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Postal union claims consolidation will cause delays
By Kimberly Pohl | Daily Herald Staff

The U.S. Postal Service is considering moving some outgoing mail operations to Carol Stream from the Palatine Processing and Distribution Center, pictured here.


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Published: 10/16/2009 12:03 AM

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The American Postal Workers Union has launched a public campaign to fight the consolidation of mail processing services they claim will delay mail delivery to suburbs with 600 ZIP codes.

The postal service, however, denies that consolidating the outgoing mail processing operations from the Palatine Processing and Distribution Center to a similar facility in Carol Stream will cause any backup at all.

"There will be absolutely no change from a customer's perspective," spokesman Tim Ratliff said. "Service standards will remain the same."

Hemorrhaging revenue prompted the postal service to begin a feasibility study into the idea in June. Mail volume has decreased by 9 billion pieces in the last year alone, Ratliff said. And news reports say the postal service is running a deficit that could reach $7 billion this year.

But relocating some operations to Carol Stream is not the solution, says Jackie Engelhart, president of Northwest Illinois Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union.

She said that under the proposal, all mail collected in the 600 ZIP code would be transported 18 miles to the Carol Stream processing facility, sorted by town, and then transported back to Palatine to be further sorted by individual ZIP code and mail route.

"They want to add a step and the result is going to be a major delay" of up to a day, Engelhart said.

The union also is trying to protect 131 positions the postal service said will be affected. Those people will not directly be laid off, but would be assigned to different duties, hours or locations. Engelhart said elderly employees who have worked inside a building for decades could be reassigned as carriers up to 500 miles away.

Employees are so nervous, Engelhart said, that 108 at the Palatine facility took early retirement packages effective at the end of this month.

Ratliff, who said union agreements will be honored, said incentives for employees to leave are part of the bigger strategy to respond to the drop in mail volume.

"We have more equipment, staff and facilities than (are) needed to process the declining volume of mail," Ratliff said. "We need to respond to these challenging circumstances."

Currently, there are 1,205 employees at Carol Stream and 1,330 at Palatine.

The union doesn't understand why the consolidation would take place at Carol Stream when Palatine just completed a multimillion dollar expansion.

Ratliff said plans have not been finalized on how to utilize the extra 50,000 square feet of space at the Palatine facility, and acknowledged the postal service was on firmer financial footing when construction began than it is now.

Senior management looked at every possibility and determined the Carol Stream facility would offer the most efficiencies, Ratliff added.

He could not provide logistical details about how transporting mail for processing to Carol Stream would not delay delivery in the 600 ZIP codes, but said the postal service is confident it would not.

Union leaders have given information to U.S. Representatives Melissa Bean and Mark Kirk and both Illinois senators in hopes of winning their support. They also sat down with several local mayors.

Engelhart said the postal service is not being open, and the union has filed labor board charges to get a copy of the feasibility study.

Ratliff said the postal service is continually updating employees and stakeholders and held a public meeting last month, but added the study is constantly changing as data comes in.

Prompt mail delivery is crucial for Michael Tarpinian, owner of Allegra Marketing Print and Mail in Rolling Meadows. He said he wasn't told about the proposed consolidation, although he is on a list of stakeholders the postal service said was contacted.

"In essence we're a partner of the Post Office because we send out mail for businesses of all sizes," Tarpinian said. "To hear there could be a delay hurts because in this day and age, old news isn't worth much."