Poor decisions hampering U.S. Postal Service
I’ve been a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service for over 10 years. I’m passionate about my job, my coworkers and my customers. I’m also passionate about protecting jobs for new and current postal employees.
As you may be aware, the Postal Service claims to be in terrible shape and in need of serious reform. We’ve heard the claim that Saturday mail delivery must be eliminated in order for the agency to survive.
However, the Postal Service’s financial hardship is caused mainly by the Postal Enhancement and Accountability Act of 2006. This mandate requires the Postal Service to prefund 75 years worth of retiree health benefits in a span of 10 years. The $5.6 billion annual payment places a substantial burden on the Postal Service.
The mandate alone accounts for at least 80 percent of the Postal Service’s debt since it became law in 2006, and it accounts for 100 percent of the agency’s present debt. If we take this mandate out of the Postal Service’s finances for 2014, the agency would realize over $1 billion in profits. We need Congress to repeal this unfair mandate.
Instead, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has asked Congress to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. But he would prefer to maintain package delivery on Saturday. However, H.R. 3801, which was introduced in January 2014, would phase out Saturday parcel delivery by 2019. Under this legislation people who built new houses since Sept. 30, 2012, would not be able to receive Saturday package delivery.
Donahoe claimed on Feb. 6, 2013, that he was going to end Saturday mail delivery on Aug. 5, 2013, without congressional approval. He claimed that he had found a loophole in the current law that mandates six-day mail delivery. This action alone caused the volume of mail to decline. The uncertainty that Donahoe creates has been detrimental to the overall health of the Postal Service.
The Postal Service is continuing to see strong growth in package and shipping revenue, up 8 percent during the second quarter of 2014 as compared to the same period in 2013. Online shopping has proven to be quite profitable for the Postal Service, and customers find some of the best shipping rates when they ship through the Postal Service.
The Postal Service is also seeing the amount of first-class mail that it handles stabilize. In fact, letter mail revenue was only down 0.5 percent in fiscal year 2013.
Donahoe claims that there have been steep declines in first-class mail. But he fails to tell you that the Postal Service has already given away 60 percent of first-class mail processing to Pitney Bowes and other pre-mail sort houses. In other words, things are not as bad as he makes them out to be.
In August, the Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of funds if Congress fails to raise the gas tax that normally supports it or come up with alternative sources to fund the program. Donahoe has endorsed a proposal using the Postal Service’s potential savings if it eliminated Saturday mail delivery to keep highway projects going for a few months. Why would he be willing to give money away after claiming that his business is broke? It doesn’t make sense.
Donahoe would also like to end your mailbox delivery. Instead, you would have to travel blocks if not miles away to get your mail from a cluster box. Worse yet, you could see one of those cluster boxes erected beside your property, and mail that people view as garbage could be thrown in your yard.
Donahoe also wants to consolidate 82 more distribution centers starting in January 2015. This action will further delay our mail delivery. For example, right now it takes approximately two days for a letter to get processed and returned for delivery in Waupaca. With further delays, it could take now three days.
Donahoe would also like to give clerk jobs to retail employees at Staples and village post offices. Village post offices do not offer all of the services that customers receive at retail windows of traditional post offices, but they do charge extra for packages that you mail through them.
Fremont now has a village post office at the BP station. Fremont also has a traditional post office with reduced window hours. Why does Fremont need two facilities that provide postal services when its population is less than 1,000? I believe that the traditional post office in Fremont along with its staff will be terminated at some point. All the carrier routes have already been transferred to the post office in Weyauwega.
Lastly, in 82 pilot sites where Staples employees provide that same services as do postal retail clerks, the hours of operation at the local post offices have been reduced. Along with that, customers are told to go to Staples. This comes after Donahoe told his employees in his Feb. 12, 2014 workroom video that he has no intention to privatize the Postal Service.
Donahoe claims that the deal with Staples is to provide customers with easier and full access to postal services and to enhance the customer experience. However, a USPS document states, “The pilot will be used to determine if lower costs can be realized with retail partner labor instead of the labor traditionally associated with retail windows at post offices.”
In conclusion, I hope that any reform that the Postal Service sees continues to give us the best available product. That includes six-day delivery, house-to-house and rural mailbox delivery, timely package delivery, and the affordability that the Postal Service currently provides.