The U.S. Postal Service’s mail processing center on Loyola Avenue in New Orleans is once again on the verge of being shuttered, due to another effort by the USPS to cut into its deficit.
The facility was one of 82 mail processing centers on a list of proposed “consolidations” published by the USPS on June 30.
Its operations could be taken over by a processing center in Baton Rouge as early as September 2015.
It’s the second time the facility has been targeted for closure. It was one of 222 facilities slated to be shut down in 2012, but it was eventually granted a reprieve.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond and other officials strongly opposed the closure at the time, citing the significant job loss and negative financial impact the move would have on the city.
According to a 2012 feasibility study published by the Postal Service, the consolidation would cost 569 employees their jobs. The study estimated the Baton Rouge facility would add 258 jobs, some of which would be filled by workers from New Orleans.
The merger would save USPS about $16.5 million annually, according to the study.
However, a study commissioned by the American Postal Workers Union and prepared by the Fiscal Policy Institute said those savings would be dwarfed by the costs in lost jobs and income.
The report said jobs at the Post Office are among the highest-paying middle-class jobs in the city, averaging $54,000 per year. That’s almost twice the median annual earnings of Orleans Parish residents, according to the study.
“These are some of the best middle-income jobs in the country, so it’s pretty devastating for these communities to experience such a concentrated loss,” said Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union.
According to the study, the impact of the consolidation would go beyond direct losses. It estimated that due to “reduced business and consumer spending” associated with the consolidation, New Orleans would lose a total of 1,079 jobs and $60 million in labor income.
“It’s a slash and burn approach,” Dimondstein said.
McKinney Boyd, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said no final decision has been made about the fate of processing center.
“We want our customers, we want our mailers and we want our business customers to know that at this time there is no plan to close the plant in New Orleans,” he said.
Boyd said senior officials at USPS are still mulling over what processing centers to close.
At least 90 days’ notice will be given if the decision is made to close the local center, he said.
Boyd said no employee of USPS has ever been laid off, including during 2012 and 2013, when the Postal Service consolidated 141 facilities.
Those cuts, according to a letter from USPS, generated savings of $865 million.
According to the same letter, the Postal Service has lost $26 billion over the past three years, due in large part to the increase in email and online billing.
In a recent open letter to the postmaster general, Landrieu asked the Postal Service not to close the facility.
“We believe this is not in the best interest of USPS and will have a terrible outcome not only for the Postal Service, but also for the people who rely on mail and package delivery in the New Orleans area,” Landrieu wrote.
City Hall spokeswoman Garnesha Crawford said in a statement Friday that the mayor remains “strongly opposed to the closure of the Loyola Avenue post office facility and is working with the congressional delegation to keep the facility open.”