The Southwest Florida Area Local had been without a website for a few years. We had been looking for someone who knew how to put one together for us but the cost was always more than what we thought it should be. Finally, I decided to take the time to learn and do it myself, so, on April 21, 2009 this site was created. I am very pleased so far with the results and hope continue to put  good information on here for our members. Please take the time to look at the information that I have added to the site and keep coming back to see what improvements have been made.

Sam Wood - President SWFAL-APWU

The News-Press <>  < >
Originally posted on October 24, 2006
Fort Myers could lose its mail distribution center and its distinction as one of just two Southwest Florida towns with its own postmark under a sweeping consolidation plan being considered by the U.S. Postal Service.
More than 100 Fort Myers postal workers plan Thursday to picket outside the downtown Fort Myers post office on Monroe Street to protest the proposal to consolidate 139 of almost 700 postal-service processing plants nationwide.
Operations at the Fort Myers center at the intersection of Interstate 75 and Daniels Parkway would be shifted to the Manasota Processing and Distribution Center in Sarasota, according to postal-service documents.
Postal workers say the idea would lead to slower delivery of first-class mail because mail shipped from Fort Myers would be trucked to Sarasota first.
"How dumb is it you send something from one place in Fort Myers to somewhere else in Fort Myers, but it goes up to Sarasota to get processed and then gets sent back to Fort Myers?" said Samuel Wood, a local American Postal Workers Union president.
And the postmark that now reads Fort Myers would instead say Sarasota even if it comes from as far south as Marco Island, Wood said.
Fort Myers has had its own postmark for more than a half-century, he said. Sarasota is the only other city in Southwest Florida with its own postmark, he said.
While Fort Myers is on a list of sites to be considered for consolidation, no decision has been made, nor has the prospect of consolidating it even been studied, said Gary Sawtelle, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman for the Suncoast District, which includes Fort Myers.
"If we were to consider that down the road, if service would be degraded, we would not do a consolidation," Sawtelle said.
The potential ramifications of consolidation from slow delivery to lost postmarks have sparked an outcry from politicians in such places as Utica, N.Y., Southern Illinois and Twin Falls, Idaho.
But local elected officials said they knew little about Fort Myers' part in the postal service plan until being informed by The News-Press or an e-mail from the local postal workers union.
Jeff Cohen, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, said he did not know about the issue until Monday and did not think Fort Myers was part of the plan.
"We want to make sure consumers are getting the best service possible, and that means making sure the U.S. Postal Service runs efficiently and effectively across the country," Cohen said.
National union president William Burris says every member of Congress was contacted in a letter sent Sept. 12.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah said he knew nothing about the postal service plan beyond what was outlined in the e-mail postal workers sent to officials and media on Monday.
Some members of Congress have questioned the plan and called on congressional analysts to study the issue.
The Postal Service last year said it would consolidate 10 processing plants. Officials later said they were considering similar moves at 40 other facilities.
In a July filing with the Postal Rate Commission, postal officials said the number of sites under consideration had expanded to 139.
One of them was Fort Myers.
The push to revamp postal service operations has been driven by a sharp dropoff in the volume of letters and other single-piece, stamped mail as Americans turn to the Internet and e-mail for correspondence and routine tasks such as paying bills, ordering goods and filing taxes.
"Because of e-mail and online banking and those kinds of things, it has really eaten into the volume of first-class mail," Sawtelle said.
Part of what the postal service bills as its Evolutionary Network Development program, the consolidation plan is aimed at slashing costs, improving efficiency and making operations more flexible.
The number of processing centers would be reduced to about 400 over five to 10 years, and 70 regional centers would be established as part of a transportation and processing grid.
The most noticeable result, postal workers say, would be slower service.
Delivery of letters that now go though Fort Myers would be delayed by a day or two, Wood said.
If a final pickup time is 5 p.m., it could be pushed back to 3:30 p.m. so mail trucks could make the trip to Sarasota. Mail not in the mailbox by 3:30 p.m. probably would take another day to reach its destination, Wood said.
The Fort Myers plant employs 300 to 400 workers, Wood said. They would have the option of working in Sarasota or another Florida processing facility, he said.
Union officials say consolidation is driven by special interests in Washington.
"By consolidating, the postal service can cut costs and give these mailing agencies bigger discounts," Wood said.
He was referring to the advertising mailings and credit card applications that overwhelm residents every month and receive discounts for presorting their mail and sending it in bulk.
"Some of the biggest lobbyists are sending money to Congress to push to continue the bigger discounts," Wood said.
Staff writer Jamie Page contributed to this report.