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PORTLAND - A group of local U.S. Postal Service workers protested proposed cuts Monday, saying the they would adversely affect veterans.

The group demonstrated in Pioneer Courthouse Square. The USPS is closing 260 mail processing centers around the nation, part of a billion-dollar cost-cutting effort that will slow delivery of first-class mail.

The consolidations are expected to result in a loss of roughly 35,000 jobs, which the post office hopes to achieve mainly through attrition.

The agency has described the move as a necessary cost-saving measure because of declining mail volume as people and businesses continue switching to the Internet in place of letters and paper bills.

In the past, military veterans could come home and get a good job at the post office. Not now. Only temp jobs have been available for the last five years. Veterans suffer ... customers suffer, Jim Cook, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82, said.

A five-year hiring freeze on career positions has left 114 letter carrier vacancies in Portland, according to Cook. The union is calling on USPS to hire veterans and promote transitional employees to career positions.

The Postal Service warned it will lose as much as $18.2 billion a year by 2015 unless Congress grants it new leeway to eliminate Saturday delivery and raise the price of a postage stamp by as much as 5 cents.

It is asking Congress for permission to make service cuts and reduce annual payments of about $5.5 billion to prefund retiree health benefits.

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