Postal workers fear moving, public anticipates delayed mail if some services are relocated out of state

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Local 133 were hoping to see a big turnout for a public meeting about the future of the Charleston Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) and that was the case Wednesday.

Around 200 people were at the public meeting with more than 30 people who got up and spoke. Some speakers were just concerned citizens or supporters of the mail employees, but most of them had some connection with the postal service. There were longtime employees that spoke and even a few that had only been with the postal service a few years. However, all of them were far and away against the idea of relocating some positions and equipment out of the Charleston facility.

Since November 2023, the Charleston P&DC in Southridge had been under review by the USPS as a candidate facility to have operations relocated out of state, more specifically in Pittsburgh at a P&DC there and the Pennwood Place P&DC. At least 58 other facilities across the country are under a similar review, according to APWU Executive Vice-President Debby Szeredy.

The initial findings of the USPS said that the facility, which is the last mail sorting center in West Virginia, is in need of between 20 and 30 million dollars in investments to stay running and also be turned into a Local Processing Center (LPC). On top of that, the USPS said 24 craft positions, which include letter carriers, retail clerks, and maintenance workers and one management position would be impacted. Members of the public, postal workers and union representatives don’t believe those numbers are entirely accurate.

President of American Postal Workers Union Local 133 Craig Brown (left) and Vice President Tim Holstein

President of American Postal Workers Union Local 133 Craig Brown said he finds it hard to believe that only 24 workers would be affected by the changes that the postal service is considering based on their initial findings in their review.

“They’re talking about taking out big machines up there,” said Brown. “I full expect the number to go up from 24 when they give us the final report, I hope not, but that wouldn’t surprise me.”

Brown said the postal service would take out some of the major machines at the facility and replace them with different ones during the transition of turning it into a LPC.

On hand for the public meeting was Kenny Hanson, USPS Maintenance Manager and former Plant Manager of the Charleston facility and USPS Spokesperson Sean Hargadon. The two went through a presentation to begin the meeting which relayed the initial findings from the review and the next steps during the review process which included the public meeting portion. The presentation also listed the ideas behind the possible multi-million dollar investments for the facility.

Brown expressed his displeasure with the postal service officials, saying he and many others had plenty of questions to ask that went unanswered. He called the entire public meeting a “farce.”

“They wont answer questions and they’ve done that all over the country,” he said.

Vice President of American Postal Workers Union Local 133 Tim Holstein said the postal service has been complacent since their announcement back in November of their being a review of the Charleston facility.

“The postal service does not care,” Holstein said. “They’ve been complacent in their transparency since the beginning.”

The fact that the public meeting was scheduled on Valentine’s Day too also did not sit well with many people. Holstein held an informational picket the night before at Charleston’s downtown post office to try and get the word out about the public meeting. He and Brown both said they were pleased with the turnout.

“We had amazing people from the community that showed support for us,” said Holstein. “We had a great turnout from our members and our senators, our legislators, our local politicians, if that doesn’t scream leave us alone and let us continue to work the mail, I don’t know what does.”

Despite the meeting falling on a holiday, plenty of folks showed up. Some are from right in Charleston while others came from neighboring cities. Of those turning out was mail clerk Jerrid Thomas. He said the postal service intentionally set the public meeting for Valentine’s Day.

“The first event was the day before Thanksgiving,” Thomas said. “That shows you how they treat us, this is just the most public they’ve been about it.”

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword opposed the ideas coming from the postal service and was not happy with spending the holiday at the meeting.

“I, for one, am not amused at your attempt to be transparent having this public hearing on Valentine’s Day evening,” said Sword, who was there representing the entire union membership.

Charleston West Side resident John Luoni also came out to show his support for the postal workers.

“I think as a member of the public, it’s important to be here to show that we are in solidarity with the workers,”

He called the idea of relocating operations out of Charleston a “slap in the face.”

“This is not only going to hurt the workers but also the speed of the mail,” said Luoni.

When Brown spoke to Hanson and Hargadon, he was consistent about the possible delay in mail being delivered to residents. With mail and medicine having to travel north to Pittsburgh and then back down towards southern West Virginia, he believes there’s no way there won’t be delays worse than what there already are.

“You can’t tell me you’re not delaying mail,” said Brown.

Szeredy said a delay in mail could be detrimental to someone who needs medication.

“You’re going to get the worst delivery service ever,” she told those in attendance. “Can you imagine what’s going to happen to those who are on medication when they can’t get it in time?”

Brian Aluise was there on behalf of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who has been involved in the discussions about the future of the Charleston P&DC since November. Aluise referred to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as “Louis Delay”

“If the Charleston facility becomes a Local Processing Center, our mail will have to travel hundreds of miles to Pittsburgh and back to West Virginia,” Aluise read in a statement from Sen. Manchin. “There is simply no way that that will result in better service for West Virginia.”

The USPS said the Charleston site will see some investments. Spokesperson Sean Hargadon said millions of dollars will be used to renovate and modernize the building to improve what he says is it’s overall workflow and visibility. Improvements include new machinery, electric vehicles, bathrooms, workrooms and lighting.

USPS Spokesperson Sean Hargadon

Hargadon said the postal service is in the middle of having to consider making changes to multiple facilities across the country in terms of how they operate.

“We’re talking about an organization over several years that has lost billions and billions of dollars who needs to make changes in it’s network and logistics,” Hargadon said.

The USPS says they’re still in the initial study phase of the facility. There are still a few unknowns and things they are looking into to consider. Also, the numbers could change. It’s unclear how many part-time jobs and “flexible” positions would be affected too.

“We’re looking at 24 craft employees and one management position that would be reassigned, but that number could change, it could be higher, it could be lower,” said Hargadon.

Hargadon believes the standard of two-day shipping will stay the same even with mail potentially heading to Pittsburgh. He said things would move more efficiently.

“Overall, it’s going to improve. The service will not change and in some cases it will be better,” he said.

USPS officials are expected to compile all the comments that were made at the public meeting along with comments submitted online to consider in their final review. Hargadon said it may be around 90-120 days until a final decision is made.

“We will beat you, if it’s the last thing we do, we will win this fight,” Holstein told the USPS.

“Change is difficult, but change has to happen,” Hargadon said.