Cuts to first-class mail to slow delivery in 2012

December 5, 2011 6:06:03 PM PST
The way mail gets delivered in the United States could be changing dramatically. The U.S. Postal Service is proposing cuts that would slow down the mail.

The USPS wants to close half of its mail processing centers to save money, including those in Burlingame, Petaluma, Eureka, Redding, Stockton and Modesto. In all, 252 mail processing centers nationwide are on the chopping block.

Both postal workers and customers are worried.

The USPS is in a fight for its life. In 2006, 213 billion pieces of first class mail were processed. Last year, that number had fallen to just 168 billion.

With more people using the Internet to pay bills and send messages, the postal agency is now proposing cuts that would make snail mail even slower.

"Right now when you drop a letter in the blue collection box in San Francisco, it'll get delivered the next day; now, with the proposed service changes, it'll take two days for overnight delivery," USPS spokesperson James Wigdel said.

The unprecedented cuts to first class mail are being considered in conjunction with proposals to close half of the nation's mail processing plants, including two in Petaluma and one in Burlingame. The postal service says jobs will be lost through attrition, but employees are worried.

"Hopefully they can solve the problem without laying anyone off," USPS employee John O'Con said.

The USPS has a long history of hiring African Americans dating back to the days of Reconstruction.

"Helped me get two apartment buildings, send my kids to college, I can't complain, I won't," USPS employee James Perry said.

Now one expert says the proposed changes could disproportionately impact the black community.

"A lot of the wealth formation that happened in black families, particularly in San Francisco was because of the postal service and these cuts come at the worst possible time," historian John Templeton said.

The San Francisco spokesperson says layoffs are not allowed under the current union contract but with the postal service facing bankruptcy, sweeping changes are on the table.

The changes are likely to take place in the spring. Next month, however, the price of stamps is going up 1 cent.

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