‘Our post office is staying where it is’: USPS addresses public outcry over plan to move mail processing to Rochester

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Union workers and their families finally got some answers Tuesday night from the U.S. Postal Service after it announced it was looking to consolidate some of its Buffalo services and move them to down the thruway to Rochester.

The public meeting was originally scheduled for Jan. 31, but was postponed until the end of February so the USPS could “finalize any specific improvements” to the site. After months of waiting, the public finally heard from USPS officials.

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It was held at the Creekside Banquet facility on Union Road in Cheektowaga where there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

The meeting began with a 20 minute presentation from Rhonda Benton, the plant manager at the William Street site, who said she was briefed on the presentation earlier that day. Then, a lengthy public comment period followed where current and former USPS employees as well as members of the general public spoke out.

The USPS made it clear it does not plan to layoff employees or delay the mail service. In total, the agency is allocated $40 billion to upgrading its processing, transportation, employee experience and overall modernization nationwide. It said it plans to achieve cost savings through “operational efficiency and precision.”

“While this type of mail would travel first to the Rochester P&DC to be processed before returning to the LPC, it’s important to know that local mail has a two day service standard and this mail would continue to be processed and delivered in two days,” Benton said.

It is making middle mile improvements. In this case, it is proposing turning the William Street processing and distribution site into a local processing center (LPC). It would co-located with a sorting and delivering center, integrating carrier units with processing, according to USPS. This means mail would be sent from Buffalo to Rochester for processing, sent back to William Street and then distributed.

The American Postal Workers Union claims that by switching the distribution, mail service will be delayed across all eight counties in Western New York.

“The postal service is owned by the public,” Frank Resetarits, president of APWU Local 374, said.

“Take the Buffalo P&DC off this list,” David Grosskopf, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3, said. “I’m not talking about now, i’m talking about permanently

The USPS also plans to invest $17 million into the William Street site to add LED lights, improve break areas, update flooring, and other initiatives. Some people at the meeting said this was a facade attempting to cover up what is really happening. In total, the USPS says it will invest $25-$35 million at the facility.

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It says the retail and other services would be unchanged, a local postmark will be available at retail locations in WNY, and there is no anticipation of changing delivery times.

The USPS said no career worker would be laid off. Based on data from October 2023, the USPS estimates that 31 career craft jobs and five management positions could be reassigned.

“I want to know how many executive positions were targeted nationally where you then move to consolidate yourselves,” Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux, a postal customer, said. “We’re not having it. We’re standing in solidarity and it’s not happening. Our post office is staying where it is.”

In total there will be 18 net jobs lost between the Rochester and Buffalo facilities, but there was no mention exactly how many jobs would be moved out of Buffalo

“It is absolute fiction that we are closing this facility and laying off career employees. The fact is we plan to modernize and invest in the Buffalo LPC to ensure we can better serve our customers and employees well into the future,” Benton said.

One worker from the William Street site said she doesn’t think there is any transparency and there is confusion within the facility.

“We’re all panicking about losing our jobs and nobody seems to have an answer for us,” Michelle, a postal worker, added.

The meeting was not only comprised of Buffalo postal workers. Some traveled down the thruway from Rochester questioning the feds’ decision.

“How are the Rochester clerks and mail handlers supposed to work this extra mail so the good people of Buffalo don’t have their services interrupted?” Kenny Montgomery, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers local branch in Rochester, said.

Former Buffalo Common Council President and postal worker Darius Pridgen attended the meeting. He compared this plan to the ‘Titanic’ saying the crew on board adjusted the ships path too quickly causing it to sink. He feels the same thing is happening on William St.

“I say go back to Washington and let them know they are moving this ship too quick for the conditions that are in front of them,” Pridgen said to a rounding round of applause.

Benton added she, along with her staff, will have input once the service makes a recommendation.

The USPS stressed this is a preliminary report and no final decision has been made. It added all public comments will be considered and a decision will be made after that. There is an online public comment period open until March 13. You can submit comments here.

For additional information and the initial findings report from USPS, you can find it on the postal service’s website.

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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