NALC: PRC Refuses to Endorse Five-Day Delivery Plan

Commission’s findings bolster the NALC campaign to save Saturday service

March 24, 2011 — The Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent federal agency charged with overseeing USPS operations, issued an opinion today sharply critical of key aspects of the Postal Service’s proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery. The Commission embraced many of the criticisms of the plan expressed by the NALC in our year-long campaign to preserve six-day delivery and 25,000 letter carrier jobs.

“Thanks to the hard work of thousands of letter carriers who rang the alarm bell on the potential loss of Saturday delivery for citizens and small businesses all over America, and thanks to our hard-working staff and team of attorneys, Congress now has all the evidence it needs to conclude that ‘5-day is indeed the wrong way,’” NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said.

The three Republicans and two Democrats on the Commission agreed that the Postal Service overstated by $1.4 billion how much it would save each year by delivering mail only five days per week. In particular, the Commissioners found that USPS grossly overestimated — by more than three-quarters of a billion dollars — the savings it would achieve from its letter carrier workforce.

The bipartisan Commission also concluded that USPS underestimated — by hundreds of millions of dollars — how much revenue it would lose when customers, faced with no Saturday postal delivery, look to alternatives to get their messages and packages delivered.

The Commission’s independent analysis determined further that ending Saturday service would delay the delivery of 25 percent of all First-Class Mail and Priority Mail — almost all of it by two days.

Federal law requires the Postal Service to ask for an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission whenever it seeks to make a nationwide change in its operations. The PRC’s opinion on USPS’s five-day plan is purely advisory; only Congress has the authority to permit USPS to drop Saturday delivery.

USPS filed its request for an opinion from the Commission last year, in March 2010. The PRC proceeded to conduct extensive hearings on the Postal Service’s plan over the course of several months, both in Washington and in locations around the country, soliciting the views of economists and other experts, as well as those of mailers, small-business owners, community newspaper publishers, business executives, local government officials and ordinary citizens.

NALC participated actively in all the proceedings. President Rolando testified forcefully against USPS’s plan at the Washington hearings, while other letter carriers expressed their opposition at the field hearings. NALC also enlisted the help of a pair of leading postal economists from Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania to explain to the Commission the faulty assumptions in the Postal Service’s plan.

All five Commissioners endorsed one joint opinion that pointed out major flaws in USPS’s projections, but this joint opinion expressed no ultimate view on whether Saturday delivery should be eliminated. Four of the Commissioners wrote their own separate opinions.

In her separate opinion, PRC Chair Ruth Goldway (D) announced her view that “eliminating Saturday delivery does not conform to the Nation’s postal policy.” She explained that with five-day delivery, Americans would pay the same postage but receive a lower level of service. She also noted that this reduction in service would be “particularly felt in remote and rural areas.”

Commissioner Nanci Langley (D) wrote that cutting Saturday delivery would diminish USPS’s “competitive advantage in the package delivery sector” and “forfeit the significant competitive advantage” that USPS now enjoys with six-day delivery. Even Commissioner Blair (R), while otherwise supportive of USPS’s plan, noted that it would “unduly impact” those mail users who are dependent on Saturday delivery, including community newspapers, customers who receive pharmaceuticals by mail and those in remote areas. He concluded that the burden is on USPS to show that a reduction in delivery days will “help, not hurt, its future financial viability.”

NALC argued in the hearings before the Commission that USPS grossly overestimated the savings it would achieve by going to five-day delivery. The Commissioners in their joint opinion agreed, noting that even with recent declines in mail volume, city carrier routes are generally at capacity and that overtime hours have recently risen. Squeezing the same amount of mail delivery into fewer days will mean USPS will have to create more routes, to keep within the 8-hour standard, increasing labor costs.

The Commissioners rejected USPS’s notion that it could “absorb” the mountains of mail that would accumulate on Mondays without any significant increase in letter carrier hours. They explained that office time would rise since carriers would have to spend more time sorting the mail. They also explained that there would be an increase in street time: “There are limits on how much mail can go in a carrier’s satchel, and how much mail can be relayed at any one time … Volume directly affects how much time a carrier spends fingering mail on the street, sorting it into cluster boxes, or sorting mail into banks of apartment mailboxes.” The resulting increased work hours, the Commissioners concluded, would eat into the savings USPS projects from its five-day proposal.

The Commission also criticized the Postal Service’s conclusion, based on a survey it conducted of mail customers, that its revenue loss from cutting Saturday delivery would be minimal. NALC argued at the hearing that USPS put its thumb on the scale by asking survey respondents to give their best estimate of how much less they would use the Postal Service if Saturday delivery were cut, and then reducing the answers it received by a so-called “likelihood” factor. The Commission took USPS to task for such statistical game-playing.

