Letter carriers, supporters rally in Gaithersburg to keep Saturday delivery -- Gazette.Net


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With signs that read “USA for 6 Day,” “5 Day No Way” and “Grandma Needs her Medicine on Saturday,” U.S. Postal Service letter carriers, mail sorters and supporters gathered for a rally Sunday in Gaithersburg to oppose plans to cut Saturday mail delivery.

The rally was part of a larger movement held throughout the country Sunday called “Delivering for America” in response to a plan announced by USPS Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe that would cease postal service delivery on Saturdays, allowing for delivery only on Monday through Friday, effective Aug. 1.

About 150 people, many of them wearing blue “USA for 6 Day” shirts, rallied outside the USPS Suburban General Mail Facility on Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Rallies were also held Sunday in Hagerstown and Baltimore.

The Gaithersburg rally was held by the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 3825, which represents USPS employees in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Damascus.

“Who it’ll hurt the most is rural America, seniors, the poor and small businesses,” said Ken Lerch, the branch president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “We’re out here to support people’s public service and keep Donohoe from eliminating Saturday delivery.”

The plan, announced by Donohoe in early February, would save USPS an estimated $2 billion annually and references struggles to maintain a customer base and compete with growing Internet use.

Lerch said stopping Saturday delivery would eliminate up to 30,000 city letter carrier jobs and affect 80,000 total postal service jobs.

“Cutting service leads to a road of making the letter service an irrelevant agency,” said Pam Donato, 52, a 27-year letter carrier from Minneapolis who now works in community services for USPS in Washington, D.C. “It binds the nation. It’s relevant today more than ever. It connects the people who live alone. Until it’s gone, we don’t realize how binding that connection is.”

Lew Drass, director of city delivery for NALC, said the postal service is facing financial hardships due to a 2006 congressional mandate that required the service to pre-fund health care costs for retirees through 2082, a mandate he said has raked in $5.5 billion.

If the mandate were lifted, Drass said, it would free the service’s financial burden and allow for continued Saturday delivery.

Apart from letter carriers and USPS employees, some residents came to the rally to hold signs calling for six-day service as drivers passed by and honked horns in support.

“I love Saturday mail. I love sending friends birthday cards,” said Joan Patterson of Silver Spring. “Mail makes the day for elderly. I really think it has greater value than people realize.”

Congress passed legislation last week requiring the continuation of six-day delivery. The House of Representatives gave final approval of the legislation March 21, sending it to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

Letter carriers and post office representatives said Saturday that raising concerns is still needed since the bill still allows USPS to limit what services it may provide on Saturdays.

djgross@gazette.net