About 50 postal employees gathered Friday afternoon outside Lexington's main post office on Nandino Boulevard to protest upcoming changes in delivery times and, next summer, the closing of post offices and mail-processing centers.
The U.S. Postal Service announced in July that the regional processing center on Nandino Boulevard is among 82 centers nationwide that are planned for consolidation in 2015.
Mail processing now handled in Lexington will be moved to Louisville and Knoxville. Several other regional mail-processing centers in Kentucky already have been closed.
The protesters — representing four unions of postal workers employed in various duties, including automation and vehicle maintenance — waved signs and wore T-shirts that said "Stop Delaying America's Mail!"
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Spread out in front of the Nandino Drive post office, they drew honks and waves from passersby.
At issue is the post office contention that the volume of first-class mail has declined dramatically and that the business model of the postal service needs to reflect the increase in online shopping and parcel shipping.
The postal unions do not deny the decline in first-class mail, but they say that the postal service is an essential American communications institution and that the service would not be in dire financial straits requiring consolidation if not for a 2006 congressional action that pushed much of the postal service's revenue into pre-paid retirement benefits.
"Like any business, we have to make these operations changes to adapt to the needs of the American public," said David Walton, a Louisville spokesman for the postal service.
"Fewer people are sending letters, and they're sending more packages these days."
Such arguments did not move the protesters.
"We're trying to get them not to delay the mail," said Randy Bradley, local president of the American Postal Workers.
The change coming in just a few months, he said, will alter the delivery time for mail within a single city. Now, it's one day, he said. After the change, it will be two days.
The unions want a moratorium on the delivery change, scheduled to take effect Jan. 5.
Adrian Jones, a maintenance craft director for Central Kentucky, said that what the unions call the "degradation" of mail service is a particular affront in a state such as Kentucky, which has spotty Internet service.
Walton, the post office spokesman in Louisville, said the Lexington mail-processing plant has fewer than 200 employees and might have even fewer by next June, when the consolidation takes effect.
"Between now and then, we could have employees who retire, we could have employees who take other positions, and even when the consolidation does happen, some of those employees could remain at that location in some capacity," he said.
Troy Clark, a regional administrative assistant for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said the protesters "are out here to make the public aware that we're quickly going to lose delivery of the mail because of closing of these plants. There is less first-class mail, that's undeniable, but that doesn't mean Grandmother doesn't need her bills paid on time."
Postal worker David Wolf had been at a protest earlier at his home office in Campton and came to Lexington to joint protesters at Nandino. He said an eroding post office presence is bad for communities.
"It's like a hometown feel," he said of his post office. "We're losing our identity."