We Knew It All Along

It’s hard to believe that the purpose behind the 2006 legislation requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund its health benefits for its retirees 75 years into the future was anything other than a veiled attempt at driving nails into the agency’s coffin and then resurrecting the decomposing corpse into a private, profit-making corporation. Why else would Congress require the USPS to pay $5.6 billion into such a fund over a 10 year period? It certainly wasn’t intended to benefit the agency’s retirees. Postal Service_Stop Delaying America's Mail_newson6Politicians, especially those of the past 20 years or so, have had little regard for federal workers and federal retirees.

Many of our politicians see federal workers—that is you—as unnecessary and a drag on the economy. After all, as a letter carrier and a union member, you make more than the minimum wage, you have decent benefits—like health insurance—and a pension when you retire. Shameful!

No, the intent of the 2006 Republican-led lame duck Congress was clear: suck the life-blood out of the Postal Service. Use the pre-funding money to shore up the U.S. Treasury while at the same time insisting that the Postal Service is irreparably broken and the only way to save it is to privatize it.

We understand that many politicians act at the behest of lobbyists who, in turn, act at the behest of large corporations with deep pockets. For decades the Postal Service has been a cash cow for the U.S. government. There are those in the private sector who would like for that cow to be theirs.

What’s so alarming is the fact that it’s not just politicians and other money-hungry individuals who are working hard to transform a service-oriented agency into a money-making corporation. Not only has there been a concentrated attack on the Postal Service from without, but also—incredibly—from within.

Just as it’s hard to believe that the 2006 lame duck Congress had the best interest of the Postal Service and the American public at heart when it passed the crippling pre-funding mandate, it’s equally hard to believe that upper level postal management, and past postmasters general, are concerned about preserving this valuable American institution. After all, they have been fighting tooth and nail to have it dismantled one post office and one mail processing plant at a time. It has become a prolonged ‘Going Out of Business” sale.

It’s been nearly a decade now since the pre-funding debacle and the USPS, no thanks to Congress or postal management, is still afloat. And you wouldn’t know it from much of the media or postal management, but the Postal Service is actually making a profit. Last year it made a $1.4 billion operating profit. And this year it has already eclipsed that figure.

Refusing to acknowledge that the agency is recovering from the earlier recession and is making an operating profit, the Postal Service continues to pursue plans to reduce its effectiveness. To that end, back in 2012, under the leadership of then postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, the Postal Service began Phase 1 of its “network rationalization” plan to “streamline” and make the USPS more efficient.

The streamlining plan involved cutting the hours of 13,000 small post offices, closing hundreds of other post offices and consolidating 150 mail processing plants.

Anyone who had made a passing grade in business school knew this wasn’t going to work. Even people who hadn’t gone to business school knew it wasn’t going to work! There’s no way you can improve service by cutting it, the people said. The network rationalization plan is not rational, they said. It flies in the face of common sense. Don’t do it!

Former postmaster general Patrick Donahoe was the perfect voice and face of the Postal Service. He was an extremely arrogant and hard-headed man. And the Postal Service was like that long before he became its leader. It is a culture of arrogance.

Ignoring the voices of reason on every side, the Postal Service began closing post offices and consolidating its mail processing plants.

The result? Chaos.

The most recent report from the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General reports what we knew would happen, the mail is being delayed all over the country. No state, no city, no town, no one is exempt. The OIG reports that mail arriving late to its intended destination has increased by 50 percent since 2014. And 2014 was a bad year as well.

Mail has been delayed at such an alarming rate that the OIG issued an urgent alert to the USPS last month recommending that it stop closing its plants until service stabilizes. Says the OIG: “The impact on customer service and employees have been considerable.”

There are some things that are so obvious that even postal management can’t ignore them. At some point in their ingenious streamlining plan they began to realize that, yes, closing mail processing plants was having a negative effect on mail delivery, it was being delayed.

In light of this startling reality, what does management do? Can you guess?

If you thought they went back to their drawing board and reevaluated their plan, you would be wrong. That’s not how they operate up there in D.C.

No, instead, they decided to lower their delivery standards! And so it was that in January of this year they eliminated overnight delivery for local first-class letters. It will now take an extra day to get there. And mail traveling longer distances will take an additional day, or two, or three, or…

But as the Washington Post reported in August, the USPS is now struggling to even meet its own lower standards! What will they do now, lower their delivery standards even further?

But there is hope. Even though management has turned a blind eye and deaf ear toward its employees and the American public, members of Congress—to their credit—have not. They are listening to you, their constituents.

Last year Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) started a campaign called “Fix My Mail” after hundreds of her constituents wrote or called her complaining of late deliveries, non-existent deliveries, mistakes with mail forwarding and shortened hours at their local post offices. Three other senators have joined her in introducing legislation called the Rural Postal Act. The main requirement of the legislation would be that the Postal Service restore its service standards so mail reaches its destination in a timely manner.

At least one presidential candidate has weighed in on the issue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that the Postal Service has caused “a disaster that is negatively impacting Americans all over the country.”

In a letter to PMG Megan Brennan he wrote: “I have heard from people all over the country who have reported serious delays in receiving life-saving prescription drugs, and the bills they need to pay to keep the lights and electricity on in their homes.

This delay means that some of the most vulnerable people in the country are going without the medications they need, or they are being forced to travel long distances because they cannot rely on the timely delivery of mail.”

Unlike in 2006, today’s representatives in Washington are listening to their constituents. Call and write and make your voice heard. And ask your customers to do the same.

(photo credit: newson6.com)

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