By APWU Executive VP Greg Bell:
Another conservative think tank has jumped on the “privatize everything but the last mile” bandwagon.
In a June 2013 report titled “Postal Reform for the Digital Age,” the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) offers a plan that “would preserve the USPS monopoly on ‘final mile’ delivery while opening up the collection, transport, sorting and processing of the mail to much greater competition.” In other words, privatize all postal operations except delivery.
Where have we heard that before? Read the rest of this entry »
A draft postal bill [PDF] released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on June 13 would punish postal workers, privatize major portions of the USPS, and deprive the American people of vital services, said APWU President Cliff Guffey.
“We will examine the draft more thoroughly in the coming days and participate in discussions with lawmakers and other stakeholders,” Guffey said, “but our initial review is deeply disturbing.
“The draft bill would turn the USPS into a private, for-profit operation. It would do virtually nothing to strengthen the Postal Service’s ability to serve the communications needs of our nation,” he said.
A section-by-section summary of the bill [PDF] reveals the draft bill would:
Deprive Customers of Vital Services
Privatize Postal Services
Harm Postal Finances
Darrell Issa has proposed a modified version of the postal “reform” bill he introduced last session, but was unable to convince the members of his own party to support. Here is Issa’s summary of his new peoposal:
In order to solicit broad stakeholder input on the Postal Reform Act of 2013 prior to introduction, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is posting a discussion draft of new legislation along with several summary documents. Feedback can be sent directly to OGRPostalReform@mail.house.gov. Read the rest of this entry »
NALC welcomes chance to discuss reform proposal with Rep. Issa
June 13, 2013 — On June 13, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released what he termed a “discussion draft” of a possible postal reform bill that he hopes to introduce in the near future.
“This discussion draft has a number of major problems that need to be addressed before it is used as the basis of actual legislation,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, noting how the draft includes many of the damaging and fundamental flaws that were included in H.R. 2309, Rep. Issa’s attempt at a postal reform measure in the last session of Congress.
For example, Issa’s draft calls for the immediate elimination of Saturday letter mail service, for taking away from 35 million Americans door-delivery of the mail and replacing it with cluster-box delivery, and for compromising the security of the mailbox by allowing access to non-federal employees.
“The NALC is disappointed that Chairman Issa did not take a fresher approach to postal reform with this discussion draft,” Rolando said. “However, we appreciate the chairman’s invitation to provide input to this legislation before it is formally introduced, and we welcome this opportunity to engage in discussions of this proposed bill with him, his colleagues on the Oversight Committee and the entire House of Representatives.” (Issa’s committee has jurisdiction over the U.S. Postal Service.)
“We are going to carefully go through this new draft in the coming days,” the president said, “and we hope that we will be able to work with the chairman on legislation to provide alternative approaches to postal reform that seek to modernize and strengthen the Postal Service—an agency with roots in the U.S Constitution—rather than to destroy it brick by brick.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will introduce legislation to preserve overnight mail delivery and, in the process, protect mail processing facilities from closure, she told fellow lawmakers in a letter dated June 13. [PDF]
Rep. DeLauro invited House members to become original co-sponsors of the Protect Overnight Delivery Act, which she plans to introduce later this month. Forty-three representatives have already signed on as co-sponsors, she said.
“The elimination of overnight delivery standards and consolidating processing facilities will have a disastrous impact on local and national unemployment,” Rep. DeLauro wrote. “The USPS is a major employer around the country and employs over 500,000 workers. With an unacceptably high unemployment rate, it would be particularly inopportune for the USPS to close these facilities.
The legislation would protect mail processing plans from closure by preventing the Postal Service from moving to two- to three-day delivery standards. As a result, Rep. DeLauro wrote, the bill would stop the elimination of jobs at mail processing facilities.
APWU President Cliff Guffey praised the bill. “If these delivery standards had the force of law, the USPS would be unable to close many of the mail processing plants that are scheduled for consolidation,” he said.
