PORTLAND — Post offices on Congress Street and Cliff Island under threat of closure got a boost Monday night from the City Council.
Councilors unanimously endorsed a resolution opposing the closure of both the Station A office at 622 Congress St. and the Cliff Island post office.
The show of support comes at a time when local post offices are under mounting pressure as the U.S. Postal Service struggles to close a $8.5 billion deficit.
On July 26, the USPS announced it was considering closing 3,400 post offices nationwide, many of which were located in rural areas. Thirty-four offices in Maine made the list, including two in Portland.
Then on Aug. 12, the USPS announced that it was seeking Congressional authorization to slash its workforce by 120,000 employees by 2015. The proposed cuts come after the USPS lost 100,000 positions through attrition.
“While our business remains vital to the U.S. economy, we will be insolvent next month,” the USPS said in a letter to Congress.
Tim Doughty, president of the American Postal Union Local 458, said postal workers are awaiting the final closure recommendations from the Postal Regulatory Commission before organizing rallies to keep Station A and Cliff Island open.
Meanwhile, Doughty doesn’t believe the 500-member union of local window clerks, processors, maintenance crews and truck drivers are in danger of losing their jobs, should Congress authorize the workforce reduction.
Doughty said the union signed a five-year employment contract in May that contains a no-layoff provision.
“I don’t believe our employees are at risk,” he said.
But the USPS is asking Congress to allow it to bypass the contractual no-layoff clauses with its four bargaining units.
A local representative of the National Association of Letter Carriers could not be reached for comment.
Doughty said he believes the USPS’s financial problems are only partly attributed to a reduction in mail volume. He claims the USPS, which doesn’t receive tax dollars, has been been pillaged by Congress.
“For many years the Postal Service was turning a profit and Congress has repeatedly slipped their hands into the Postal Service pockets to extract some cold hard cash,” Doughty said in a letter. “Now that the Postal Service has thinned its earnings the forced profit sharing demanded by Congress must cease.”
Both Doughty and the city do not feel that closing the Station A and Cliff Island post offices will make a significant impact on postal finances.
The resolution passed by the City Council on Monday notes that Station A is located in one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, one comprised of many elderly and low-income residents.
The resolution also states that rural post offices like Cliff Island only account for one percent of the USPS budget. But the post office provides a “lifeline” for Cliff Island, one of 15 year-round island communities in Maine.
Mayor Nicholas Mavodones said city officials recently visited the island to speak to residents. Residents consider the post office vital to year-round life.
Mavodones also noted that when the city consolidated polling places, it required Cliff Islanders to vote absentee.
The only place for them to do that on the island was the post office, Mavodones said.
“(It’s) something that really keeps the island viable,” he said.