Brief

Union challenges postal service over moving Oshkosh truck building to South Carolina

By: - October 29, 2021 6:40 am
Mail carrier sorting the mail via Getty Images.

Letter carrier sorts mail on his rounds (Getty Images)

The union that represents employees of a Wisconsin truck builder is invoking federal environmental regulations as it pressures the U.S. Postal Service — and indirectly the company — to assemble new postal vehicles in Wisconsin instead of South Carolina.

A lawyer representing the United Auto Workers has submitted a comment on the draft environmental impact statement that the postal service has filed for the electric vehicle project.

The postal service contracted with Oshkosh Defense, a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp. that primarily makes military vehicles, in February 2021 to build a new line of electric vehicles. The 10-year project calls for building anywhere from 50,000 to 165,000 of the vehicles — used by letter carriers as they make their rounds distributing mail — at a cost of $9.3 billion to $11.6 billion.

Instead of building them at the company’s facilities in Oshkosh, where employees are represented by the UAW, Oshkosh Defense announced in June that it would build an assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C., with engineering and technical support staff working in Oshkosh.

In the letter challenging the postal service’s environmental impact statement, the UAW criticized the choice of a non-union workforce in South Carolina, “a state hostile to collective bargaining,” over the UAW-represented workforce in Wisconsin. The union asserts that siting assembly in South Carolina will have “adverse environmental impacts” omitted from the postal service impact statement, and holds the postal service responsible for the omission.

The letter states that the agency “fails to take a hard look at the environmental and socioeconomic impacts associated with the manufacturing of the vehicles that USPS is causing to be produced.” It demands that the postal service hold back from further commitments on the contract until it fully completes the required environmental impact statement, addressing the omitted issues and allowing for public comment.

In an email message late Thursday, a USPS spokesman stated, “The Postal Service received over 37,000 public comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for our Next Generation Delivery Vehicle and is fully considering them in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Oshkosh Defense did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

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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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