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Post Office Dumps Uniform Suppliers

October 21, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After stalling for months because of pressure from Capitol Hill, the Postal Service said Tuesday it is going ahead with plans to dump many of its uniform suppliers.

The post office, which has some 460,000 employees in uniform, will handle clothing purchases through prime contractors instead of allowing workers to buy locally from 700-plus approved vendors.

Spokeswoman Kathleen C. MacDonough said no decision has been made about how many contractors would be picked.

``We’re going to reduce the number of vendors substantially,″ she said. ``It depends on the precertification process.″

MacDonough also was imprecise about how much money the Postal Service expected to save, refusing to confirm previous estimates of $5 million to $10 million.

Currently, the Postal Service spends $75 million a year on uniforms.

The centralization plan initially would involve uniforms bought for members of the American Postal Workers Union and one other union, MacDonough said.

She could not identify the second union, but APWU spokesman Tom Fahey said it was the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. Together, the mail handlers and window clerks comprise about 20 percent of the service’s uniformed employees, he said.

The Postal Service has been trying to change its uniform-buying system for a decade, and negotiated the switch into its contracts with those unions and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

``It doesn’t matter whether we’re in favor of it or not; it’s there. The contract is in effect until November of 1998,″ Fahey said. ``You have a lot of middlemen who are vendors who feel that their ox is being gored in this. Our only concern is that the uniforms are union-made and made in the United States.″

MacDonough said the goal of the Postal Service is ``to make uniforms uniform in standard and quality.″

The manager of the uniform program, Frank Jacquette, previously said the change would bring the Postal Service’s buying system in line with those of other big uniform users, including the Defense Department, Forest Service, Park Service and package-delivery companies such as Federal Express.

Members of Congress have been arguing against centralized purchasing out of concern for the hundreds of small distributors and manufacturers that now share the uniform supply business.

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