Does the new PMG see the glass as half-full?

The following message from National Association of Letter Carriers Fred Rolando, appeared in the March 2015 Postal Record, published by the NALC:

NALC-LOGOYou can’t judge a new CEO on the basis of only one week on the job. That would be like judging a book based on its opening chapter or the color of its cover. But I was encouraged by the performance of Megan Brennan during her first week on the job as the 74th postmaster general of the United States—at least in comparison with her predecessor. Three things stand out.

First, she posted a letter to all postal employees on the USPS website that set a very positive tone—focusing on themes that will unite us: innovation, growth and working together to overcome the challenges we face.

Second, she immediately met with each of the presidents of the Postal Service’s four employee unions. Doing so shows respect for the craft employees who make the Postal Service what it is every day, an amazing public service and an invaluable part of the nation’s economic infrastructure. My first conversation with her was very constructive and useful; I look forward to many more like it.

And third, she shifted—in a subtle but significant way—the manner in which the Postal Service communicates with the media and the public about our financial performance, again accentuating the positive. I want to focus on this last step the most because I think it is essential for achieving the kind of postal reform legislation that will strengthen the Postal Service, not dismantle it.

A year ago in this space (the March 2014 issue of The Postal Record), I called the way the Postal Service was communicating its quarterly reports “financial malpractice.” That’s because its press releases routinely highlighted the negative and buried the good news. The opening lines of its press release for the first fiscal quarter of last year was typical: “The U.S. Postal Service ended the first quarter of its 2014 fiscal year with a net loss of $354 million. This marks the 19th of the last 21 quarters that it has sustained a loss.”

Never mentioned in that release was the cost of the Postal Service’s grossly unfair mandate to pre-fund future retiree health benefits, which was responsible for the entire loss. Also not mentioned was the Postal Service’s operating profit (“controllable profit/loss”) of $754 million.

The press briefing that followed the release was even worse. The first slide featured a grossly misleading portrayal of the Postal Service’s balance sheet—highlighting an allegedly huge gap between the agency’s assets and liabilities. (See page 12 of this issue to read about a new report on the Postal Service’s assets and liabilities, by the USPS Office of Inspector General, that offers a more accurate picture of the Postal Service’s balance sheet.) The clear message was: the Postal Service was failing at best and a financial basket case at worst.

Why all the doom and gloom before now? The headline of the press release for that quarter provided the answer: “U.S. Postal Service Records Loss of $354 Million in First Quarter, Underscoring Need for Comprehensive Legislation.” The former PMG wrongly believed that the best way to get Congress to enact postal reform was to “yell fire in crowded theater.” This panic-creating approach never worked to convince lawmakers to enact the changes he wanted.

That’s why it is so refreshing to see the new PMG portray the first-quarter results for FY 2015 more accurately. She didn’t bury the impact of pre-funding, but she put it in proper prospective— it’s a problem that must be solved by Congress to help the Postal Service build on its strong recovery. Indeed, the title of the press release this year says it all: “U.S. Postal Service Delivers on ‘Our Season.’ ” The release highlighted a 4.3 percent increase in revenue, a 3.5 percent increase in Standard Mail volume and a 12.8 percent increase in package volume along with the overall net loss figure.

During the press briefing, the agency’s chief financial officer managed to acknowledge that the USPS had a “fantastic” quarter—a fair characterization of a $1.1 billion operating profit.

This shift in focus is crucially important. Congress, the mailing industry, postal employees and the public all need to know that the Postal Service is not a lost cause, that its future can be bright with the right kind of reform. We don’t need to dismantle the Postal Service; we need to invest in its future, which was another positive theme in the new PMG’s letter to postal employees. So all in all, it was a good opening week for the new boss.

Of course, we know that we will have disagreements with PMG Brennan in the future; it is the nature of a collective bargaining relationship. But as I told her, if she is willing to negotiate in good faith to reward career carriers and CCAs alike for our hard work, , NALC will reciprocate and seek to creatively solve problems at the bargaining table and on Capitol Hill.

If we can both do that, the glass will be more than half-full.

National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO.

NALC joins postal banking coalition

NALC-LOGONALC President Fredric Rolando has announced that the union has joined a new coalition to explore ways the U.S. Postal Service could provide affordable financial services to the tens of millions of Americans who lack access to such services.

The coalition, the Campaign for Postal Banking, is made up of consumer advocates, community groups, worker representatives, faith-based groups and civil rights organizations.

“As we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, we honor the memory of a great friend of the American labor movement,” Rolando said. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to reflect on the fact that millions of our customers—notably those in predominantly African-American and Latino communities—do not have access to affordable financial services.”

