Senator Bernie Sanders Statement on Postal Service Bill

bernieWASHINGTON, Aug. 2 – Sen. Bernie Sanders today issued the following statement on a Postal Service reform bill introduced late Thursday in the Senate that could end Saturday and door-to-door mail delivery and close mail processing plants:

“While I have a great deal of respect for Sens. Carper and Coburn, the Postal Service bill that they introduced is significantly weaker than the bill that passed the Senate last year with 62 votes. That makes no sense. Over a short period of time, the Carper-Coburn bill will allow the Postal Service to shut down over half of the mail processing plants in this country, end Saturday delivery and even deliver mail fewer than 5 days a week.

“In the midst of a severe recession, this bill would lead to the elimination of tens of thousands of decent-paying jobs – many of them held by military veterans. That is why I have introduced the Postal Service Protection Act with 28 cosponsors, a bill that would sustain the Postal Service, avert unnecessary closures and save American jobs. Similar legislation introduced in the House by Rep. DeFazio now has 166 cosponsors.

“The Postal Service is an institution of enormous importance to the American people. It must be preserved and protected. About 80 percent of the financial problems of the Postal Service are the result of an unprecedented and onerous mandate that forces it to pay 75 years of future retiree health benefits over a 10-year period.

“While we all understand that the Postal Service is experiencing financial problems today and that changes need to be made, providing fewer services and poorer quality is not the way to save the Postal Service. That is why I am strongly opposed to this legislation.”

Occupation of post office thwarted

From Portland Communities and Postal Workers United :

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Dozens of protesters rallied and attempted to occupy the Main Post Office on NW Hoyt this afternoon.  The protest against postal privatization was thwarted by a heavy presence of Department of Homeland Security police, Postal Inspectors and a half dozen postal managers standing inside the post office lobby.  Senior plant manager, Lisa Shear, herself a target of the protest, came out to warn activists that she would have them immediately arrested if they stepped foot inside the lobby. 

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The End of Saturday Service? BPR Looks at the Fate of the USPS

On Wednesday the Postmaster General of the United States Patrick Donahoe announced the end of Saturday delivery — or so it seemed. It turns out the USPS needs congressional approval to cut service.

According to Steve Hutkins, who runs the blog Save the Post Office, the Postmaster’s announcement amounts to the proverbial "trial balloon." Postal unions reacted strongly, as did lawmakers and members of the public.

Read more, and listen to the audio interview: The End of Saturday Service? BPR Looks at the Fate of the USPS | WGBH News.

PMG expected to make a major announcement on USPS restructuring Wednesday

Update: According to the Associated Press, the announcement will be the end of regular Saturday mail deliveries.

pat-donahoe-largeLast month the USPS Bord of Governors directed the Postmaster General to accelerate the restructuring of USPS operations in response to the service’s precarious financial situation. The PMG has scheduled a press conference at USPS Headquarters for Wednesday at 10 AM EST to make a major announcement regarding those restructuring plans.

Union Launches Petition Drive to Save America’s Postal Service

President Guffey is asking APWU members to collect signatures on a petition to Congress urging senators and representatives to oppose USPS plans to close post offices, shutter mail processing facilities, and drastically degrade service to the American people.

In a letter to state and local presidents dated Oct. 26, 2011, President Guffey wrote, “It is urgent that we bring as much political pressure as possible to bear against the Postal Service’s plans to dismantle its network of processing, distribution and retail facilities.”

In addition to the petition, the letter includes a flyer with the message, “ Closing Post Offices & Mail Processing Centers and Cutting Service is Wrong.”

“No company can grow or even maintain its business by cutting its service. But that’s exactly what the Postal Service is proposing to do,” the flyer says.

In July, the USPS announced plans to close 3,700 post offices; in September, management announced plans to close 252 of approximately 460 mail processing centers.

In early October, the Postal Service posted a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intent to revise service commitments, eliminate overnight delivery of first-class mail and change two-day delivery to three days.

The proposed change in service standards acknowledges what the Postal Service has repeatedly denied: Slashing the mail processing network will result in drastic cuts in service to the American people.

