McAllen post office changes paused for now

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McALLEN — Last week, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it had greenlit plans to overhaul the McAllen post office, a move that would shift substantial operations more than 200 miles north to San Antonio.

But just days later, the service’s top official, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, has walked back those plans — at least until next year.

DeJoy’s “Delivering for America” plan, involves consolidating postal operations at centralized locations that then send mail out to a radius of other cities, akin to the hub and spokes of a bicycle wheel.

Earlier this year, USPS began seeking public input on plans to consolidate operations at both the McAllen and Corpus Christi post offices with San Antonio.

Last Tuesday, the USPS announced that it had decided to pursue the $12 million overhaul of the McAllen post office.

Part of that plan includes transforming the facility from a “processing and distribution center,” or P&DC, to a “local processing center” or LPC, which would outsource outgoing mail from the Rio Grande Valley to the Alamo City.

“(T)he business case supports transferring mail processing outgoing operations to the San Antonio P&DC in San Antonio, TX,” reads a May 7 USPS news release.

The revamped and relabeled post office would also be “co-located with a Sorting and Delivery Center,” the news release further states.

It’s part of DeJoy’s 10-year, $40 billion plan to completely overhaul the nation’s struggling mail system, which posted a $6.5 billion net loss last year.

But critics of the plan — including local letter carriers and federal lawmakers — say it will result in lost jobs, decreased efficiency, and longer wait times for customers to receive their mail.

On Monday, DeJoy about-faced, announcing in a letter to Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, that he was putting the consolidation plans on hold until early next year.

“In response to the concerns you and your colleagues have expressed, I will commit to pause any implementation of these moves at least until after January 1, 2025,” DeJoy wrote to the Michigan senator.

Peters led a bipartisan effort by 26 of his Senate colleagues, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, urging DeJoy to pause the overhaul plans until they can be studied by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

But Sen. Peters wasn’t the first to push back.

Last month, U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Brownsville, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo and Greg Casar, D-Austin, joined an effort led by San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro to lambaste the postmaster general’s plans for McAllen and Corpus Christi.

Similarly to Sen. Peters, the quartet of Texas lawmakers penned DeJoy to express their concerns over how the consolidation plans would impact mail delivery.

They pressed DeJoy to halt the consolidation plans, or at the very least, to upgrade San Antonio’s facilities before adding more mail volume to its already aged system.

In a statement sent to The Monitor on Tuesday, Gonzalez said he’s grateful that the consolidation plans are on hold for now, but stressed that additional questions remain.

“USPS’s decision to move forward with the consolidation of Corpus Christi, McAllen, and San Antonio mail processing operations is very concerning especially as the San Antonio P&DC facility is over 200 miles away,” Gonzalez stated.

“While a pause is welcomed, we need more assurance and data that shows this will not impact services across South Texas,” he further stated.

Meanwhile, local postal workers continue to worry about what the future will hold, including Roger Gutierrez, who serves as president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 2130 McAllen.

Though the USPS’s news releases are filled with assurances that no “career employees” will be impacted by consolidation efforts, Gutierrez estimates that McAllen can expect to lose nearly two dozen workers.

“If it was to go through, it would have affected 18, maybe 20 employees, and a few supervisors,” Gutierrez said Tuesday.

Postal service workers are represented by different unions, depending on what kind of job — or “craft,” as Gutierrez characterized it — that a particular employee works.

Gutierrez speaks for letter carriers — those men and women who carry out mail delivery. But others, such as clerks and custodians, are represented by the American Postal Workers Union, or other unions.

Gutierrez, an Air Force veteran who joined the postal service after his military service, spent 42 years as a Valley letter carrier before retiring in January, he said.

Local employees are already struggling to handle the volume of mail that passes through McAllen, Gutierrez said.

He worries that consolidation would further hamper operations to the detriment of the customer.

“What’s gonna happen, in my opinion, service to our customers is gonna suffer more, because just the thought of sending the mail to San Antonio, it’s gonna delay all that,” Gutierrez said.

The union president also expressed frustration with a lack of clarity from the postal service’s higher echelons of leadership.

Gutierrez was one of several postal employees who attended an open house in March where USPS higher-ups were on hand to explain the consolidation plans to the public.

But, he said, questions from employees went largely unanswered with “I don’t nos.”

“How can you all come down here and try to sell us a product that you’re not even prepared to defend?” Gutierrez said with audible frustration.

“You guys are making yourselves look like idiots. How can you stand back there and not even be able to answer our questions?” he said.

Despite the pause, answers to those questions may not be forthcoming

That’s because DeJoy made no promises to submit to Sen. Peters’ request to have the consolidation plans reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

“I will also continue to consider whether we should seek an advisory opinion from the PRC as a discretionary matter on our part,” DeJoy wrote.

Instead, he waved off the lawmakers’ concerns as “misconceptions” fueled by a “legacy desire among some segment of our workforce at the local level to maintain the status quo, which I understand but am frankly disappointed by.”