Pasco post office operations move postponed

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJune 26, 2013 

The U.S. Postal Service's Pasco mail handling facility will continue postmarking letters until at least mid-July, a spokesman said.

Operations were supposed to move to Spokane after Friday. The postal service is still working on setting up transportation for the move, spokesman Ernie Swanson said.

"Because of the enormity of the process, that's been postponed a couple weeks," Swanson said.

Pasco is the first of three Eastern Washington mail handling facilities to have its operations consolidated into Spokane.

About 15 employees are impacted by the move, Swanson said. Because of union contracts, the post office cannot lay off workers or involuntarily move them more than 50 miles from the site on West Court Street in Pasco.

Some of the workers have already found other jobs in the postal service, while "a few" are still looking for new positions, Swanson said.

"In some cases, they may not be doing the same thing they are now," Swanson said. "They may not be in the same place."

The post office will remain open in the same Pasco building. Some of the mail handling employees will keep their jobs there because the office will continue to break down mail sent from Spokane for distribution within the Mid-Columbia, Swanson said.

But the local American Postal Workers Union president, John Michael Wald, said the postal service has set aside only five jobs for the 17 displaced Pasco employees.

The jobs Pasco employees are being asked to volunteer for include package sorting positions that have been vacant for years because of odd hours, Wald said.

Others are being asked to take mail carrier positions in Walla Walla and Sunnyside. The jobs are barely within the required 50-mile radius of Pasco, Wald said, and they would force the workers to switch to the National Association of Letter Carriers union.

The workers would lose their protection against layoffs if they are forced to change unions, Wald said. But eventually, some workers could be forced to take the jobs.

The postal service had 18 months to find positions for the employees since announcing the Pasco cutbacks, Wald said, but only started setting jobs aside five or six months ago.

"I don't have an MBA, but this doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said. "We're not making enough money, so let's reduce service?"

The postal service plans to set new collection times in the Tri-Cities in the next few days, Swanson said. Paper 30-day notices were posted on collection boxes around the Tri-Cities last month, letting customers know that mail would be collected around three hours earlier each day. Swanson later said the notices were posted by mistake.

Swanson has since learned that giving 30 days notice for collection is not a "hard and fast" requirement, he said.

The post office is still expected to have at least one Tri-City location with a 5 p.m. pickup time, Swanson said.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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