The fight over the U.S. Postal Service's plans to suspend Saturday mail delivery continues. At a packed rally in South Burlington Sunday, Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch voiced support for a bill that will keep delivery to six days a week.
"One sixth of the work force would lose their jobs -- I would lose my job," said Eric Spencer.
Spencer has delivered mail for the USPS for nearly a decade and came to a rally Sunday afternoon in support of a bill that will keep mail delivery at six days a week and coverage in even the most rural areas of the state. The change in services recently announced by the Postal Service was a response to huge gaps in the financial structure.
"Truth be told -- the last fiscal quarter -- despite all of the negatives that you may have heard and absent the overpayment fund, the postal service was actually in the black, with Saturday deliveries over $100 million," said George Mignosi.
Mignosi is the Vice-President of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
In 2006 Congress asked the Postal Service to pre-fund future employee retirement plans -- a program that no other governmental agency or private sector across the nation does. Many in attendance argue that this pre-fund is the reason for the Postal Services financial troubles.
"It ends up amounting to over $5 billion dollars each year. This pre-funding mandate is responsible for about 80 percent of the Postal Services financial losses since 2007," said Senator Bernie Sanders.
Although the numbers are high, Spencer said the solution is simple. "All we need to do is stop pre-funding our retirement 75 years in advance," he said.
Senator Sanders said even the small things, like being able to deliver beer and wine, or being able to notarize official documents could help rural post offices bring in revenue during tough financial times.
"It is like someone is purposely trying to dismantle the Post Office," said Lisa Gould, who has worked for the USPS for over 20 years. She said postal workers do more than simply deliver mail. "On my route I have an elderly woman who comes out everyday towards the box and asks questions like, how are you? And I just talk to her. And you know, when she's not there, you kind of wonder, where is she?" Gould said.
"They are the center of our communities in a small state like Vermont," Sen. Leahy said. "You're a friend, you're a neighbor. You might be the only smiling face the otherwise homebound person sees during the day."
Eric Spencer said he hopes the bill passes to help keep his job -- and the many added things the USPS delivers. "We really are more than just a robot walking through a neighborhood. We are the eyes and the ears of the community," he said.
The bill has already been passed in the house is headed to the United State senate. There are dozens of rallies scheduled over the next few weeks across the nation.
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