According to the latest Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) “National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked,” 28 percent of U.S. households—or nearly 100 million people—are underserved by currently available banking options. This percentage is even higher for African-American households (54 percent) and Latino households (46 percent).

“The Postal Service already provides several affordable financial services,” Rolando noted, such as money orders, Treasury check cashing and international electronic money transfers. “Not only do we as letter carriers touch every community in America, six days a week—and sometimes seven—but every community in America has at least one post office nearby, something that can’t be said about banks and other similar financial institutions.

“This coalition will help us explore opportunities to close this gap and help move millions of Americans away from payday lenders and other predatory alternative financial services,” the president said.

The Campaign for Postal Banking coalition has begun to investigate the legislative, legal and financial considerations involved in providing additional affordable financial services at post offices.

“Our nationwide post office network, combined with its highly skilled and dedicated workforce, could help solve this serious public policy problem,” Rolando said.

An overview of the problem and discussion about the potential for postal banking is included in a new report from a member of the coalition, United for A Fair Economy, titled State of the Dream 2015, Underbanked and Overcharged.

via NALC joins postal banking coalition | National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO.

Postal Service cash balance improves

From the National Association of Letter Carriers:

Some news outlets continue to report that the Postal Service is “hemorrhaging cash.” While that line may add drama to a story, it is incorrect.

The fact of the matter is the that Postal Service has accumulated $6 billion of cash on its balance sheet. This reflects a nearly three-fold increase from USPS’ cash balance at the end of fiscal year 2012.This increased cash balance should provide the Postal Service with some additional spending flexibility for capital investments.

How did this happen you might ask? Cash on the balance sheet accumulates when sales of stamps and other postal products generate more money than the Postal Service spends.

In addition to the USPS’ $1.4 billion operating profit in 2014, the significant increase in cash on the balance sheet is another sign that the Postal Service’s operations have improved.

This is due in no small part to the hard work of letter carriers during the holiday season.

Postal Service cash balance improves | National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO.

Door delivery resolution reintroduced in House

NALC-LOGOReps. Susan Davis (D-CA), David Joyce (R-OH) and Peter King (R-NY) are reintroducing their door-delivery resolution for the 114th Congress, calling on the House and Senate to “take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of door delivery for all business and residential customers.”

The resolution will be identical to H.Res. 711, which was introduced last August during the 113th Congress and which ended up with 75 sponsors from both parties. In the 113th Congress, proposals to cut mail services such as door delivery were common. The NALC and our allies in Congress and among postal stakeholders have been instrumental in the so-far successful fight against these and other service cuts that, if implemented, would be detrimental to postal customers, especially to senior citizens (who rely on prescription medications being delivered to their door) and to disabled customers.

For businesses, eliminating door delivery would undercut the success of the Customer Connect program, where letter carriers use their personal connections to solicit new business in person. Besides, a Government Accountability Office report found that cluster boxes were so unpopular that less than 0.8 percent of business door-delivery customers last year opted to make the switch. (The report found the percentage was even lower for residences: 0.1 percent.)

“We are grateful to Representatives Davis, Joyce and King for introducing this resolution right out of the gate in this session of Congress,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “Cutting vital services like door delivery is not the way to save the Postal Service, and preserving the guarantee of door delivery will be crucial in fending off such attacks. We urge every member of the House—on both sides of the aisle—to sign on to this resolution.”

Note: Although the resolution has not been assigned a number yet, Rep. Davis, Joyce and King already have begun collecting co-sponsors.

via Door delivery resolution reintroduced in House | National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO.

6-day resolution re-introduced as Congress convenes

NALC-LOGOThe 114th Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, and in the House of Representatives, Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wasted no time in renewing their commitment to preserving six-day mail delivery by quickly introducing H.Res. 12.

One of the first pieces of legislation introduced in this session of Congress, H.Res. 12 is identical to previous sessions’ resolutions that called on Congress and the Postal Service to take all appropriate steps to continue six-day mail delivery.

The current resolution already has 45 co-sponsors (see below). The last version, introduced early in the 113th Congress (2013-2014), wound up with 228 co-sponsors from both political parties.

“We are encouraged to see our friends in Congress once again take up the fight to maintain Saturday mail delivery service,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “We hope that the rest of the members of the House and Senate see any attempts to eliminate this or any other postal service for what they truly are: short-sighted excuses for failing to address an onerous pre-funding mandate that perpetuates a cut-cut-cut mentality.

“Maintaining six-day mail delivery service meets the demands of American households and businesses,” Rolando said. “We applaud Congressmen Graves and Connolly for leading the effort to preserve this service.”

via 6-day resolution re-introduced as Congress convenes | National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO.