As Mark Twain might say, I am here to tell you that the reports of the demise of the Postal Service are greatly exaggerated. The USPS faces unprecedented challenges but it can, if we choose, continue to do what it has done for nearly 250 years — play a vital role in our nation’s social and economic infrastructure. Nothing is inevitable about the “so-called” decline of the United States Postal Service, and the National Association of Letter Carriers is prepared to lead the effort to revive and improve this vital national institution.
Everyone in this room understands the fundamental business problem — First Class volume is declining as the direct and irreversible result of the Internet. And the 2008-2010 recession did not help.
Everyone in this room also understands the immediate financial and cash flow problem. On its current course, the Service will run out of cash within a matter of months. But the major driving force creating this cash crisis is not the Internet. Rather, it’s the unprecedented requirement imposed by Congress in 2006 that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health obligations to the tune of $ 5.5 billion a year — draining the Service of $21 billion, cash, over the last 5 years.
This burden is not borne by any other business in America, or any other federal, state or local government agency.I will discuss the business and cash problems in a couple of minutes, but first I want to confront very directly, and without customary Beltway courtesies, why we have made no progress in addressing the problems we all acknowledge to exist.
First, we have a postal management that, at the highest levels, has thrown in the towel. The Postal Service response to the crisis is to simply shrink — to close hundreds of facilities, cut thousands of rural post offices, cut hundreds of thousands of jobs, cut service standards, reduce the number of days of delivery and to discontinue door-to-door service. In short, to try to save the Postal Service by degrading its most valuable asset, its unmatchable last-mile delivery network.
This may sound like a harsh judgment. But just last week, the Postmaster General publicly embraced Congressman Darrell Issa’s postal reform bill, which would effectively dismantle the Postal Service. The PMG said at a hearing that he supports practically all of H.R. 2309. At this late hour, plain speaking is necessary. In our view, that bill is a recipe for total disaster.
Second, some of the nation’s top policymakers seem to feel that the most important postal policy objective should be the pre-funding of retiree health premiums that will not actually be paid for several decades — not universal service, not restructuring the USPS to meet the needs of the 21st Century, and not the health of a mailing industry that employs 7.5 million American workers, mostly in the private sector.
NALC cannot accept this misguided policy.
For information on the April 12 Letter Carriers’ demonstration at Senate home offices, click here.