USPS Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Megan Brennan thanked Postmasters for what they do, day in and out. “You wear the public mantle,” she said, “internally and for your customers.” She commended President Bob Rapoza for his leadership. She told convention attendees he has been a staunch advocate for NAPUS and Postmasters.
Brennan flashed on the screen some recent dire headlines about the Postal Service. “This is what causes a crisis among mailers,” she pointed out, “and impacts employee morale. You and I will change these headlines.”
She went on to say the losses the USPS has experienced these past years are unsustainable; there is a growing gap between revenue and expenses. The decline in First-Class Mail volume puts tremendous pressure on the organization to adjust the infrastructure.
Brennan said the USPS will continue to put universal service obligations at the forefront of its mission. The agency still is adding delivery points—600,000 to 700,000 a year. Yet volume declines and the mail mix is devalued with less First-Class.
As a result, fewer processing facilities are needed. She explained this is a challenge for the Postal Service. From a pricing standpoint, there is limited flexibility. The USPS has to be smarter about how it uses pricing to drive the bottom line; labor costs are 80 cents on the dollar. The challenge is how to increase the flexibility of the work force.
Brennan also said the USPS wants to continue to talk with the management associations and unions to create its own health plan—maintaining service and benefits while reducing costs. As far as the two missed payments for prefunding future retiree health benefits, she said Congress was well aware the agency would be unable to make the payments.
“We will pay our employees and our suppliers,” she insisted. “There will be no impact on material operations.” But those defaulted payments made headlines. The challenge is how to ensure customer confidence going forward. “We will continue to maintain our universal service obligation,” she vowed, “the linchpin of a trillion-dollar business.” The Postal Service will protect its employees, customers and suppliers—without asking for a bailout.
The USPS is asking Congress to restructure its prepayment requirement—not do away with it. It also is asking for the latitude to determine delivery frequency.
She explained the methodology behind POStPlan: Maintain post offices, but change hours based on customer use. She acknowledged the lingering issue about staffing, agreeing Postmasters responsible for RMPOs will need some assistance. She promised to address that, but, in the meantime, urged Postmasters to continue to serve customers.
Brennan also discussed administrative Postmasters having to travel to subordinate post offices, which raises the issue of having to use personal vehicles. She said this will be resolved. “Don’t let it become a point of contention,” she urged. “No one will mandate you and if they do, let me know.”
In the first go-around with POStPlan, about 13,000 offices would have been evaluated for closure. But they are staying open, with hours based on customer use. The Postal Service is committed to working with impacted Postmasters to help them be better prepared to compete for vacancies. “We’re going to work with you and help you as you work through this POStPlan implementation,” she promised.
What will the Postal Service’s retail footprint look like? Brennan said there will be improved experiences in high-traffic outlets, significantly expanded retail partnerships, costs matched to volume in low traffic outlets and increased digital access. “We need to provide predictable service,” she stressed. “We have to grow profitable revenue because we will not be able to survive just on cost-cutting.”
She commended Postmasters on the fact service has been phenomenal; package service has been above target; Standard Mail, letters—tremendous performance. She reminded Postmasters everyone is part of the sales force; the more revenue that is generated, the less pressure on the cost side.
There has been double-digit growth in packages. “We are well positioned for packaging; this will be a major priority for us going forward,” she said.
Brennan told Postmasters not to lose sight that the focus is on service, while closing the gap on expenses. Do the right thing in terms of efficient service. And don’t hesitate to be accessible to employees and customers; don’t duck the hard questions. And reinforce the Postal Service’s purpose: service. There needs to be clarity around the mission.
“The Postal Service will be here and thrive going forward,” she vowed. It needs to adapt to changes in the marketplace and control costs and best use its infrastructure. “As you listen to the opportunities,” she said, “know we are going to be here. It’s going to be bumpy over the next months and years, but we will be here.”
