<br />Reassigned postal workers facing big financial hardships

whenry@tri-statedefender.com | 5/13/2009, 7 p.m.

 African Americans locally are feeling the economic pain as many face possible reassignments and the prospects of having to uproot their families and sell their homes in a down market.

At the Memphis Processing and Distribution Center on Third Street and the Memphis Bulk Mail Center on Elvis Presley, many postal workers are on edge as workers are being let go or moved. Reassigned workers may be given relocation expenses but they are only reimbursed after they have paid the moving costs, which is an economic hardship for many families.

In an effort to streamline operations and increase revenue, the U.S. Postal Service has begun to retool, outsource, restructure and reposition its career craft and supervisory employees. Thousands of jobs also will be eliminated through attrition.

       Postal worker Barbara Andrade, who has 23 years on the job, finished her route Tuesday evening before returning to the Bartlett Post Office. She said the hardships her fellow postal workers are experiencing at the Memphis Processing and Distribution Center on Third Street and the Memphis Bulk Mail Center on Elvis Presley are unfortunate. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
      Some African-American postal workers in Memphis fear that skin color will be used as a factor as the reductions are made. “We need to be assured that the reduction in workforce will be a fair and equitable process across the state of Tennessee and without racial bias,” said Deborah Becton, a mail handler at the Memphis P&DC.

      Becton, who is not being reassigned, says it appears more African Americans in Memphis are affected by the workforce reduction than those at facilities in Knoxville and Nashville, where the workforces have larger numbers of whites.

      Beth Barnett, USPS communications manager for the Tennessee district, said, however, that is not the case. There are changes in those areas as well, she said. “I’m pretty sure Memphis is significantly less than others,” she said.

      “The positions are what’s being looked at. We don’t do a profile. It might be a reflection of the general population (at those facilities),” said Barnett, who spent 20 years at the Memphis P&DC before taking her current position in Nashville.

      “The economic recession has been really tough on business – especially in the mail industry,” said Barnett. “We’re facing financial issues like anyone else.”