Postal workers in Lynchburg, Virginia joined other postal employees around the country this week, celebrating retiring employees.
About 20 clerks and maintenance employees in Lynchburg said good-bye to their coworkers for the last time on Jan. 31. Some were already eligible to retire; others took advantage of the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority, also known as VERA.
These postal employees join a group of Lynchburg mail handlers who chose retirement in August 2012, following an earlier retirement initiative.
Unlike many people who plan for retirement, these employees only had a few months to decide whether or not to retire. The Postal Service set a deadline of Jan. 31 for employees to be eligible for a retirement bonus.
Retirement is bittersweet for many of those who chose to leave. Most of the retiring employees worked at the processing facility where I currently work, scheduled to be closed Feb. 23, 2013.
The facility was built in 1977 and was still pretty new when I began working there in 1986. It’s also bittersweet for those of us who didn’t retire.
As we prepare mentally for our facility to close, we watch equipment being taken apart to be shipped to other facilities.
Many of our coworkers who aren’t retiring have already transferred to Roanoke, where all of the mail currently worked in Lynchburg will be processed.
We’ve already said good-bye to some coworkers who were transferred to Roanoke months ago, when some of the mail was moved to Roanoke.
Like many of my coworkers, I’ve found myself recently thinking back to happier times when I was many years younger and our building was filled to capacity with employees working shifts around the clock.
Soon, the building will be an empty shell and the employees scattered to the four winds. The luckiest among us will go to a different position here in Lynchburg.
Some will work at the retail counters at offices throughout the city. Some will become mail carriers, learning to deliver mail and walk the streets of Lynchburg.
Others will end up transferred to Roanoke, being slotted into jobs with middle-of-the-night hours and days off in the middle of the week. Several will choose to transfer to jobs in smaller offices, mostly part-time jobs.
In the days ahead, there will be more farewells in Lynchburg and other offices. It’s never easy to say good-bye.
I wish all of my coworkers well, those here in Lynchburg and those I don’t know across the country. For those whose facilities are closing, may you find a soft landing spot.
For those working in gaining facilities, may you welcome your new coworkers with open arms and show them kindness and compassion.
You can read more about postal closings and consolidations at Save the Post Office.com. This website was created by Steve Hutkins, a literature professor who teaches at the Gallatin School of New York University.
The Postal Service has been struggling with rising costs and a lackluster economy, like many other companies. Additionally, First Class Mail volumes have been in decline, in part due to the economy.
But the real culprit behind the Postal Service’s current economic state is a 2006 Congressional mandate which requires USPS to pre-fund, within 10 years, retiree healthcare benefits for the next 75 years.
This mandate applies to no other company. It appears that Congress will do nothing to change the mandate.
This leaves the Postal Service with an ugly solution to the problem: cut jobs, consolidate postal facilities, change service standards that dictate mail delivery, shorten hours at small offices, and close post offices in rural areas.
Additionally, the Postal Service continues to explore the possibilities of shortening mail delivery from six days per week to five or fewer days, changing door-to-door delivery to multi-box unit mail delivery, and changing the universal delivery policy that brings First Class Mail to every address in the country for one price.