Although the Commission’s opinion is not binding, and although the Commissioners reached no unanimity on whether to give USPS’s plan the thumbs up or thumbs down, its findings that USPS’s projections are seriously flawed will help Congress and the general public understand what a serious mistake it would be to eliminate Saturday delivery.

Latest News | NALC reacts to PRC report.

  • cindy

    The NALC is wrong on this.
    Closing Saturday will definitely save money
    and it is inevitably going to happen.
    How can we expect a decent contract when
    we lose 24 million a day ? I hope we all are
    happy when management demands huge
    concessions. Way to go NAL, hasten are
    demise by pretending mail volume will come
    back. The current PMG does not have his head
    in the sand like we do.

  • Bruce

    Joke!!! Many carriers would love to have Saturdays off!!! At our station you put in to have a Saturday off. The Answer is always is NO!!! Service Needs. Forced overtime every day it seems. NALC Heads our all at home weekends off. Things come up weddings, fishing trips, Kids etc. You can’t plan all things a year in advance. Maybe they could make more route so the demand during the week would not be so bad.

  • Jack

    If you wanted Saturdays off so badly, Bruce, why did you take the job? Did you JUST figure this out? BTW, I wouldn’t quit if I were you. Based on your writing skills, it appears that you have the intelligence of a 4 year old…. “NALC Heads our all at home weekends off.” Huh?

  • Mike

    If you think going to 5 days will save money your route must be too short. Having carriers absorb and extra days mail into their current route would be the only way to save money. Most of us have a route that is 8 or more.

    As for having every Sat off, try rotating days off. You’ll get a Fri-Sat-Sun followed by a Sun-Mon the next week. I prefer this to working 5 in a row every week. This system gives you at least 2 days together 2 out of every 6 weeks.

  • DB

    I agree with Mike. Rotating days is the way to go. You get a long weekend (Fri-Sun) every 6 weeks. You can see what weekends you have throughout the year and plan you personal/family events accordingly. Our office has had it this way since the mid 1980’s and it’s worked extremely well. The only draw back is for the “subs”/TE’s whose N/S days are not guaranteed.

  • Peggy

    Finally, somebody articulated what I have thought all along the USPS is too out of touch to realize — “Squeezing the same amount of mail delivery into fewer days will mean USPS will have to create more routes, to keep within the 8-hour standard, increasing labor costs.”

  • JD

    Where is congress in allowing all these companies to switch customers over to “green billing” without their express consent? Looking to Obama to help, he has said the most ignorant things concerning the USPS. Why is it that PMG won’t acknowledge if it weren’t for pre-funding we wouldn’t be doing that poorly? We are a non-government funded arm of the government (no tax payer dollars). If it weren’t for the foolish way we’ve been managed recently we’d actually be in the black. The latest commercial blunder with that actor playing a carrier, I thought sucked. Why not have real customers talking about what the mail means to them and actually encouraging a “snail mail” campaign?

  • Rick

    For 20 years, I worked overtime almost every working day and worked a lot of non scheduled days. All I did was work and no play. the last 4 years, ther is almost no overtime at all in our office and ALL of our routes are too small for 8 hours on any regular basis. My route has gotten added to for 2 years in a row and we have fewer routes every year, yet the volume has fallen so far that it is only a part time job. Two days in a row this past week, I worked 7 hours, even though I did a lot of crossword puzzles and got gas one day. I could have finished either of those 2 days in 6 hours. If we only delivered 5 days, the routes would be big enough. We have lost a route every year for the last 4 years. It is grim. Everyday, there are 30 carriers that want to work an 8 hour day, usually going home early because it iws immpossible to waste any more time than we already do. There may be an office here and there that is not in the same boat, but I am guessing it is the same in most offices. We need a 5 day delivery week so we can work full time again.

  • Rick McDowell

    The NALC doesn’t care what the majority of carriers want, they keep telling everyone what they want. Have they ever asked the members what they prefer? no, and they wont. If we go to 5 day delivery imagine how many grievances will stop being filed because no one will ever be forced in on their day off again. Less grievances mean less union power, not that they are doing such a great job anyway. By the way , have been a Union pres and steward for many years finally realized they are looking out for themselves and not the members.

  • brian

    Rick- if the NALC doesn’t “doesn’t care what the majority of carriers want”, why do “the majority of carriers” keep electing those people?