USPS Plan Will Hasten Demise
Of a Still-Vital Institution
Degrading Mail Service Will Hurt, Not Help, USPS
APWU Web News Article 128-2011, Dec. 5, 2011
“The Postal Service plan will hasten the demise of the USPS,” APWU President Cliff Guffey said in response to the agency’s announcement that it would seek an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission on plans [PDF] to eliminate next-day delivery of first-class mail and periodicals.
“The USPS should be modernizing and striving to remain relevant in the digital age, not reducing service to the American people,” he said. “Degrading service is a direct consequence of Postal Service plans to eliminate half of its mail processing centers,” said Guffey.
“Dismantling the Postal Service’s processing and distribution network will devastate mail service, damage the economy, and drive customers away,” Guffey said. “The USPS network is still a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure and destroying it will hurt, not help, the Postal Service.”
“Congress must take the necessary steps to protect the Postal Service. Unfortunately, bills currently pending in the House and Senate would result in drastic cuts to the USPS network and service,” the union president said.
H.R. 2309, which was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would require the USPS to make a minimum of $3 billion worth of cuts in post offices and mail processing facilities within two years.
S. 1789, which was approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, would give the USPS short-term financial relief, but, because it fails to adequately address the cause of the Postal Service’s financial difficulties, also would force the agency to dismantle its retail and mail-processing network,” the union president said.
The immediate cause of the USPS financial crisis is a mandate in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund the healthcare benefits for future retirees. No other government agency or private company bears this burden, which costs the Postal Service approximately $5.5 billion annually, and forces the USPS to pay a 75-year liability in just 10 years.
In addition, the Postal Service has overfunded its pension accounts. The USPS has overpaid into the Federal Employees Retirement System by more than $11 billion. Two independent actuarial studies have concluded that the agency has overfunded the Civil Service Retirement System by billions of dollars as well.
To save the USPS and protect mail service to the American people, Congress must address these fundamental issues. H.R. 1351, which was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), would make drastic cutbacks in service unnecessary. Although the bill has more than 220 co-sponsors, it was rejected by the House committee when the panel approved H.R. 2309. The Lynch bill would permit the Postal Service to apply billions of dollars in pension overpayments to the requirement to pre-fund healthcare benefits for future retirees.
A bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), "The Postal Service Protection Act (S.1853)," would impose strict standards for delivering first-class mail and require the USPS to make a better business case for closing and consolidating facilities. It also would eliminate the retiree pre-funding mandate; allow USPS to recover the overpayments made to its pension plans; permit the Postal Service to generate revenue by providing certain non-postal services, and protect six-day delivery.
Eliminating half of the nation’s mail processing facilities will severely impact the communities where they are located. Mail service will decline, and the economy of affected cities and towns will be hurt at a time when we can least afford it: Jobs and revenue will be lost, and a community cohesion and stability will be harmed, Guffey pointed out. “We cannot allow that to happen.”