Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Hundreds of people showed up to City Hall in New Orleans to support the U.S. Postal Service's downtown processing facility Tuesday night.
The location is one of 250 facilities across the country that could be shutdown by the USPS, which is trying to cut costs.
"I am committed to keeping this city coming back from one of the greatest man-made disasters ever in America," said a retired postal worker addressing USPS representatives and the large crowd packed inside City Council chambers.
"It just seems to me when we look at this paper that we ought to be looking at the other side of this coin. Where's the study on consolidating here in New Orleans?" asked Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman standing at the podium. Gusman's question received a burst of applause.
Sitting in the audience were postal workers fighting for their jobs, local leaders, and business interests, including the New Orleans Business Alliance, the New Orleans Bar Association, and a representative from Louis Armstrong International Airport -- a diverse group of interests all rallying to keep the downtown USPS processing center open.
"Almost 9,000 lawyers and their support staff are located in the downtown New Orleans area. We rely on daily mail service, we rely on next=day delivery, all the legal people we put a stamp on it," said New Orleans Bar Association Executive Director Helena Henderson.
Currently, 880 people work at the processing center. According to the USPS, 3.6 million pieces of mail are processed at the facility every night. However, USPS says in an effort to cut costs, save money and be more efficient, it is considering consolidating the facility with a processing center in Baton Rouge.
USPS says the move would save $4.3 million annually.
"The postal service is losing $23 million a day, and with that the organization needs to look at ways to become more solvent, it has to look at ways to cut expenses. This is one initiative the postal service is undergoing not only here in New Orleans, but all across the nation," said USPS Spokesman McKinney Boyd.
Critics of the plan like Mayor Mitch Landrieu say there has to be a better way.
"These are really important jobs. There are a lot of folks who've had their livelihood there for a very long time. The average salary across all 880 employees is, like, $70,000. That's a huge economic impact," said Landrieu, who is pushing to keep the facility in New Orleans.
Before the meeting at City Hall, postal workers and concerned community members grabbed signs and picketed against the proposed closure outside the mail processing facility on Loyola Avenue.
"You're moving good paying jobs from cities and that's what we're concerned about," said American Postal Workers Union representative Sam Lisenbe.
The postal service maintains no jobs will be lost, even if the facility does close.
"It may not be the same job they've had for the last five years, 10 years, 20 years. Nonetheless, they still have a job with the postal service," said USPS Spokesman Mckinney Boyd.
The postal service says if the facility closes its doors, workers would be moved to jobs in other parts of the city or state.
A final decision on the future of the processing facility is expected in early March.