Missoula as Everywhere

As the Postal Service was accelerating its repurposing and consolidation of mail processing operations, it became known that one facility that would be affected was the Missoula (MT) P&DC. Under the network realignment plan, it would be downgraded to a Local Processing Center, handling only mail destinating in its service area.  Outgoing volume would be trucked nearly 200 miles over the Rockies to Spokane (WA).  The likely impact on mail for Missoula area customers, especially if that mail were originating and destinating in the area, was readily apparent.


Reaction from local patrons readily reached US Sen. John Tester who, as would be expected from someone representing those patrons (and from a politician wanting to ensure their votes), wrote to the Postmaster General on February 9 asking that USPS plans for Missoula be reconsidered. It’s likely Tester’s comments would be echoed by others from places where the PMG’s plan is having similar consequences on mail service.

Needless to say, the Postal Service not only disagreed with Tester but used the occasion to complain about people who would impede implementation of the Postmaster General’s vaunted 10-Year Plan.  The USPS did not publicize its response to Tester publicly, but a subsequent article in the Missoulian included extracts:

“The US Postal Service has released what appears to be a sharp rebuke to a US senator, shedding light on a few more details about its plans for fairly drastic changes in Missoula and has stated the organization is trying to combat ‘mistruths, false narratives, misinformation and disinformation’ that is a ‘gross offense against the public’s trust.’ …

“This week, USPS vice president of corporate communications Jeffery A. Adams released a letter, written in a pointed tone, to ‘dispel some myths’ about the Postal Service’s efforts in Missoula.  He led his letter by recalling that in 2020, the USPS faced a $137 billion budget shortfall, was going to run out of cash in 60 days, had 30-year-old vehicles and had $20 billion in deferred maintenance.

“‘Even more shocking, there was no plan to deal with this dire situation and that would create a self-sustaining, reliable Postal Service that could effectively serve Americans for years to come,’ Adams wrote.  ‘Now that a transformation and modernization plan exists there are those that either cannot comprehend the significant changes we need to make, or who for their own self-interest want to sensationalize and sow fear of even the simplest of changes.  That unfortunately is the case in Missoula, where there are mistruths and false narratives regarding the improvement and investment the Postal Service has proposed at the Missoula facility.’

“… On March 6, Tester released another sharply worded statement critical of the USPS’ ‘reported decision’ by DeJoy to move outgoing mail processing from Missoula to Spokane.

“‘Let me be clear,’ Tester wrote.  ‘Moving Missoula’s Processing and Distribution Center outgoing operations out of state is a slap in the face to Montanans who rely on the postal service for everything from life-saving medications to their hard-earned veterans’ benefits.  Montanans are sick and tired of unelected DC bureaucrats leaving rural America behind.  I am calling on Postmaster DeJoy to immediately reverse this decision.’

“Then a day later, Adams released his letter talking about ‘false narratives.’  ‘To dispel some myths about our efforts, here are the facts,’ Adams wrote.  ‘First, we are not closing the Missoula facility.  In fact, we are doing quite the opposite.  The Missoula facility will be converted into a Local Processing Center (LPC) and the Postal Service intends on investing between $10 million and $15 million into it. …’

“Second, Adams wrote, the Postal Service will not be laying off any career employees as a part of this review.  Notably, Adams didn’t mention non-career employees. …

“Finally … Adams wrote.  ‘The fear that mail service will be adversely affected is wrong.  Most local mail travels out of state, and local-to-local mail will stay within the current 2-3-day delivery standard. …

“Adams took a very sharp tone in his final paragraph.  ‘Misinformation and disinformation about the Postal Service’s efforts in Missoula is a gross offense against the public’s trust,’ he wrote.  ‘The facts are readily available, and yet false narratives are being spread.  The Postal Service remains committed to the transparency we have applied throughout our network modernization process.’ …

“A spokesperson for the USPS declined to provide any additional information besides what was in Adams’ statement or previous press releases.

