Brief

UAW, environmental group team up to challenge postal truck contract

By: - April 29, 2022 6:00 am
Postal delivery vehicle

U.S. Postal Service Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (Photo via USPS)

A union that wants jobs returned to Wisconsin and an environmental group that wants to pressure the Post Office into committing to an all-electric fleet have made common cause in a lawsuit filed Thursday against the U.S. Postal Service.

The federal suit charges that the postal service failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved a contract with a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp. to build thousands of new vehicles that letter carriers use on their door-to-door rounds delivering mail. It was filed Thursday by the United Auto Workers union and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The lawsuit challenges the contract on two grounds: The postal service, in awarding the contract to Oshkosh Defense, accepted a guarantee that only 10% of the new vehicles would be electric instead of the full fleet; and the service did not scrutinize the environmental impact of the truck builder’s plan to assemble the trucks at a non-union plant in South Carolina rather than in Oshkosh, where the company is headquartered and where manufacturing workers are unionized.

The postal service awarded the contract to build the delivery vehicles to Oshkosh Defense in early 2021. Months later, the company announced plans to place production of the vehicles at a plant in South Carolina.

The decision triggered protest in Wisconsin on behalf of UAW-represented workers at the company’s Oshkosh operations. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was singled out for criticism after telling a reporter that he saw no reason to appeal to Oshkosh Defense to reconsider its decision to site the plant outside of Wisconsin

The lawsuit charges that the postal service’s environmental analysis of the truck assembly project was “unlawfully deficient” and was issued after postal authorities “had already decided on a course of action” in accepting the Oshkosh Defense bid.

It also states that the postal service improperly failed to consider environmental “impacts from the production” of the vehicles in addition to their operation. “Likewise the [environmental impact statement] draft did not disclose that the vehicles would be produced in South Carolina or consider impacts related to the location of production.”

In a press announcement of the lawsuit, the two plaintiff organizations said they were in agreement demanding “public dollars to support a transition to cleaner union made vehicles and jobs that support families and communities in the long term.”

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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