Throughout his 28 years with the U.S. Postal Service, Mike Maynard has seen what Saturday delivery means to the families on his routes.
Even on weekends, elderly veterans are delivered the prescriptions they depend on. The lonely find handwritten letters in their mailboxes. And residents in rural areas stay in touch with the outside world.
Now that lawmakers and postal service officials are considering eliminating Saturday delivery to save money, Maynard is afraid a way of life and thousands of mail carrier jobs could be destroyed.
“Once we lose Saturday there’s not stopping it,” Maynard said. “Then we could lose Thursdays, Fridays, we could go to three days. Who knows? We do need some restructuring, but cutting the service is not the way.”
To voice their opposition to a shortened delivery week, about 100 mail carriers rallied Sunday and lined the sidewalk of the Forest Hills Post Office on Wrightsboro Road. Wearing shirts that read “Delivering for America” and “USA for 6 day,” the carriers waved to cars in traffic and chanted for public support.
For two hours, drivers honked and waved at the group of carriers, which included some who traveled from Savannah and Macon.
One woman stretched her head out of a black GMC Yukon and yelled “March on!”
Congress passed a bill Thursday that outlined federal spending through September that included a provision to require the postal service continue six-day delivery. However postal service advocates who have watched branch closings and cutbacks over the last several years fear that safeguard is temporary and that five-day delivery could become a reality in the fall.
In February, the Postal Service said it could save $2 billion a year by changing the delivery schedule, which would offset its $16 billion loss in 2012 as more consumers turn to the Internet to pay bills and communicate with e-mail.
Georgia State Association of Letter Carriers President Don Griggs, who traveled from Macon for the Augusta rally, said he fears Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe will continue to fight for 5-day delivery in the fall when lawmakers mull over the next federal spending bill.
Griggs said the shortened week would eliminate almost 25,000 mail carrier jobs and disproportionately affect elderly and rural residents.
He said what has hurt the Postal Service more than the country’s turn to digital communication is legislation passed in 2006 that requires USPS to pay for future postal workers’ retirements in advance. The mandate has forced USPS to come up with billions of dollars up-front for future workers when that money could be used to balance financial troubles.
“We have an uphill battle,” said Griggs, a retired postal worker with 31 years of service. “But anything worth having is worth fighting for. The battle is not over.”
The cutback Donahoe pitched to lawmakers last month would cut first-class mail to five days a week, which includes letters, bills and fliers, but would maintain package delivery on Saturdays.
Brett Hulme, public relations specialist for American Income Life Insurance Co. in Savannah, said that system would not work for most of his customers. Clients often wait for insurance claim checks in the mail and would be set back financially by the change.
For that reason he traveled to Augusta to rally with the mail carriers, hoping the drivers who honked in support would contact their lawmakers and representatives about the issue.
“There are the working families at the end of the dirt roads who wait for that mail,” Hulme said. “The effect would be tremendous.” Griggs said the postal workers’ fight will be long and will have to reach lawmakers and postal service officials throughout the country.
But on Sunday, carriers hoped reaching the drivers on Wrightsboro Road was a good start.
“What do we want?”
“What do we need?”
“All day every day,” they chanted.