“Reducing the scope and quality of service will not restore the Postal Service to health. It would likely drive mailers away and therefore worsen the Postal Service’s financial problems,” Guffey said.

“If every APWU member filled up one petition, we would have nearly two million signatures,” the letter notes.

The APWU is requesting that locals act at once to make this petition drive a success. Completed petitions should be sent by Nov. 14 to:

Save America’s Postal Service
American Postal Workers Union
1300 L Street NW
Washington DC 20005.

The national union will make sure that House and Senate members receive petitions collected in their districts or states.

Petition Form

Petition Drive Flyer

eBay petition asks Congress to “support online businesses by providing relief to USPS”

eBay’s government relations office has started an online petition to ask Congress to support the US Postal Service. A statement on the petition page says “eBay supports financial relief for the USPS and forward-thinking policies to restructure the postal service and keep shipping rates affordable. It is imperative that eBay small businesses have access to low-cost, reliable shipping alternatives.”

Dear Senator/Representative:

Please take swift action to provide relief to the United States Postal Service (USPS). It’s very important that U.S. postal operations remain strong and solvent to ensure small Internet-enabled businesses have access to affordable shipping rates.

Small businesses depend on the affordable and reliable services provided by the USPS to get their products to customers. Together, e-commerce retailers constitute a USPS “super user,” and have helped offset some of the decline in traditional mail by generating increasing numbers of products for delivery. In fact, the Census Bureau has noted that e-commerce retail sales to consumers reached an all-time high in 2009, with total sales of $145 billion. And that number continues to grow as more and more businesses use the Internet to reach a new consumer base.

As online retail grows, affordable and competitive shipping rates are more and more important to the industry. Affordable shipping rates are particularly important to small e-commerce retailers that compete with large online and multi-channel retailers. Already, small businesses do not enjoy the same volume-based shipping rates that larger retailers command. This price difference is a challenge for small business retailers competing in a world of big retailers. Increases to USPS shipping rates would further jeopardize small retailers’ competitiveness.

It is essential that any restructuring of the USPS preserve competition in the marketplace, while ensuring affordable and timely shipping options. I urge you to support small online businesses by passing legislation that would provide relief to the USPS and retain competitive, affordable shipping rates for small businesses.

Sincerely,

via eBay Main Street Online Petition – Review Petition Text.

USPS files final rule on new procedures for PO staffing and closings

From the National League of Postmasters:

Postal Service files for final rule with regard to 39 CFR Part 241

On Wednesday, October 26 the Postal Service filed a final rule with the Federal Register amending regulations with regard to Post Office closings. This final rule adopts changes to the staffing of Post Offices and to the definition of “consolidation”. The proposed changes would be effective December 1, 2011.

This is a very serious amendment to regulations impacting Postmasters and Post Offices. The LEAGUE and NAPUS has been in contact with our legal counsel and they are reviewing the proposed change. We will be discussing all options available to us. As more information becomes available we will bring you up to date.

The following is the history of the proposed rules changes.

April 28, 2011 the two organizations sent a letter to the PRC expressing our views on the proposed changes along with a legal opinion letter from Hal Hughes former General Counsel to the Postal Service…

May 23, 2011 the LEAGUE and NAPUS two retired Postmasters filed a formal complaint before the Postal Regulatory Commission PRC…

July 14, 2011 – Post Office issues Publication on Final Rule on Retail Discontinuance Actions…

via National League of Postmasters – Homepage.

Dennis Ross gets it wrong again

I’m flattered that Congressman Ross reads our blog (or at least the headlines feed on Twitter). But his contempt for the truth can be breathtaking- even for a politician. Here’s his response to our latest item on the GAO report on options for the USPS, where we pointed out that GAO ignored the fact that all of the USPS’s losses since 2006 are due to the prefunding requirement:

in reply to @postalnews

@postalnews the bait and switch to “prefunding” focus tacit admission that GAO was right – no overpayment. End of story.
Oct 21 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Note that Dennis doesn’t actually dispute what we said- he can’t, at least not without lying. So instead he tries to confuse the issue by bringing in the previous GAO report on the alleged CSRS overcharges, and accusing us of a “bait and switch”. Dennis would like to give the impression that we only started talking about the prefunding issue after GAO produced its report denying the USPS was overcharged for CSRS pensions by $50-75 billion. But Dennis knows that’s a lie. In March, for instance, we offered Dennis a little history lesson on the prefunding issue. We provided an even more detailed accounting of the history of prefunding in “Postal Ponzi Scheme” back in 2009, long before Dennis was elected to Congress!

