Must Saturday Be a Dead-Letter Day?

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February 8, 2013 in Labor & Economy

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s plan to end Saturday mail delivery beginning August 5 is a “disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and on millions of customers,” says Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando.

Postal Workers (APWU) President Cliff Guffey says:

USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization.

He adds that the USPS already has begun slashing mail service by closing 13,000 post offices or drastically reducing hours of operation, shutting hundreds of mail processing facilities and downgrading standards for mail delivery to America’s homes and businesses.

Rolando calls Donahoe’s strategy in dealing with the Postal Service’s financial challenges a “slash-and-shrink approach.”

Postal unions have tried to work with USPS management to develop costs savings and growth measures. Just this past November a USPS report shows that worker productivity has increased while both operational expense and the Postal Service’s deficit have dropped significantly.

The root cause of the agency’s fiscal problems is the unique congressional requirement—the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA)—that USPS prefund retirement benefits for decades into the future. Guffey called for repeal of that requirement in order to restore financial stability to the USPS:

“No other entity—public or private—bears this burden. Since the PAEA took effect in 2007, the Postal Service has been required to pre-pay some $5.5 billion per year. Yet the same law prohibits the Postal Service from raising postage rates to cover the cost.”

Rolando said Donahoe’s decision is “misguided and counterproductive” and called for his dismissal: “We urge Congress to develop a real reform plan that gives the Postal Service the freedom to grow and innovate in the digital era.”

Read his full statement here and Guffey’s full statement here.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement:

Ending Saturday mail delivery negligently tears at a piece of the American fabric that has existed since 1863. It is sorely misguided and ignores the responsibility Congress holds for wrecking the USPS finances in the first place. This move would not only eliminate more jobs at a time when Americans need them most, but it would also have a huge impact on the millions of customers who rely on mail delivery, including small businesses that need mail for accounting and commerce transactions, and rural communities where mail is still the major form of communication. We may live in a digital age, but the elderly and the disabled, as well as the working poor, often don’t readily have access to information other than through the delivery of their mail.

(Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. His post first appeared on Labor’s Edge and is republished with permission.)

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