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Postal workers picket at Carmel Road office against 5-day delivery plan

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Nearly 100 employees of the U.S. Postal Service picketed in front of a post office in south Charlotte Sunday afternoon, protesting a plan to reduce mail delivery to five days a week.

The move, the employees said, would mean eliminating thousands of jobs across the nation, including more than 100 in Charlotte.

The protest in Charlotte was one of several across the United States. The local protesters lined the sidewalk outside the post office on Carmel Road near Pineville-Matthews Road on a rainy, unseasonably cold day as the temperature hovered near freezing.

They held up signs that said “5-day wrong way” and “Save America’s Postal Service” and chanted a variation on a weathered protest slogan: “Whose mail? Our mail?”

“We’re looking at the demise of the Postal Service,” said Gerald Brown, president of Local 248, the western North Carolina branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “First it’s five days, then it’s four days – they’re gutting the employees. This is the most ridiculous thing.”

The financially troubled Postal Service announced last month that it would switch in August to five-day service for first-class mail and continue six-day package delivery.

A new spending bill passed by Congress last week appears to continue the requirement for six-day mail delivery, but some lawmakers and postal officials say plans to cut Saturday service should proceed.

Postal authorities argue they still will have delivery over six days, but only packages would be delivered on Saturdays.

The Postal Service said it expected to save $2 billion annually with the Saturday cutback, which will play to the agency’s strong points: Package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010, buoyed by an increase in online shopping.

But email and other electronic communication has decreased the mailing of paper letters.

The Postal Service lost $1.3 billion in the final three months of last year, following a nearly $16 billion loss the previous fiscal year.

But picketing postal employees and union leaders worried aloud that reducing days wasn’t a long-term solution, and that it could be a death knell for the Postal Service.

“What if five days is not going to do it and you need one more day, and one more day after that?” said James Andrews, the president of the N.C. branch of the AFL-CIO, an association that includes two Postal Service unions. “Most of us believe that the slippery slope is about privatization.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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