“Tester, for his part, didn’t hold back in response to the Adams’ letter.  Tester’s office sent a statement on his behalf to the Missoulian late Friday:

‘Postmaster Louis DeJoy has made one thing abundantly clear over his tenure in office: He doesn’t understand rural America, and doesn’t care to learn about its challenges,’ Tester wrote.  ‘His decision to relocate Missoula’s outgoing processing operations to Spokane, forcing Montanans’ mail to be driven hours out of state, will result in delayed delivery for veterans who need life-saving medication, seniors who rely on social security checks to stay alive, and small businesses who need the postal service to send their goods.  Despite the misinformation included in his response, Mr. DeJoy’s ‘business case’ fails to mention the dozens of processing jobs that would be put on the chopping block, and the proven disruptions to service that resulted from prior relocations in Montana – both of which are unacceptable.  His leadership is kneecapping rural America, and I will do everything in my power to fight this shortsighted decision.’”

A local TV station also picked up the story, but focused on what’s being told to the facility’s employees.

“The initial findings from the agency’s mail facility review estimate the change would lead to a ‘net decrease’ of eight positions.  The findings say reassignments of employees would be made in accordance with collective bargaining agreements. Robert Hopp, the union president for maintenance workers and clerks, said he believes roughly 15 noncareer employees at the post office would lose their jobs before any of the career employees.  USPS maintains there will be no career employee layoffs as part of the potential changes.  ‘They’re trying to twist it and change the wording to make it look like we’re not losing jobs, but we are going to lose those jobs locally if this passes,’ Hopp said.”

According to the Postal Service’s Mail Processing Facility Review Initial Findings Document, released March 6, the Missoula facility will be converted to an LPC (i.e., outgoing mail processing will move to Spokane).  In addition to extolling the PMG’s 10-Year Plan and the Missoula facility’s role as a “critical node to the unified movement of mail and packages,” the document also detailed the facility improvements the USPS plans.

“‘Repairs would be nice, Hopp told NBC Montana, but he thinks mention of the investments is a distraction.  ‘I think it’s just trying to add something nice in there to distract us and distract the public that they’re taking jobs out of Missoula,’ he said.”

The March 6 document offered some insight about the fate of employees:

“There will be no career employee layoffs as part of this initiative.  The numbers presented here reflect data available as of October 6, 2023, and are subject to change until the completion of the facility review.  Our ongoing analysis will include quantifying the time it will take to refurbish the facility and prepare it for the services and functions as an LPC and quantifying the appropriate workforce necessary to efficiently staff the LPC.  We expect that the increase in these services and functions may require additional employment positions, which could mitigate some of the reductions identified below.

“Due to the transfer of outgoing operations, an estimated net decrease of 7 craft and 1 management positions are projected once the initiative is completed.  All bargaining employee reassignments will be made in accordance with the respective collective bargaining agreements.”

The statement’s assurance of no employees layoffs may seem positive, but readers outside the postal sphere might not realize that career postal employees are protected against layoff by contractual guarantees. Other contractual provisions discuss “reassignments” such as to open positions at other facilities or in other crafts, but the statement avoids mentioning that, while such moves allow an individual to remain a postal employee, they may require relocation costs or loss of seniority.


Although the union official’s comments were focused on his local situation, they weren’t off the mark in describing the Postal Service messaging style.

The agency dogmatically invokes the PMG’s 10-Year Plan in virtually every statement, frequently (as Adams did) describing a doomsday scenario that can only be averted by the full and complete implementation of The Plan.  It regularly asserts that it will “improve customer service” and “ achieve significant cost savings through operational precision and efficiency.”  Rather ironically, it claims that the changes will enable it to achieve established service standards, without noting that they’ve been reduced.

As network changes continue, and the Postal Service goes through the formalities of local meetings and facility review documentation, history will suggest that it’s all simply box-checking and that the USPS will do what it wants anyway.

Therefore, over the next few years, the Missoula situation will be repeated all over the country.  Local citizens and employee unions will express concerns, politicians will decry facility changes, and the USPS will repeat its canned propaganda – then do what it planned all along. Louis DeJoy has openly expressed his disregard for external input – from Congress or anyone else – so neither he nor any of his executive minions have any intention of altering the Postal Service’s course.

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