looking to keep that infrastructure,” he said.
Other people were there in support of postal workers. One Bellevue woman said her husband, a retired Postal Service employee said she believes the USPS is worth saving and has provided a stable career and a good retirement for countless people.