“This bill is good for the American people and good for postal workers,” Guffey said. “We urge our members to ask their U.S. representatives to support the Protect Overnight Delivery Act.”
The Affordable Mail Alliance, a coalition of Postal Service customers, has been reestablished to defeat an expected Postal Service proposal to raise postage rates by as much as five times the rate permissible by law. The Postal Service Board of Governors, who must approve the Postal Service’s request, is set to decide on the matter imminently. Read the rest of this entry »
By Greg Bell
Executive Vice President, American Postal Workers Union
I have always been skeptical of surveys conducted by the Postal Service, because they seem to be designed to generate responses that would justify cutting service, closing postal facilities, or reducing employees’ pay.
But the results of a survey commissioned by the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) in February and March validate what postal workers have been saying: The American people want a strong, vibrant postal service.
The survey, which was conducted by InfoTrends, a leading market research firm, found that more than 70 percent of Americans oppose closing mail processing facilities if it would result in a one- or two-day delay in mail delivery. Seventy-four percent of respondents also oppose reducing the hours of operation at post offices.
The study was designed to learn about Americans’ perception of the Postal Service and the role it plays in their lives. It was conducted online because of cost considerations, the OIG said, with the understanding that segments of the population without Internet access (most likely rural and lower-income citizens) could be reached in a future phase of research via mail, phone, or in-person.
Respondents were not made aware the survey was commissioned by the OIG, which is an independent agency within the Postal Service that conducts audits and investigations to maintain USPS “integrity and accountability.” Results were compiled in a report titled What America Wants from the Postal Service — A Survey of Internet-Connected Americans. [PDF]
Broad Support for USPS
In addition to opposing the reduction of hours at post offices and the closure of mail processing facilities, the survey found, most Americans recognize that the Postal Service provides a public service that should be maintained, even if it is not profitable.
In fact, when asked, “Despite its current financial problems, do you believe the U.S. Postal Service should continue to be required to serve all areas of the country, even if it is not profitable to do so?” 80 percent of Americans who responded said yes. (Among rural respondents 82 percent said yes; 79.3 percent of suburban respondents said yes, and 79.9 percent of urban respondents said yes.) I suspect that if the same question were put to non-Internet connected Americans, the percentage responding “yes” would be even greater.
The survey clearly shows that the American people want the Postal Service to continue to fulfill its legal obligation to provide universal service to the American people at a reasonable and uniform cost.
Although the Postal Service receives no tax dollars to fund its operations, 77 percent of those polled believe — incorrectly _ that the Postal Service is partially- or fully-funded by taxpayers. Of those polled, older Americans are the most likely to know that the Postal Service is self-supporting.
When asked, “If the U.S. Postal Service did not exist in five years, would it have an impact on you,” approximately 95 percent said they would be impacted and about 48 percent said they would be significantly impacted.
One of the most surprising results was that only 5 percent of respondents under the age of 35 said the elimination of the USPS would have no impact on them. This refutes the notion that Internet-savvy young people have no use for the Postal Service. As the report noted, “This finding signifies that the Postal Service has an opportunity to engage these younger Americans and increase its value to them.”
More, Not Less
While most respondents are satisfied with the service and accessibility of their post office, a strong majority indicated they would be interested in more self-service options. The majority of respondents, however, said if they were to have access to postal products and services through an existing non-postal operated retail facility — such as a grocery store or pharmacy — rather than their local post office, it would neither increase nor decrease their use of the Postal Service.
Respondents are generally not opposed to closing post offices to reduce costs, but they are less likely to support the idea if it would result in the closure of their local post office. However, respondents do not support cost-reduction efforts that would delay mail delivery, reduce mail delivery to three days per week, or decrease post office hours.
The majority of respondents are still interested in receiving at least some physical mail. A strong majority of respondents indicated some level of discomfort conducting transactions online, but more than half of those indicated they do so anyway. The majority prefer to receive physical mail over digital messages, although there is at least some interest in receiving specific types of mail electronically rather than physically, such as advertising mail.
