U.S. Postal Service customers can expect big changes by May 15 if Congress doesn't halt proposed cuts that will impact service across the country.
That's what Steve Lunger, president of the local American Postal Workers Union told customers going into the Hepburn Street postal facility in Williamsport Tuesday morning.
He said workers staged a rally on Tax Day there and at the Reach Road center to get that message out to customers.
"It's really sad because of the convenience," said city resident Virginia Swinehart who uses the Hepburn Street post office frequently. "I don't think people realize the seriousness of this."
He said without a change, rural post offices will be eliminated, workers will be laid off and mail will be delayed. Organizations of all sizes will be impacted because of postal cuts, according to Lunger.
Although not an official entity of the U.S. government, the Postal Service is being forced into massive restructuring and cuts. He said the Postal Service would be very profitable if it wasn't for a Congressional mandate passed in 2006 that requires the agency to pre-fund 75 years worth of future retiree health benefits over a 10-year period. That total is $5.5 billion a year, Lunger said. No other entity is required to make such payments, he added.
"I don't think people know all the facts, and that's why we're out here," he said.
Administrators at the Postal Service argue that more than $3 billion would be saved by moving to a five-day delivery service. They also said the Postal Service lost nearly $4 billion in 2009, even with federal legislation that deferred payment to the retirement health benefit fund.
Lunger claimed that mail processed in Harrisburg instead of Williamsport will be dramatically delayed and cited Harrisburg's efficiency of 62 percent compared to Williamsport's 90 percent rating.
He said the Harrisburg processing center is so overloaded that mail sent there is rerouted to Lancaster, which leads to delays. Lunger also said that when a processing center was eliminated in Frederick, Md., last year and relocated in Baltimore, Md., trucks were sitting for weeks with undelivered mail.
Lunger speculated that the Postal Service's tactics are part of a larger plan to eventually privatize the system.
"You can't survive by slashing your distribution by half," he said.
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, was on hand to lend his support to the postal workers' cause. Lunger asked Mirabito if he could work with the state legislature to pass a resolution urging Congress not to approve the planned cuts.