USPS Southern Area Operations Vice President Jo Ann Feindt thanked Postmasters for the outstanding jobs they do every day. She expressed dismay at the comments from Postmasters about not being treated well by their managers. “When you think about our challenging times,” she said, “it’s really important we’re true partners. But we must show leadership and treat each other well. I know it gets tough and we have managers who don’t do the right thing; that’s the part we need to change collectively.”
Feindt suggested everyone needs to do come together as mentors and support each other—to say they’re going to grow this business and learn together. She said there are people at the convention who are responsible for her success because she’s only as good as the people with her and Postmasters are only as good because of the people who work for them. “We have a chance to make a positive impact,” she stressed.
“Was not one of the proudest moments of your life when you took that oath as Postmaster?” she asked. “Ask yourself, if not for the USPS, are you not better now than before you met the Postal Service? I think we forget that. True teams are defined in the tough times, not in the good times, not in the easy times.”
She told Postmasters, when they leave the convention, to ask themselves how they can do things differently and better. “We’re never going to look back,” she promised. “We will work collectively as a team and support each other through the good times and the very, very tough times. Is this not our family? We spend more time with each other than we do with our families and it’s important.”
Feindt also told Postmasters they need to help develop the agency’s future leaders. “Reach out to people,” she urged, “and say, ‘I will help you grow as a leader and get you the experience you need to be a future leader.’ Those going to lower levels: We need to help you go up again. Sometimes you have to go down to go up.”
“Don’t ever lose sight of how good the eagle has been to you,” she told Postmasters. “Thanks for everything you do and you do a phenomenal job; go back and tell your employees they do a phenomenal job. We value what you do and we know, collectively, we will do it together.”
NAPUS Director of Government Relations Bob Levi told NAPUS members the next six months will be the most important since 1970. A lot is going to happen—some will not be in Postmasters’ control, but a lot will be. “Our issues are at the forefront of Congress,” he said. “We are the most visible postal employee organization there is.”
A recent Gallup poll rated Congress’ approval rating at 9 percent—compared to 24 percent for Richard Nixon during Watergate. Levi said this Congress is the most polarized in recent history and is incapable of passing very much. “However,” he asserted, “individuals we have supported through PAC and legislative activism have been our friends and stuck with us because of your activism.”
Despite Congress not passing responsible postal reform, the Senate did its job and passed S. 1789—because of Postmasters’ support and activism and support of individuals on that committee. “We were able to get, for the first time, retail service standards; the PRC will have binding authority on post office closings appeals—we pushed for that,” he declared.
The House, though, is a different story. It’s controlled by leadership not sympathetic to the USPS that would like to privatize the institution. The Postal Service, despite its financial crisis, still delivers to 151 million delivery points daily—54 million pieces of mail a day, 45 cents postage and not one dime of taxpayer dollars. “We have to continue sending that message,” he urged, “because it doesn’t get through to some lawmakers.”
Levi explained that, since 2007, 85 percent of USPS losses resulted directly from the $5.5 billion prefunding requirement. “If we took that all away, the USPS still would have a loss attributable to diversion of mail to electronic methods. First-Class keeps dropping; the economy still is teetering. But we need to do what we can and as loud as we can; we have to demand that Congress take action.”
H.R. 2309 has two co-sponsors: Issa and Ross. Their legislation would have a catastrophic impact on the USPS if it were impacted. S. 1789 does not provide long-term relief, but it is bi-partisan, consensus legislation that has the support of 62 senators. “We won,” he said, “because of you and your support and PAC support. And we supported senators who supported a universal postal service that does not ignore rural post offices.”
Levi said flyers are going to be distributed to communities throughout the country that make postal relief legislation a campaign issue. “We can hold lawmakers accountable to this,” he vowed. “And some House members have been truly supportive.”
He commended PAC for Postmasters Chair Linda Carter and the chapter PAC chairs for the phenomenal jobs they have done this year. Participators in ePAC are contributing $7,500 per month—a 36 percent increase from last year; $90,000 is projected for the year just from ePAC.
Levi urged every to contribute to NAPUS PAC. “It assures access to our members of Congress, amplifies our voices, helps our allies and fights our enemies. NAPUS PAC needs you!”