Picketers stood outside the Alla Vista Post Office in the Del Rey area for 12 hours Friday, October 15th, to indicate their opposition to U.S. Postal Service plans to close the post office and adjacent Marina Processing and Distribution Center.
The post office and distribution center are located at Jefferson Boulevard and Alla Road near The Home Depot and Playa Vista.
Members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) combined forces in the informational picket, held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in front of the Marina Center, 13031 Jefferson Blvd.
The U.S. Postal Service has submitted a proposal to its headquarters in Washington D.C. to close the Marina Center facility and consolidate the distribution center into a larger processing center in South Los Angeles. Plans also include a possible sale of the property.
The Postal Service has said the closure would result in a saving of about $16 million a year, but would not affect mail service for most customers.
The picket was organized in an effort to express the disapproval and concern of the local community, which National Postal Mail Handlers Union branch president Vanessa Johnson asserted has not been properly informed of the closure.
“Our main concern is to make sure the community residents and businesses are aware of the Postal Service’s plans to close,” Johnson said. “What we’re discovering is that many residents are not aware and have no idea.”
Customers and surrounding businesses are not aware of the plans to close because the Postal Service is not informing them, she said. Union members believe customers are not being informed because the community would object to the closing, she said.
“The employees are in limbo,” she said.
Terry R. Hatley, treasurer of the same union and 33-year postal service employee, agreed that employees and customers have been kept from the news.
“There has been no discussion,” he said.
“The Postal Service has been deceptive and has withheld information,” he alleged. “There’s supposed to be notification and we haven’t had it.”
The unions have also been in continual contact with local government representatives, including Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Jane Harman, who have told union members they were also initially unaware of the plans, Johnson said.
Waters and Harman sent a letter to the U.S. postmaster general in response to the possible closure and received a response saying the move was “to improve efficiency,” said John Driver, American Postal Workers Union president for the Marina Center.
“We’re most upset at the failure to notify us,” said Driver, who has been a Marina Center employee since 1978. “What is the secret and hidden agenda? They should let everyone know.”
Larry Dozier, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Los Angeles, said it’s not the case that the Postal Service has not informed the public.
“There has been no official word that the proposal has been approved, so we can’t say that it’s going to close, because it’s on the table,” Dozier said.
“We’re sharing the information that we have on the table and we can’t say any more than that.”
The Argonaut has published several articles on the closure and the proposed closing has been opposed by the Westchester-LAX/Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce in a letter to the Postal Service.
If the Postal Service gets approval to close the facility, it will accommodate the customers and let them know what their options are for service, Dozier said.
The picketing Friday, October 15th, was held in conjunction with the national “Million Workers March” Sunday, October 17th, Johnson said.
Picketers stood with signs opposing the closure in three-hour shifts, and 25 to 30 people participated in each shift.
Another main concern of the unions is the possibility of employees having to relocate to other facilities.
The Postal Service has said none of the 1,100 Marina Center employees would lose their jobs as a result.
“They’re saying everyone will still have work, but it will be in other states because there are not many local vacancies,” Johnson said.
“We will have a job somewhere, but it could be in Wyoming,” Driver said.
Other objections by the picketers included an impact on the quality of mail service to areas like the South Bay region, which could receive a delay in service, according to Johnson.
The Marina Center sorting facility, which has been in operation for 27 years, handles mail for 23 cities and the Los Angeles Center will not be able to properly handle both operations, Hatley claimed.
“This facility provides an efficient operation for the volume of mail of those communities,” he said. “The L.A. Center will not be able to achieve the objectives of that quality service.”
“The L.A. people say they can do it but it’s just a spin,” Driver said. “They rush to get the job done and anytime you rush it’s a mess. This facility is more efficient.”
The employees are also upset about the plans to close the Alla Vista Post Office, which many local customers rely on, Driver said.
Many local residents consider the Alla Vista Post Office to be their own personal post office and they’re pleased with the service, Johnson said.
The unions have also expressed concern about the possible sale of the Marina Center property.
Driver said a Postal Service property in Colorado sold for $7 million and was split into two parcels, with one being sold for $12 million and the other planned for a $65 million project.
The unions will try to continue having pickets each Friday until they feel the community is aware of the plans to close the facility, Driver said.
“We want to get the message out to people so they know how it will affect them,” he said.