By shifting some mail handling from the Bronx to Manhattan recently, the U.S. Postal Service did an end run around union opposition and Congressional interference. Postal officials are increasingly using similar tactics around the country to bring about much-needed consolidation of their dropship network without stirring up local opposition.
USPS directed mailers of Standard class flats (mostly catalogs) and Periodicals (magazines and newspapers) to stop dropshipping mail to a Bronx facility as of May 22; mailers of Standard letters (direct mail) received the same directions last month. Those who want an SCF (Sectional Center Facility) discount for mail addressed to the Bronx can now get it by delivering to the Manhattan SCF instead.
The Postal Service stirred up a hornet's nest of opposition when it began an "area mail processing" study in 2005 to consider whether to move mail-handling duties from the Bronx to the Morgan facility in Manhattan. In December 2007, Congressman Jose E. Serrano inserted a provision into an appropriations bill that blocked any such move. The Bronx Congressman chairs a subcommittee that oversees some appropriations to the Postal Service.
It's not clear how many jobs were affected by the recent redirection from one New York borough to another. There have been reports of the Postal Service taking flat mail that is dropshipped to some SCFs and shifting it to Area Distribution Centers (ADCs) like Morgan for actual sorting. That has apparently become more common with the introduction of faster flat-sorting machines coupled with the recent declines in magazine and catalog volumes.
AMP studies often generate significant opposition among postal workers, the local media and politicians because of the many jobs involved and the potential loss of a town's postmark. Wilkes-Barre, PA; Staten Island, NY; and Winchester, VA are among the communities currently battling AMP studies.
By contrast, "redirections" of certain dropshipped mail typically fly beneath the radar because they are not publicly announced and do not involve the hot button known as First Class mail. Lakeland and Manasota Florida vehemently protested the formal consolidation of their processing and distribution centers earlier this year into a Tampa facility, but hardly a word was spoken when Standard and Periodicals flats were redirected last month from Fort Lauderdale to a facility near Miami (apparently in preparation for the Flats Sequencing System).
So far this year, flat mail has been redirected from six towns in Oklahoma, four in Pennsylvania, and facilities in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona, and California -- in addition to the Bronx. The pace of new AMP studies has also accelerated, according to a listing maintained by the American Postal Workers Union, as the Postal Service tries to adjust to lower mail volumes.