At the same time. our coverage of the alleged CSRS overcharges has been even-handed. In our story in March on the IRET report on the overcharge issue, I wrote:

While IRET is a well known right wing “think tank” financed by, among others, the Scaife and Koch family foundations, it’s difficult to argue with one crucial point raised by the report: even if one accepts the proposition that the USPS overpaid the Treasury by $75 billion since 1971, it isn’t owed any money.

That conclusion stems from the simple fact of the USPS rate setting process- because the USPS was required to break even over time, its rates took into consideration all of its expenses- including the alleged $75 billion overcharge. Had the USPS been charged $75 billion less, its rates would have been proportionately lower, leaving its cumulative net income unchanged.

So no, Dennis, I’m not doing bait and switch. I’ve been talking about prefunding for years, and I’ve also pointed out the holes in the CSRS overcharge argument. But then, I’m just a blogger, not one of those “lying politicians” you talk about on your Facebook page.

Twitter / @RepDennisRoss: @postalnews the bait and s ….

Update: a few minutes after that tweet, Dennis had an unusual attack of almost telling the truth:

PostCom2PostCom
in reply to @PostCom2

@PostCom2 requiring 6 day is no different than other Congressional meddling. Distorts USPS ability to act as an indep business.
Oct 21 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

“Other Congressional meddling”? You mean like, say, the annual $5.5 billion trust fund charge? Doesn’t that really distort “USPS ability to act as an indep business”? Think about it, Dennis…

Dennis Ross claims trust fund is “pure fantasy”

Looks like Dennis Ross has a problem with facts. When a commenter on his Facebook page mentioned our article criticizing a Washington Post story for ignoring the $50 billion the USPS has (involuntarily) stashed away for future retiree benefits, Ross responded “The other "trust fund" is just pure fantasy.” But then admitted “Yes, there is over $40 billion already in the fund.” Oh. OK. I guess when you’re a Congressman reality and fantasy don’t mean the same things as they do to the rest of us!

Ross also wrote, without providing any specifics, that “the amount of misinformation coming from postalnewsblog is staggering over the past few months”. Considering the source, we’ll take that as a compliment!

But let’s make one thing clear- unlike the Congressman, we deal in facts, not fantasies. And these are the facts:

  • Between the “mythical” trust fund with its very real $42.5 billion, and the undisputed $6.9 billion FERS overpayment, the supposedly “insolvent” USPS effectively has almost $50 billion in the bank.
  • The trust fund payments are the cause of the USPS losses since 2006. Without them, the USPS would have been profitable over that time period. All of the current USPS debt is money it has had to borrow from the Treasury so that it can then loan it back to the Treasury for the “trust fund”. It’s a shell game designed to take “off budget” postal revenues, and apply them to an “on budget” trust fund, artificially lowering the federal budget deficit.
  • No other company or agency has the same obligation to prefund retiree benefits.
  • Even if one accepts a need for some level of prefunding, the 2006 law was based on assumptions as to volume and workforce levels that no longer apply, yet no adjustments have been made to the payment levels.
  • If the USPS had been allowed to run like a business since 2006 (i.e. without prefunding and Congressmen micro-managing its operations), it would be a profitable enterprise facing the recession with ample cash reserves.
  • Republicans refuse to drop the accounting gimmick that places USPS operations “off budget”, while its retirement funds are “on budget” This allows them to cry “BAILOUT” if the USPS asks for some of its own money to be returned to fund its operations.
  • Congress created the “crisis”, not the USPS unions or managers, and Congress needs to correct its mistakes before it destroys the US Postal Service.

via US Representative Dennis Ross.