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Activists want to keep a Champaign post office and dozens of employees from moving to Chicago

Protestors against the Post Office changes holding up signs at the public input meeting hosted by the US Postal Service on Tuesday, March 12 at the University of Illinois' YMCA.

CHAMPAIGN – People gathered in Champaign this week to protest a proposal by the United States Postal Service to change operations at the Champaign Processing and Distribution Center on Mattis Avenue.

The USPS proposes to turn the facility into a local processing center rather than a processing and distribution center.  There will be $7.4 million in other chances, including an update to the center’s layout, flooring, lighting and employee common areas.

“It’s not only good for the Postal Service, it’s not only good for employees, it’s good for the community,” said US Postal Service Spokesperson Tim Norman. “It’s going to lead to better service and better efficiency on getting the mail.”

The proposed changes will also impact 70 employees and four management employees. Some postal workers might have to relocate to the southern Chicago area or take new positions.

“The one thing that we’ve emphasized, the plant is not closing, and there’s not going to be any career layoffs, there might be some changes here and there.” said Norman. 

The proposed changes do not sit well with a crowd who gathered on Tuesday. They rallied at the University of Illinois and then attended the postal service’s public input meeting. 

“None of our jobs are secure, as long as they’re trying to cut costs and downsize the postal service.” said Barbara Bridges, an employee of the post office on Mattis Avenue.

The guarantee for career employees to be able to relocate does not extend to non-career employees. 

“It’s a flexible workforce,” said Norman. “There’s a lot of turnover with flexible employees.”

Bridges says she disagrees with Norman’s assessment of the flexibility of non-career employees.

“It’s not flexible to the people who occupy those jobs, you know, that’s their livelihood,” said Bridges.

More than that, Bridges and many others are concerned for what the impact on the 74 employees could mean. 

“If they don’t accept the job that they’re offered, then it’s considered that they’ve quit,” said Bridges. “It’s kind of an underhanded way of cutting jobs without the decency of admitting that that’s what they’re doing. People are afraid that they’re going to have to move – uproot their families and up in their lives just to keep their jobs, and that’s not fair.”  

Norman said people have until March 27 to provide input on the proposed changes to the post office on Mattis Avenue. Click here to see the online survey.

“We need to modernize,” said Norman. “It’s been about 15 years; it should have been done a lot sooner than that.”

Activists agree with Norman, but they still take issue with these specific modernizations.

“I understand that they need to modernize systems, but we want them to modernize systems and make things better while still keeping good union jobs that are part of keeping our community afloat,” said Leslie Owens with Party for Socialism and Liberation. 

Central Illinois congresswomen Nikki Budzinski and Mary Miller sent a joint letter asking the postal service to maintain the Champaign Mail Processing and Distribution Center. In a letter to Postmaster Louis DeJoy, Budzinski and Miller said a plan to downsize the center would mean worse delivery rates

Mae Antar

Mae Antar

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