KPAX: Sen. Tester announces latest in fight to stop USPS transfer from Missoula to Spokane

by Claire Peterson

U.S. Senator John Tester detailed his latest efforts to fight against a USPS decision to move operations from Missoula to Spokane

The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced a decision earlier this year to move Missoula postal operations to Spokane.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) held a press conference in Missoula on Wednesday, May 29, to announce his latest efforts to fight against the USPS decision.

United States Postmaster Louis DeJoy has paused consideration to move Missoula’s operations to Spokane.

DeJoy signed a letter on May 9 to U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), stating “I agree to pause the movement of processing operations associated with the Mail Processing Facility Reviews. In response to the concerns you and your colleagues have expressed, I will commit to pause any implementation of these moves at least until after January1, 2025. Even then, we will not advance these efforts without advising you of our plans to do so.”

Sen. Peters, who is also the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has been fighting against mail consolidation in his home state as Sen. Tester has in Montana.

Sen. Tester began expressing his concerns about the USPS plan as they began reviews in January. He then wrote a letter to DeJoy in February, stating “I fail to see how this transfer would result in improved postal service for Montanans.”

Later, on May 2, Sen. Tester proposed a new bill — the Protecting Access to Rural Carriers for Every Location (PARCEL) Act — which would write the following into legislation:

  • Local processing centers cannot be moved out of state.
  • USPS is required to conduct geographical reviews of mail delivery routes before making changes. 
  • USPS is required to take public input before any changes. 

“Now needless to say this decision would not have held up under any one of those three,” Sen. Tester said at Wednesday’s press conference.
The main concern from the public and postal workers is the effect the movement to Spokane would have on rural mail services.

USPS has told MTN previously that the change will not increase mail delivery times, but Sen. Tester does not believe this to be true.

“When you’re talking about this kind of distance, it’s going to have an impact on the standard delivery format,” he said on Wednesday.

American Postal Workers Union Local 113 President Robert Hopp, who also spoke at the press conference, explained the current anxiety of having a postal job in Missoula.

“Nobody from here thinks this is a good plan and we keep telling this to them, and they keep trying to push it and push it,” Hopp says. “So it is depressing, especially to the newer, more junior employees that are more at risk of losing their jobs.”

Hopp said he feels hopeful thanks to the support from Sen. Tester, the Missoula City Council, and the greater public.

Missoula City Council President Amber Sherill was also a speaker on Wednesday. In January, the city council passed a resolution after hearing concerns from postal workers about the move to Spokane. The resolution asked USPS to reconsider the change.

“We rely on these services and we also really rely on these jobs in Missoula,” Sherill said.

USPS said no career jobs would be affected during the transition, but did not mention anything about part-time workers. Either way, Sen. Tester and Hopp are hesitant to trust Postmaster DeJoy.

“I think the DeJoy is just a lost cause,” Sen. Tester said. “I mean, I just don’t think that he’s really in tune with what’s best for the United States Postal Service.”

They also believe expanding postal service locations, hiring more employees and investing further into rural mail will in turn help USPS’s business.

“I think the postmaster wants to deteriorate and deteriorate it until it’s nothing and it needs to get better,” Hopp said. “We used to have overnight delivery guaranteed and all that’s been eroded and eroded and eroded. We’re moving in the wrong direction.”