Gulfport postal employees fighting to save jobs

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Dozens of postal employees in south Mississippi are worried about the fate of their jobs. They fear that the U.S. Postal Service may shut down the Gulfport Processing and Distribution Center off Seaway Road.

The employees say the move could affect more than 80 jobs at the plant and delay mail delivery for customers. A union that represents postal workers is asking the public to step in to help keep the facility open.

"I don't know of any organization that's happy with this," said Mark Cunningham.

The Gulfport man is fighting to save his job. He has worked at the mail Processing and Distribution Center for the past 25 years. The U.S. Postal Service is considering closing the Gulfport plant and moving the operations to Mobile to cut costs.

"If it happens, I might have to look into retirement as opposed to trying to uproot my family," said Cunningham.

Cunningham is also president of Mississippi Coast Area Local 204, a union that represents more than 150 postal workers along the Mississippi Coast. If the plant shuts down, Cunningham said he and more than 80 fellow employees may have to relocate to other postal facilities in Gulfport or within a 50-mile radius of the plant.

The Postal Service said the move could save the agency more than $3.6 million.

"Most of their supposed cost savings is in labor. If you disperse the employees, the 83 people across the coast, you're not saving any money. You're paying out the same amount of money, because the employees are still there," said Cunningham.

Cunningham said closing the Gulfport facility will also affect people and businesses that rely on the postal service. He said don't be surprised if it takes longer for your letters and packages to reach their destination.

"It will definitely take longer, because it will have to go to Mobile. They will be processing their mail, and they will not be able to process our mail until the following day. So it'd be two to three days for me to get a letter from me across the street," said Cunningham.

Cunningham said the employees' concerns should be high priority. He will be speaking at a public meeting Tuesday, hoping to get the postal service's stamp of approval to keep the plant open.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service said the agency lost about $10 billion last year because of drops in mail volume. She said the goal is to make sure the postal operation runs as efficiently as possible.  Of more than 500 processing plants across the country, the agency is conducting a study on whether to close or consolidate half of them.

The public meeting regarding the Gulfport plant is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Lyman Community Center on Highway 49. Written comments will be accepted 15 days after the meeting. A decision on all the facilities under review will be announced in early 2012.

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