January 30, 2012
Addressing the National League of Postmasters on Monday at a conference in Crystal City, Va., Sen. Bernie Sanders was greeted with a standing ovation from local officials who welcomed his effort to block widespread closings of post offices and processing plants.
Sanders said he hopes legislation slated to come before the Senate next week will protect 100,000 jobs that are in jeopardy under a plan to close facilities around the country, including 15 post offices and two mail sorting centers in Vermont. Sanders also wants Congress to preserve overnight delivery of first-class mail and maintain Saturday mail service, both of which could fall under the budget ax as a result of drastic cost-cutting measures the Postal Service is considering.
Under an agreement with the Postal Service worked out by Sanders and other senators, closures and job cuts under study by the Postal Service were delayed until May 15 to give Congress time to consider reforms.
One of the bills before Congress is one introduced by Sanders last November. It would establish a blue-ribbon commission to create a new business model for the Postal Service and examine ways to expand services and boost revenue. He suggested, for example, letting postal workers make copies for customers, notarize documents and provide check-cashing services, all things that are now against the law. He also said post offices could work with states to sell hunting and fishing licenses.
Letter carriers go to 150 million households and businesses across the United States six days a week. “Are there other services that they could be providing to bring in revenue for the post office in addition to just delivering the mail? I believe that there are.”
Instead of a strategy of “cut, cut and cut” advocated by the Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, Sanders called for a business model that acknowledges first-class mail is declining because of e-mail and the digital revolution
“The Postal Service must change,” he told the postmasters, “but it will be a major step backward for our economy if we begin a death spiral for the Postal Service by making mail delivery slower and less efficient.”
Sanders’ legislation also would waive what he called “an incredibly onerous requirement” that the Postal Service set aside billions of dollars over a 10-year period to fund health care benefits for the next 75 years. He also would let the Postal Service recoup billions of overpayments to its pension funds.