Postal workers are giving it their all this holiday season, as cards and packages and returns must be collected and delivered amidst ice storms, snowstorms and wild temperature drops.
They deserve our thanks in 2013.
And our support in 2014.
Postal workers are still under assault from political slackers in Washington—like House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, and the wrecking crew he has assembled to diminish the United States Postal Service to such an extent that it can be bartered off to the highest bidder.
That assault has made this holiday season even tougher. Under pressure from USPS executives and privatization-prone members of Congress, the service has implemented closures and forced reductions in hours. That’s led to delays in some regions. “Much of the delayed mail is in areas where plants and post offices have been consolidated or closed or where hours at post offices have been reduced,” explains Debby Szeredy, the executive vice president of the American Postal Workers Union.
The closures, consolidations and cuts have got to stop.
The Postal Service faces challenges, to be sure. But is wrong—and, frankly, absurd—to suggest that the only fix is downsizing. That’s precisely the wrong route. Schemes to cut services and sell off parts of the service begin with the false premise that its current financial challenges are evidence of fundamental flaws.
In fact, the Postal Service reported an operating profit of $600 million for the 2013 fiscal year.
Unfortunately, despite the operating profit, the Postal Service balance sheet showed a $5 billion “loss” for the 2013 fiscal year.
Why? “Only because of an unprecedented and onerous requirement imposed by Congress that it pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits in just 10 years," as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders notes. “No other business or government agency is burdened with this mandate."
Ending the mandate and requiring the Postal Service to operate along the lines of the most responsible private businesses would make the USPS viable.
Indeed, the service could thrive if members of the House and Senate were to embrace the proposals of Sanders and Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.
Sanders recognizes what the rest of Congress should: “The way to save the Postal Service is not to dismantle it piece by piece, but to allow it to generate more revenue by offering new and innovative products and services that the American people want.”
Those reforms embrace many of the proposals advanced by National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando in a July letter to Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. In it, Rolando writes that comprehensive postal reform must:
1. Stabilize the Postal Service’s finances by reforming or eliminating unwise and unfair pension and retiree health financing policies that have crippled the Postal Service’s finances since 2006.
2. Strengthen and protect the Postal Service’s invaluable first-mile and last-mile networks that together comprise a crucial part of the nation’s infrastructure.
3. Overhaul the basic governance structure of the agency to attract first-class executive talent and a private-sector style board of directors with the demonstrated business expertise needed to implement a strategy that will allow the Postal Service to innovate and take advantage of growth opportunities even as it adjusts to declining traditional mail volume.
4. Free the Postal Service to meet the evolving needs of the American economy and to set its prices in a way that reflects the cost structure of the delivery industry while assuring affordable universal service and protecting against anti-competitive abuses.
There is a future for the United States Postal Service. And for the letter carriers and other postal workers who are hustling to deliver cards and packages this week.
In this holiday season, thank a postal worker. In 2014, tell Congress that it is not just possible but necessary for the United States to have a strong Postal Service.