Postal workers in the region are raising concerns about the ongoing consolidation of the U.S. Postal Service that they say will only reduce delivery service standards for the region as a whole.
In October 2021, postal workers at Redmond’s USPS distribution center, called the East DDC, protested as the threat of closing the center loomed over their heads. They picketed, not for their jobs, as they were told they would be relocated if it were shut down, but because they were concerned about a trend of delivery service standards continuing to fall across the region.
On Jan. 5, after touring the facility with administrators, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-District 1) met with postal union representatives to gain their perspective on the declining services, work conditions and morale issues inside East DDC.
Robert Jared of the GSAL-APWU Local 28 union said the facility is down to seven mail processing machines from the 16 they had only a few years ago. He said that the facility is also understaffed and desperately needs manpower because machines are being assigned with one person, an unprecedented “no-no,” according to him.
GSAL-APWU Local 28 Union Representative David Yao said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy lowered delivery standards and lengthened delivery times in order to save money, but Yao argued the projected savings were not significant enough to warrant a decrease in quality of service.
Don Sneesby of the National Mail Handlers Union Local 316 said first class mail that would have been delivered overnight now can take up to six weeks to reach its destination.
Yao said USPS has nationally been reducing services in line with a projection of slowly decreasing letter mail volume, but he said the cost-savings projection was somewhere near a mere 5 percent.
“Even though nationwide letter volumes are dropping, we are a growing region,” Yao said.
DelBene said the demographics projections that were used to make this decision were based on decade-old assessments.
DelBene is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021, which among other things would protect six-day delivery, require the Postal Regulatory Commission and the USPS IG to study the causes of inefficiencies related to flat mail delivery, and require USPS to publish weekly performance data on a public dashboard.
The postal workers union reps agreed that the East DDC is understaffed and has low morale as workers are overworked, and recognized barriers to recruiting new hires.
Yao said that housing affordability and availability are definitely a barrier to bringing in new staff who may not be able to afford to live in Redmond and may not want to commute long distances. He also said new hires often quit when they realize they must work 14- and 15-hour shifts with the heavy demand on letter and parcel delivery as a consequence of the pandemic.
Sneesby pointed out that they are only able to offer low entry-level wages, which makes them a less competitive employer.
On Dec. 13, 2021, the unions were notified by management that the move date for the East DDC facility is Feb. 26, 2022. DelBene’s office said the following cities’ mail delivery will be impacted: Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, North Bend, Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Pass, Carnation, Duvall, Fall City, Mill Creek, Bothell, Woodinville, Lynnwood, Edmonds, Kirkland, and Redmond.
During her tour with East DDC administrators, DelBene said she was told that the move was no longer anticipated for that date, leaving postal workers further confused and in the dark about the future of the facility.
She acknowledged the strategic location of Redmond’s East DDC for the region, and fears the impacts that its shut down would have on the region’s delivery services and the traffic impacts it could have if the facility’s service were deferred to other locations.
“It would be difficult to manage those volumes elsewhere,” said Sneesby.