USPS: Back to the Drawing Board

By Richard Thayer

Two big news stories came out of the Postal Service this past week.

On Thursday, postal management announced that it will be offering $20,000 in early retirement incentives to eligible administrative staff in order to prune away the deadwood and save some money. It’s a shame they hadn’t thought of this several years ago.

It also announced the closing of seven district offices. Despite some rumors to the contrary, the Greensboro District wasn’t among them.

The goal of the cuts is to do away with 7,500 unnecessary administrative, supervisory (have any candidates?), and postmaster positions.

The folks at headquarters estimate that the elimination of these jobs will save them $750 million over the course of the next year. But, then again, their figures have been known to be a little skewed.

Which brings me to the second big postal service story of the week.

For nearly a year now the Postal Regulatory Commission has been gathering information concerning the pros and cons of five-day delivery service.

According to the 211 page report from the PRC, the Postal Service made some rather glaring errors in promoting this five-day delivery thing as being a jim-dandy way of saving them oodles of money.

The report this past week by the PRC states, among other things, that five-day delivery would (1) delay by two days delivery of 25 percent of First Class and Priority Mail; (2) the Postal Service didn’t adequately evaluate (gasp!) the effect of five-day delivery service on rural areas; (3) their estimate of $3.1 billion in savings from five-day delivery was a tad off the mark — more like a savings of $1.7 billion; (4) and lost revenue from mail volume decline was also miscalculated (“What’s wrong with this &*%$@# calculator?!”). They estimated a loss of $200 million. The PRC says it would result in a loss of $600 million.

Although Republicans and Democrats agree on very little these days, they all did agree that the Postal Service had screwed up royally when it said five-day delivery would be a God-send in savings. Not only that, it would benefit the customer too: that would be one more day when they wouldn’t have to walk to the mailbox.

This is not surprising, but I feel I must mention it anyway. In just a few months of investigating those five politicians on the PRC knew more about mail delivery than all the bean-counters at USPS headquarters.

For instance: The PRC rejected the USPS’s contention that post offices could “absorb” the extra mail that would accumulate on Mondays without there being any significant increase in office or street time.

Concerning the street time, the PRC wrote: “There are limits on how much mail can go in a carrier’s satchel. And how much mail can be relayed at any one time…. Volume directly affects how much time a carrier spends fingering mail on the street, sorting it into cluster boxes, or sorting mail into banks of apartment mailboxes.”

But just because the PRC says five-day delivery isn’t a good idea doesn’t mean it’s off the table. Not by a long shot.

The NALC is asking that we contact our House representatives and encourage them to co-sponsor HR 137 (formerly HR 173). This bill expresses the sense of the House that the Postal Service should take “all appropriate measures” to ensure continuation of six-day mail delivery service.

To find out if your representative has signed on as a co-sponsor, click here. If they haven’t, please contact them. For contact information, you can go here.

As for the geniuses at postal headquarters, it’s back to the drawing board. Again.


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