What’s the Big Deal
About ‘Service Standards?’
Executive Vice President
(This article appears in the March-April 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
On Jan. 24, 2014, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced a postponement of the second round of cuts to service standards, which were scheduled to take effect Feb. 1.
When and if the changes are implemented, the new service standards will end all overnight delivery of first-class mail. Previously implemented cuts in service standards have already drastically slowed down the mail, to the detriment of the postal public and postal workers.
So, although the announcement didn’t restore needed service, it was still welcome news. While the moratorium is not a cancellation, we know two things:
To make sure there is no future “relaxing” of service standards, we cannot relax our struggle. We must be prepared for battle.
Why They’re Important
The public certainly understands the impact of eliminating six-day delivery. But when reduced service standards are discussed, the impact is not readily understood.
Simply put, “service standards” refers to the level of service our customers can expect to receive. Specifically, it represents the Postal Service’s commitment regarding how many days it should take a letter or package to get from point A to point B.
The first round of service standard changes, passed in 2011, eliminated all overnight mail except within the zip code area of a processing plant. For example, mail used to be delivered overnight between Baltimore MD and Washington DC, but since the reduction in service standards, mail delivery between Baltimore and the nation’s capital is expected to take two days.
The negative impact of the reduction in service standards has a cascading effect on service and on workers: More than 200 processing plants have been closed. Thousands of employees have been excessed from their facilities and often times they have been excessed out of their crafts.
When workers are forced into other crafts, their seniority is lost. Even for workers who are not excessed, shifts are often changed or bid jobs abolished. With extra transportation of mail between processing facilities, delivery by Letter Carriers is delayed, in many cases late into the evening and well after dark.
What customer is satisfied with night-time mail delivery? Our Motor Vehicle, Maintenance and Clerk Crafts are all affected by these cuts to service standards. Add it all up, and workers’ lives are disrupted, communities lose good jobs, and the people lose the service they expect and deserve. As service is degraded, people look for other delivery options, and the downward spiral continues.
The APWU opposes actions by postal management and Congress that adversely affect one of the most efficient and inexpensive communication systems in the world, which processes and delivers more mail every day than most countries deliver in a month.
We challenge the Postal Service and Congress to make the moratorium on service standards permanent and to reverse past consolidations that are adversely affecting the public Postal Service.
One way to accomplish these goals is to expose poor service.
We ask everyone to report examples of delayed mail to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). To make it easy, we have posted a link on the homepage and the vice president’s page of www.apwu.org. The PRC also has a link on its website, www.prc.gov. It takes only a few minutes to file a complaint and there are easy-to-follow instructions. Please ask your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to report delayed mail. And encourage small businesses, bulk mailers, and companies that have become disgusted with delayed mail service in areas surrounding plant consolidations, to file complaints as well.
Let the PRC know that there are thousands of examples of delayed mail in areas where plants have been consolidated. Once you file a complaint, it is logged in and the USPS will be assigned to investigate and report back to the PRC and the customer. The logs are used to document postal problems that need to be fixed. Unfortunately, the average customer has no idea that there is a forum for these complaints, so please spread the word.
From headquarters to the locals, we should not let down our guard simply because management has postponed the second round of service-standard reductions.
At the national office, we are working on a program to continue to give locals that have been involved in Area Mail Processing studies the help they need to protect their mail service and their jobs. We will provide locals at both the losing and gaining facilities with training in how to build community coalitions, as well as how to make sure outside organizations and community resources are available at a moment’s notice. We are planning ways for you to have a greater outreach to media, which can spread our message to the public. We are looking for volunteer organizers in locals that are still threatened with consolidation who can help lead the movement. Stand up and volunteer. Let your local president know you’re ready to stand up. The time is now!
The United States Postal Service is the one government agency that touches every American on a daily basis. Through rain, sleet, and snow, postal employees deliver. To enable the Postal Service to serve all Americans yet still finance its operations from its revenue, Congress made federal laws known as the Private Express Statutes. These laws protect the USPS as a public service. We can’t let private interests tear them apart. We need to fight for the service we provide our country and remind the people how important we are.