NBC Montana: Tester promotes PARCEL Act following pause on USPS consolidation

by Jacob Owens

Sen. Jon Tester outlined ways to protect Missoula’s mail processing facility from future consolidation efforts Wednesday.

Missoula officials joined Tester at the John Engen Local Government Building just weeks after the U.S. Postal Service paused consolidation plans, which would have moved Missoula’s outgoing mail processing to Spokane.

Montana’s senior senator outlined work he said still needs to be done to ensure the halt on the agency’s plans becomes permanent.

Tester advocated for the PARCEL Act, which he introduced earlier this month. The bill would prevent process and operations from being located out of state, require a geographic review and ensure such moves would need public support, the senator said.

“So either we get this bill passed, or we’ve got to get a postmaster general that understands distance and understands geography. And understands that when people need mail in rural America — and all of Montana is rural — we need mail in rural America, it can’t wait.”

USPS finalized plans to move some of Missoula’s mail processing out of state on April 30 before pausing consolidations nationwide earlier this month. Tester and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines sent a bipartisan letter to the USPS’ Board of Governors days before the reversal.

The letter asked for the facility review to be stopped until research could be done on the impacts of the possible change.

Robert Hopp, the union president for clerks and maintenance workers at Missoula’s processing facility, also spoke in support of the PARCEL Act. Hopp thanked Tester’s office along with the local community for putting a halt to the consolidation plans.

“I think that’s a great thing, but there’s no doubt in my mind they still want to push this through, so I want to keep up the fight as much as possible, and we will,” Hopp said.

Postmaster General Louis Dejoy wants to “deteriorate” the agency, Hopp said, citing how there used to be an overnight delivery guarantee.

Tester went as far to say that DeJoy is a “lost cause.” Later, the senator called the notion that mail delivery would not be delayed under a possible move of outgoing operations to Spokane “bulls—.”

“You know the route. I mean really does it make sense? It doesn’t make sense. You can not ship mail 400 miles, period, on the best of conditions,” Tester said. “Unless you’re doing it on a jet, and that’s not going to save you any money.”

Tester said the Postal Service’s plans would actually cost the agency money because of factors like losing customers.

The senator acknowledged the PARCEL Act is “relatively new” but believes the bill will be supported by Republicans and Democrats.

“We dropped it in with just my name, but I think we’ll get bipartisan support and get ‘er,” he said.

NBC Montana reached out to Daines about the recent pause on the USPS plan. His office provided the following statement:

“I was glad to see the USPS respond to my concerns regarding the Missoula post office operations. Many Montanans rely on postal service for critical prescription medicine, bills and paychecks, and any disruption can have serious effects on our communities. I’ll keep working with the USPS to ensure that Montanans are served in a timely and efficient manner.”