April 24, 2013 — At Wednesday’s session of PostalVision 2020, NALC President Fredric Rolando explained in persuasive — and un-rebutted — terms why going to five-day mail delivery is neither warranted nor wise, and would in fact be destructive.
The factor accounting for almost all of the Postal Service’s red ink, Rolando told the audience at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington D.C., is the congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade, a requirement faced by no other agency or company in America.
"It’s important to face up to where the losses are coming from," President Rolando said, as he made the case against eliminating Saturday delivery, as pushed for by the postmaster general and anti-worker elements in Congress.
In the most recent fiscal quarter, Rolando said, that mandate accounted for all of the red ink — in fact, in operational terms, the USPS had a $100 million profit delivering the mail, Rolando said. And so, pre-funding is the issue that Congress needs to address to set the Postal Service on a sound financial course.
Later, as the panel concluded, the conference’s host turned to President Rolando and said, "I think you’ll find a lot of agreement with you," and singled out the need to address pre-funding.
Rolando was on a four-member panel titled "The Road Ahead."
Outlining how well situated the USPS is in terms of its future pension and health benefit obligations, President Rolando said, "This is the richest ‘broke’ company I’ve ever heard of."
Further, he said, it is illogical to try to "right-size" the unique universal network of the USPS without first defining its mission in an evolving society. It’s clear that people have changed the way they communicate, and that the Postal Service needs to adapt — and "slashing" services and the network before developing a plan of how to adapt makes no sense and would be self-defeating.
Those pushing for a reduction of services to the American people aim "to take the Postal Service in a different direction from what it was established for — to serve the American people," Rolando said.
"It’s time to be honest with the American people. This isn’t just about Saturday delivery. It’s about ideology, about selling off the Postal Service for corporate profit."
One reason the Postal Service is so well trusted — and that letter carriers do so much in terms of community safety and well-being — is that there is a stable workforce of letter carriers who work in the same neighborhoods for years and develop knowledge of, and ties to, their customers.
There are ways to save money that don’t involve degrading the network, including changes in health care provisions and pricing reforms, and a plan should be developed to grow the business and increase revenue, Rolando said. Labor costs have decreased in recent years, even as worker productivity has reached record highs, he said.
"The Postal Service has a great future," Rolando said, noting the "unlimited" future of e-Commerce, but the USPS needs improved leadership. The current Board of Governors suffers from too many vacancies and too little business expertise.
"We’ve got to get a governance structure in there that has a vision for how to run a $65 billion company," and that understands the concepts of growth and profits, Rolando said.
Read more: Rolando testifies before House committee.