"Save our post offices"; Local postal workers rally for Congressional action

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- As the U.S. Postal Service eyes the closure of thousands of facilities across the country, postal workers rallied Tuesday urging Congress to take action to save post offices and jobs.

With t-shirts, posters, and signs in hand, local postal workers took to the streets to deliver a single message -- "save our post offices."

Facing $20 billion in losses, the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing down 3,700 post offices nationwide, including facilities in Molina, Gateway, Lazear, and Paradox here on the Western Slope.

Postal workers say what's ironic is that for the last four years the Postal Service has turned a net profit of $611 million -- but ---

"The money they had to put in this fund ate it all up and then some," said Wayne Roberts, a local postal worker and member of the National Association of Letter Carriers union.

In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund health benefits for future retirees for the next 75 years -- and gave them a ten year window to do it in.

"That payment comes out to 5.5 billion dollars a year," said Roberts.

Postal workers say it's because of the law that the Postal Service is in the mess it's in today. And now they're asking for a fix.

"We're trying to bring a bill that's in Congress to the floor and get it voted on by our Congressmen," said Roberts.

H.R. 1351 would allow the Postal Service to tap into surplus funds it has been paying into another retirement system to help pay for the health care fund.

"They can't access those funds right now," said Roberts. "We believe there are between 50 and 75 billion dollars in excess funds in that retirement fund."

The bill is currently sitting in a House committee. Tuesday, in an effort to put pressure on members of Congress, postal workers held rallies outside their district offices, urging them to support it.

None of the Western Slope's elected letters have come out in support or opposition to HR 1351, but all say they're concerned about postal office closures in Colorado, particularly rural communities.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) recently wrote a joint letter to the Postal Regulatory Commission urging the group to carefully consider the impacts to communities as they move forward with discussions about closures.

A spokesperson for Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) released the following statement:

"Congressman Tipton would like to see the Postal Service saved and believes that there will need to be changes made in order for the Postal Service to become solvent. Congressman Tipton is in the process of drafting a letter to the Postal Regulatory Commission Chairwoman citing his concern about the large number of rural post offices in Colorado that are listed for potential closure. He is monitoring this situation closely, and will review final amended legislation once one comes to the House floor for a vote."

HR 1351 currently has 216 co-sponsors from both parties.

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