Thanks to The Oregonian for again engaging the debate about the future of the U.S. Postal Service. While Congress is certainly key to a long-term solution to USPS woes, the current postal management is using a phony financial crisis to dismantle the largest, most efficient, reliable and affordable communications and delivery system in the world.
In the past year, the postmaster general has closed 45 percent of our mail processing plants. Salem closed in June 2013; Eugene/Springfield, Bend and Pendleton are due to close in 2015. All mail north of Roseburg will be trucked to Portland for sorting.
The USPS’ own studies (revealed at the March 22, 2012, meeting of the Postal Regulatory Commission), showed that mailers leave the system as a result of such delays, costing more in lost revenue than is saved by lowering labor costs, not to mention the dramatic increase in trucking costs as mail is transported hundreds of extra miles to be sorted in the closest facilities that are still open.
The Oregonian cheers the Postal Service’s decision to reduce hours by 25 percent to 75 percent in half of our post offices, eliminating full-time postmaster positions in 13,000 mostly rural offices (more than 100 in Oregon), to “keep overhead in line with revenues.” But, according to Title 39 of the U.S. code, rural post offices are not expected to make money, and the USPS “shall provide a maximum degree of effective and regular Postal Services” to small communities. A post office open two hours a day is not an “effective and regular” service.
Further degrading the delivery system, such as eliminating Saturday delivery or at-the-door delivery, as proposed by The Oregonian editorial board, would send the USPS into a death spiral.
Congress has manufactured a postal financial crisis. Since 2006, the USPS has been forced to spend nearly 10 percent of its budget pre-funding retiree health benefits 75 years in advance. No other U.S. agency or private business faces such a crushing financial burden. Although the USPS has claimed a “loss” every year since 2006, due primarily to the pre-fund mandate, the Postal Service has not made an actual payment toward prefunding since 2011. The USPS has generated an operating profit for the last six quarters.
The Postal Service is our national treasure, enshrined in the Constitution. It belongs to us. The operations of the USPS are funded solely by postage and no tax dollars. The Postal Service serves more than 150 million households and businesses six days a week and provides equal universal mail services for all the people at reasonable, uniform rates. Good postal jobs help build strong communities. We, of course, welcome innovation — reviving postal banking and turning post offices into one-stop government service centers, would be a good start.
What can we do? Ask Congress to oppose all closures and cuts, save six-day and at-the-door delivery, repeal the pre-funding mandate and support H.R. 630, H.R. 711 and S.316 to fix the finances.
(By Jim Falvey, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82 (Portland area).