APWU: Behind the Scenes, Corporations Influence Policy

Clint Burelson

Clint Burelson

(This article first appeared in the May-June 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

In the last 10 years, more than 100,000 living-wage clerk craft jobs have been eliminated. Service standards have been reduced, lines at the windows have grown longer, and many cherished local post offices have been forced to close their doors or reduce their hours.

Many of the most significant changes that have negatively affected the Clerk Craft and the Postal Service are the result of recommendations made by a little-known group that operates behind the scenes at USPS headquarters – the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, or MTAC.

MTAC was established on May 27, 1965, by former Postmaster General John Gronouski. This was in response to President Kennedy’s 1962 Executive Order that called for the creation of committees to advise government agencies. MTAC’s charter states:

“The Postmaster General’s Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) is a venue for the United States Postal Service to share technical information with mailers, and to receive their advice and recommendations on matters concerning mail-related products and services, in order to enhance customer value and expand the use of these products and services for the mutual benefit of mailing industry stakeholders and the Postal Service.”

Some of the mailing industry stakeholders on the committee include Pitney Bowes, FedEx, UPS, DHL, and Amazon.

In recognition of the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the group’s formation, Postmaster General Megan Brennan identified many MTAC-influenced “accomplishments.” These include presorting, drop shipping, automated verification of business mail, service standard changes, and more.

Corporate Advisors to the PMG

The Postmaster’s Advisory Committee (MTAC) is made up of approximately 150 appointees from the largest multi-national companies and mailing industry groups. These corporations and their associations are often comprised of former Postal Service executives, members of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) and the USPS Board of Governors.

Such individuals have inside knowledge, personal connections and influence in the Postal Service. As a result, they are able to effectively lobby the Postal Service and Congress for changes that benefit their new corporate employers. Notably, many of the MTAC advisory committee members are also media spokespersons.

In addition, many of the corporations belong to more than one business association. As a result, the larger corporations frequently have more than one representative at the MTAC meetings.

Similarly, there are many former corporate representatives now working in high-level management positions at the Postal Service. This revolving door of corporate representatives, along with the influence of big-business, helps promote changes that benefit corporations in the postal industry – often at the expense of postal workers and the public good.

The post office was established to bind the nation together through the creation of a nationwide, equal-access communication system. It was founded to cultivate a virtuous and informed citizenry, to support a free exchange of information, and to nurture one of the world’s first democratic nations. It was not created by or for corporate interests. It is understandable that business interests have a seat at the table to put forth their needs and interests, but they should not have all the seats.

The following organizations are just a few of the MTAC members:

Association for Postal Commerce This is perhaps the largest “umbrella” association of postal industry groups, with approximately 32 members on its Board of Directors. Also known as, “PostCom,” the organization’s vice president and MTAC representative is Jessica Lowrance, a former economist for the USPS.

Parcel Shippers Association This group is also known as the “Quiet Association,” in part because many of the most powerful corporations prefer not to draw attention to themselves. Hiding behind the face of this association are some of the Postal Service’s biggest competitors: UPS, FedEx, Amazon, DHL, Pitney Bowes, and others.

Direct Marketing Association This is the main business organization of large advertisers and one of the most active. The DMA represents direct advertisers in all industries, regardless of whether they use mail as the primary method of advertising. The group’s MTAC rep, Ed Gleiman, is a former chair of the Postal Rate Commission and was one of authors of a study financed by Pitney Bowes that recommended privatization of all USPS operations except delivery.

International Mailers’ Advisory Group This organization represents major players such as the Association for Postal Commerce, DHL, FedEx, Quad/Graphics, R.R. Donnelley, UPS, and more. Kate Muth, director and MTAC rep, stated, “It is time to think of USPS as a corporate commercial activity and not a federal government program.”

National Association of Presort Mailers In their own words, this group is “An association of firms concerned with postal programs, especially work-sharing and discounts for presorted, automated mail.” The executive director and MTAC rep, representing more than 140 presort businesses, is Robert Galaher, former manager of Business Mail Acceptance for the Postal Service.

American Bankers Association This group is a business association that represents the interests of financial institutions, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and many others. The Bankers Association opposes postal banking.

Newspaper Association of America This business association represents the interests of newspaper owners. Its members are large media corporations, including Gannett, McClatchy, Hearst, New York Times, Washington Post (owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos), and more. Newspapers have a lot of power, since they decide what qualifies as “news,” and how it is reported – including postal policies and changes.

Pitney Bowes, Quad Graphics, RR Donnelley These corporations deserve extra attention. Because of generous bulk mailing discounts, these corporations now provide mail processing and transportation services that were formerly provided by the Postal Service. Living-wage jobs have been turned into low-wage jobs and the business owners and CEOs are making millions.

More information about MTAC can be found at https://ribbs.usps.gov.

Source: Behind the Scenes, Corporations Influence Policy | APWU


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