Naples letter carriers turned their seasonal six-day work week into seven when they showed up for a protest Sunday outside the city’s main post office on Goodlette Frank Road.
About 40 postal workers and their supporters from Collier and Lee counties gathered to protest the federal government’s plan to reduce the delivery week from six days to five by summer’s end.
It’s a move that postal workers said will have serious consequences for the industry: mail service will suffer, letter carriers will lose their jobs, and the very measure meant to preserve the operation will lead to its dismantling.
“We believe if you have a business, you do not want to cut back on services,” said letter carrier Jesse Costin. “If there’s a need, someone else is going to fill it.”
Protestors wore navy blue shirts that read “Don’t dismantle the postal service,” and chanted “Congress needs to keep six days.” They lined the sidewalk outside the city’s main post office, 1200 Goodlette-Frank Road, for two hours.
Costin stood in the post office’s parking lot around 1 p.m., passing out shirts and pamphlets from the back of his red hatchback.
As an organizer of the protest, he said the rally was meant to “try to get the public to investigate themselves.”
Missing out on one day of mail service a week might not seem like much of a sacrifice to the average person, he said, but the move would make it easier for competitors such as FedEx and UPS, to swoop in.
Stan Simmers, a letter carrier in Moorings Park, brought his German Shepherds Lily and Winston to Sunday’s rally. His coworker Gary Nuccio held a sign reading “Dogs love chasing their letter carriers on Saturdays.”
Simmers admits the dogs were a gimmick, but the message is a serious one.
“Even with the advent of the Internet, we keep America connected,” he said.
In February, Congress proposed eliminating mail delivery on Saturdays, but continuing to deliver packages six days a week, a move that would save an estimated $2 billion a year. The U.S. Postal Service has lost money annually over the last several years, due in part to a 2006 law mandating it contribute $5.5 billion a year to future retiree health benefits, something no other governmental agency does.
Longtime workers lamented what the cuts would mean for the human connection in a digital age.
“It’s not just putting mail in a box,” said Nuccio, who talks to many of the people on his route along Gulf Shore Boulevard on a regular basis. Some meet him at their mailbox each day. “I’m making meaningful contact with another human being.”
Drivers honked their horns and an ambulance blared its siren in support. Protestors returned the gesture with waves and thumbs up.
“We deliver presents and letters,” letter carrier Lenny DeAugustino said. “It doesn’t get more personal than that.”
Joey Featherston, his wife, Bobbie, and their 11-year-old daughter, Bailie, were among the protestors.
Featherston is a T-6 worker, meaning he works the sixth day for letter carriers on five separate routes. If the delivery week goes to five days, he’ll likely be one of the first to lose his job, he said.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “A lot of people will lose their jobs.”
“Yeah, don’t do that,” Bailie said, holding a sign of her own.