Post Office Troubles Not Related To Mail

Sept. 11, 2012 — National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) President Fredric Rolando’s op-ed for the Eugene, OR, Register-Guard—the state’s second-largest newspaper—was published on Tuesday, Sept. 11. In it, the president responds to a recent piece by a retired UPS executive (“Overpaid workers are root of Postal Service woes,” Aug. 29) blasting postal employees.

The president’s piece follows an initial response from the regional USPS official (“Post office must provide mail service to everyone,” Sept. 6), who took on the offending article in some detail, though the official unfortunately mentioned a need for service reductions.

Rolando, on the other hand, used his opportunity to move the discussion forward—providing information about the value of the Postal Service, the source of the financial problems and the ways to fix the problems.

By Fredric Rolando

The broadside against the employees of the U.S. Postal Service (guest viewpoint, Aug. 28), which blamed them for the agency’s fiscal problems, was highly misleading on all counts. The hardworking men and women of the USPS — one quarter of them military veterans — provide Americans and their businesses with the world’s most efficient and affordable delivery service while helping unify communities throughout this vast land.

But the commentary piece served at least one purpose — it provided more evidence of the wide gap between the facts and the conventional “wisdom” offered by those who either are unaware of the facts or are pushing an agenda.

Indeed, although the USPS is embedded in the Constitution, delivers mail to 150 million addresses six days a week and is viewed positively by more than 80 percent of the public, misinformation abounds. Some pundits assert that the Postal Service’s financial problems stem from the Internet. Their narrative goes something like this: The Postal Service is losing billions of dollars a year delivering the mail because everyone’s on the Internet, so cuts must be made lest taxpayers be on the hook. In this particular article, the writer chose to make employees the scapegoat.

In fact, what’s causing the red ink at the Postal Service is neither the Internet nor your neighborhood’s letter carrier. Register-Guard readers deserve to know the story behind the headlines. Let me provide some facts, each easily verifiable.

The Postal Service — which hasn’t used a dime of taxpayer money in 30 years — has done remarkably well in operational terms, coming close to breaking even despite the worst recession in 80 years. Some quarters, and some years, it has been profitable delivering the mail, including a $200 million operational profit in fiscal 2012’s first quarter; in others it has lost some money.

There is indeed much red ink. But it has little to do with mail delivery, mail volume, e-mail or other mail-related issues. Instead, 83 percent of all the red ink stems from an external factor unrelated to the mail — a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits.

Read the rest of the op-ed piece by President Rolando here.

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