Save the Post Office: Postal workers rally in DL
U.S. Post office employees rallying outside of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson's office Tuesday afternoon were hoping their voices were heard all the way from Detroit Lakes to Washington D.C.
"I'm here to save my job," said Detroit Lakes Auxiliary Carrier Peggy Moltzan.
Moltzan was one of the approximately 30 postal workers who dotted the corners of downtown Detroit Lakes holding signs and handing out flyers during one of several rallies being held to drum up support for House Bill 1351 - legislation postal workers say would put them back into good financial standing.
Although the U.S. Post Office has reported billions of dollars in revenue loss over the past few years, postal employees say it's not so much due to competition with the Internet as it is an inadequate pension plan with ridiculously premature requirements.
"We have to pay on a plan ahead of time ... for not just people who aren't retired yet but for employees who aren't even born yet," said New York Mills Mail Carrier Brandy Sanford.
Sanford says their goal for the rally is to get legislators to sign onto Bill 1351 (set for a vote later this week or next week) that would re-calculate those pension payments and reimburse the Post Office for overpayments.
"If it weren't for this, the post office would have made money over the past four years," Sanford said.
Postal workers argue that the agency's shortfall stems from a 2006 law that requires the U.S. Postal Service to pre-fund health benefits for future retirees for the next 75 years.
The post office, the workers said, is the only federal agency with such a requirement, which costs $5.5 billion annually.
Putting that aside, they said, the agency has reaped more than $600 million in profits over the past four years.
The rally outside of Rep. Peterson's office was more for public awareness than anything, as Peterson, who was in session in Washington D.C., already signed onto the bill back in June.
"We are thankful to him, but we still need to tell the public what's really going on because there are just too many misconceptions," said Sanford, who helped pull in rally volunteers from all over Peterson's district - including Fergus Falls, Bemidji and Vergas.
Another goal for the postal workers was to fight against cutting their six-day delivery to five days - a move they say will be felt all across America.
"If they do that, 120,000 jobs will be lost immediately," said Moltzan, who estimates that ten 'subs' in Detroit Lakes would lose their jobs, while many others will feel it in their pockets.
"Because I'm an auxiliary carrier, working only five days would mean I would get no benefits and my hours would be cut," said Moltzan, who has carried mail in Detroit Lakes for 16 years.
Down the block from her stood retired Battle Lake Postal Carrier Spencer Sawyer, who came to the rally to show support for organized labor, for his fellow postal employees and for small communities everywhere.
"It's pathetic," said Sawyer, "In rural America, which is struggling all over, we have a different economy. Our dollars turn over 12 times before it ever leaves the community. It's what helps hold the community together, and this is just another shot at rural values."
Sawyer says eliminating a day of mail delivery means rural and small town residents will always get their newspapers a day late - which he says will then affect advertisers and local businesses.
Ronald Goodman, owner of Goodman's Supermarket in Vergas, agrees.
"They took all our routes out of Vergas and now it goes through Frazee, so we don't get our mail until 10:30 or 11. Well, people want their newspapers right away in the morning, so now I have to go all the way to Frazee to pick up the newspapers and bring them back to the store every morning," said Goodman, who also worries the Post Office in Vergas will be shut down completely in the next two years.
Vergas is one of dozens of post offices on the chopping block - a situation postal employees say they shouldn't be in.
Sanford says contrary to a lot of misunderstanding, the Post Office does not get any funding through taxes, and if handled right, can still make a profit on simply selling stamps and other items through its windows.
"We're not asking for a bail-out, we just want to get the mail out."
For more information, log on to www.SaveAmericasPostalService.org.