If you’ve noticed your mail taking a little longer to reach its destination, you’re not imagining things.
New U.S. Postal Service standards took effect last week that added time to delivery service for first-class mail.
The move, which now makes a first-class letter delivery take an average of 2.1 days instead of 1.8 days to reach its destination, comes as the Postal Service plans to eliminate 82 mail processing centers throughout the nation to save money — including ones in Petaluma and Eureka.
The Petaluma processing center is slated for closure in July, although the postal workers union and some political representatives are still trying to prevent it.
Workers at the Petaluma center used to process mail sent from the North Bay, organize it and get it on trucks back out to North Bay customers. Much of that work has been sent to San Francisco, said USPS spokesman James Wigdel.
That means a first-class letter sent from one Santa Rosan to another will travel to San Francisco, be sorted there, then sent back to Petaluma, where a local worker routes it to a letter carrier for delivery.
In days past, that letter would likely be delivered the next day. If the delay of three-tenths of a day hasn’t happened yet, Wigdel said it likely will occur in July when the Petaluma plant closes.
“It affects a very small percentage of mail,” he said. “Most of the mail comes from out of town anyway.”
Local postal workers are encouraging customers to complain to the Postal Rate Commission or their Congressional representative if the service is slow, said Valerie Schropp, vice president of the American Postal Workers Union in the North Bay.
While the Postal Service maintains that the decision to move all of the mail-processing operations out of the Petaluma facility is final, workers are fighting to keep the jobs local and maintain overnight local mail delivery.
Closure of the McDowell Boulevard processing center “will cause delay of mail, loss of good living wage jobs in our community and also cause an adverse economic impact to the communities that depend on good service,” Schropp said.
The slower service will cause hardships for the public and small businesses, delaying prescriptions and other urgent communications, workers argue.
“Our entire community will lose business opportunities associated with e-commerce, which relies on the speedy delivery of goods ordered online,” she said.
Wigdel said no workers will be laid off with the closures. In Petaluma, workers can’t be moved more than 50 miles from their original job site, Schropp said, meaning they could be transferred to Oakland or San Francisco. But that agreement, a side pact to the union contract, may not be in effect once the existing contract expires later this year, which worries workers, Schropp said.
“We won’t be laying anybody off,” Wigdel said. “If there are jobs that are ‘excessed,’ we’ll know better at that stage in July. But certainly we will be making sure they are still employed.”
About 350 workers are employed at the Petaluma and Eureka mail-processing centers.
The cost-cutting moves come as the Postal Service has seen its volume of work decline dramatically with the increasing use of electronic communications and delivery services such as FedEx and UPS. The Postal Service has said it has an infrastructure designed for 300 billion pieces of mail a year, which has fallen to 160 billion pieces in the past few years.