GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - About a dozen postal employees spent Friday afternoon picketing for help to save the Gulfport mail processing plant.
As people went to mail letters, workers handed them fliers and said, "Help us fight this by calling congressmen and senators and saying, 'Look, we don't want the plant moved, and we don't want our mail delayed.'"
The United States Postal Service plans to close the Gulfport plant in September. After that, all mail sent in South Mississippi will have to go to Mobile to be processed.
"If you are a lawyer in Gulfport and you are mailing a letter to a lawyer in New Orleans, it's going to have to go to Mobile and then go to Baton Rouge, because they are planning on closing New Orleans," Gulfport plant postal worker Mark Cunningham said. "That could possibly be a week."
Even without the Gulfport plant closing in January, the U.S. Postal Service is planning to lower service standards and virtually eliminate overnight delivery, including first-class, from one address to another in the same city.
In addition to even slower delivery if the plant closes, South Mississippi will lose around 100 jobs. Most of the employees will be offered jobs in Mobile, but there is a chance some may not.
"I will probably retire before that happens," Cunningham said. "I don't want to, but I can't see me driving 60 miles one way just to go to work and 60 miles home. I would have to buy another car, and I'm too old to have to try and relocate my family."
"If I put my house here up for sale, there is no guarantee it will sell, and I don't know anyone in this economy that can afford two house notes," said American Postal Workers Union Branch President Joey Breland.
With so much on the line, the postal workers hope Congress can be persuaded to change its mind. In 2006, a law was passed charging the postal service $5.5 billion every year for retirement and healthcare.
"If it weren't for that mandated law, the postal service would have been operating a profit. Instead, every year operating a loss at $5 billion," Cunningham said.
A United States Postal Service Spokesperson said, "With major volume decreases in first-class mail, the postal service has significant excess capacity in its network and cannot sit idly by and do nothing. The postal service firmly believes that the operational changes being implemented are necessary. In the process, the postal service has sought to minimize impact to customers and employees."