Last Friday, a concerned group of citizens, elected officials, and a coalition of community organizations met at the office of 29th Ward Ald. Deborah Graham’s office, 5755 W. Division, to discuss the proposed closing of post offices in the Austin area and elsewhere.
The group, organized as POST, an acronym for Protecting Our Services Together, was convened to develop a strategy for protesting and preventing the closing of several post offices that are on the chopping block due to a multi-billion dollar deficit currently threatening the future of the U.S. Postal Service.
Organization representatives included Rickie Brown of the West Side Historical Society, Dr. Theresa Mah of the Coalition For A Better Chinese American Community, Bob Vondrasek of South Austin Coalition Community Council, Catherine Jones of Frederick Douglass PTS, and Mack Julion of the National Association of Letter Carriers. Also in attendance was Daryl Turner, aldermanic aide to the 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin.
“We put out a call to local organizations and politicians to come together and work to stop these closures,” Rickie Brown said, “and, we were on our way.”
Of the proposed nationwide facility closures, many are in Illinois. Under the current proposal, all stations located in the Austin, Englewood, and Chinese communities would be closed. Therefore, there would be no window services for mailing packages, purchasing stamps and other service traditionally provided by the post office.
Since the postmaster announced the potential closings, the group has participated in a news conference, radio talk shows, and has planned a rally in Chinatown for Thursday, Sept. 8, at 10 a.m. Jesse Jackson is slated to be in attendance when the group assembles at Allen Lee Square, Wentworth and West 23rd Street.
“The potential closure of the Chinatown post office could really have a major impact on our community because we have a lot of seniors and a lot of brand new immigrates in our community who feel comfortable in the community and rely on having services close by so they can get their mail sent,” said Mah of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community. “These are folks that don’t use the internet as much as other folks, and they just need to have the convenience of services in their community.”
Mah stressed that if the Chinatown post office is closed, it could be devastating to the community due to its densely populated location.
“You don’t deprive a community of access to the postal service office. Every American in this country deserves the right to have access to the postal service,” said Julion, president and Branch 11 of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
The proposal calls for the window services to be outsourced. Julion said he is concerned that this will open the way for private businesses, or “Ma and Pa stores” to take over and provide fewer services at a substantially higher consumer cost. He added that he would like to see smaller facilities replace the older, robust buildings that currently house the postal service.
In addition to preparing for Thursday’s Chinatown rally, POST is putting the finishing touches on a nationwide rally slated for Sept. 27, just days before due date of a $5.5 billion payment the U.S. Postal Service is slated to make into the Postal Service Health Benefit Plan. The location of the rally in Chicago has yet to be determined, but Jackson and other activists are slated to take part.
Julion insisted a change in legislation would prevent the closures.
“Over the past five years, the post office has made $20.9 billion in payments into its health benefits account. Over that same period, they had a net income of $20.2 billion, so if you took away these payments, the post office, over the past five years, has made over a half a billion dollars.
“Get rid of this burden that’s dragging down the post office,” he added, “and there is no need to compromise, but for legislative change.”