Photos from the May 9, 2015 Victory Rally
Certificates of Appreciation to Tony Rossmann, Brian Turner, Roger Moore, and Zach Cowan
The U.S. Postal Service, now headed by a governing body that favors privatization, is closing and selling off many post office buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, reducing postal services and cutting public sector union jobs. Many of these historic post offices have murals and art created during the 1930s New Deal. The City of Berkeley, however, recently prevailed in federal court, saving its historic post office building. This victory serves as a precedent and example for other communities who want to save their Post Offices. The case also may save union jobs by requiring the USPS to follow the law.
In the fight to save its historic post office building, the Berkeley community had the support of its City Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the California State Office of Historic Preservation, and the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO. The APWU formed A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service, which includes 74 national organizations. Berkeley's Congresswoman Barbara Lee now has a bill in Congress, The Moratorium on U.S. Historic Postal Buildings Act, to stave off continuing USPS privatization. In Its report, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Post Office building sales were improper and even corrupt. The OIG found that the contract with realty company CBRE, headed by Richard Blum, Senator Diane Feinstein's husband, was improperly executed.
In Berkeley, the community organized Citizens to Save the Berkeley Post Office, which fought for their historic building and art for three years. They made the nation aware of the issue with articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. At one point, an official in the Postal Service commented "We shouldn't have messed with Berkeley."
When confronted before a federal judge with multiple violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, the Postal Service chose instead to assure the court that Berkeley’s Main Post Office is no longer for sale. Although the USPS may still decide to relocate or sell Berkeley's much loved post office, it is unlikely because the judge is continuing his oversight for the next five years. Future legal action challenging the USPS remains an open option. Other communities, wishing to preserve their historic post offices, could work to replicate similar judicial rulings in their federal districts.
Citizens to Save the Berkeley Post Office are grateful to the City of Berkeley legal staff Zach Cowan, attorneys Tony Rossmann, Roger Moore, and Brian Turner for their pro bono legal services. Since this victory, a post office horror story has emerged. The historic Venice, CA. Post Office was sold by the USPS and is now abandoned and covered with graffiti. This could have happened here.