Respondents expressed interest in being able to access additional services at post offices, such as renewing drivers’ licenses and obtaining permits. Respondents are also would like the Postal Service to provide digital services, with younger respondents being most enthusiastic of growth in this direction.
We’re Not Alone
Although we are in the forefront of the struggle to protect the Postal Service, we are not alone. As the survey demonstrates, significant majorities of the American people believe the Postal Service remains relevant and important to their daily lives.
As more people wake up to what is being done to the Postal Service, their opposition to cutbacks and privatization will continue to grow.
It’s our job to tap that sentiment and turn it into political action that can achieve comprehensive postal reform that preserves service to the American people and good postal jobs for our members.
From the American Postal Workers Union:
When Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress last week of plans to take money from two federal employee retirement funds to avoid defaulting on the national debt, there was hardly a peep. No outrage. No dismay. Not even a question.
APWU President Cliff Guffey wants to know why not.
Guffey is ticked off because the federal government is taking a chunk of money that properly belongs to the Postal Service – while the USPS teeters on the edge of bankruptcy.
“Postal customers and employees have overpaid $3 billion into the Federal Employees Retirement System, but Congress has refused to return the surplus – even while the USPS is forced to shutter thousands of post offices, close hundreds of mail sorting facilities, lower service standards, and delay mail delivery,” he said.
“The government is helping itself to money that was paid by postal customers and employees, not taxpayers,” Guffey pointed out.
“The federal government won’t let the Postal Service touch that money, but they’re taking it themselves,” the union president said. “How brazen can they be?”
“The government has borrowed before from federal employee pension accounts and repaid the money,” Guffey noted. “We fully expect it to be repaid this time as well. But that’s not the point.”
In addition to the federal pension funds, the Treasury is tapping the controversial Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. “The one that’s bankrupting the USPS,” Guffey said.
“The fund has more than $46 billion in it that the government won’t let the Postal Service use, even though the agency is on the verge of a financial collapse,” he said, “but they’re helping themselves to it.”
Congress created the fund in 2006 when it passed the PAEA, which forces the Postal Service to pre-fund a 75-year liability in a 10-year period. The payments, which are approximately $5 billion annually, account for approximately 70 percent of the Postal Service’s current net deficit for the period from 2007 to 2012.
“Congress insists the USPS must pre-fund. They say the money must be there, but they don’t object when the government grabs it,” Guffey said.
One of my favorite non-postal blogs takes a stab at the USPS “crisis”, and while there are a few clever lines, the effort is a bit sloppy as if it might be the effort of a summer intern:
the gallant United States Postal Service, which is kind of like FedEx if it was run by the Three Stooges.
Umm.., yeah, good one. Stooges aside, most people understand that the USPS and FedEx have very little in common. For some reason, though, reporters and bloggers seem to think that UPS and FedEx are just like the PO, but better , ‘cuz FREE ENTERPRISE!
Then we get numbers that the writer copied out of an LA Times story that is actually a reprint of a Chicago Tribune story from about a month back, with this analysis:
Negative $16 billion dollars per year is not the kind of “alpha” performance that professional managers generally seek out.
No, it’s not. But the writer seems to be unaware of two rather important facts:
The writer does eventually get around to mentioning the PAEA charges, although not the trick of carrying over prior year’s charges:
A significant part of the postal service’s debt is due to the passage of a 2006 law that required it to “start pre-funding the health benefits of future retirees 50 years in advance,” to the tune of more than $5 billion per year.
And I do like the writer’s description of what happens whenever the USPS tries to do something about the so-called “crisis”:
Congress, which is composed of petulant stamp collectors who cannot do arithmetic, stops them. So it seems quite likely that our elected representatives will steer the USPS directly into the mouth of a volcano and let it start burning before any useful reforms come about.
Pretty much sums it up!
Read more: How Doomed Is the U.S. Postal Service?.