Earlier today, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe (who seems to thinks his job at the United States Postal Service is Dismantler-in-Chief, as opposed to chief executive) announced that he and his subordinates have unilaterally decided to end Saturday mail delivery to U.S. homes and businesses as of August 5th, 2013… without congressional approval.
Federal law has mandated for decades that the United States Postal Service deliver America’s mail six days a week. That mandate has been a mainstay of appropriation bills for a very long time, but Donahoe and USPS brass are betting that Congress will take no action if they choose to simply begin ignoring it as of this summer.
Donohoe’s legal rationale is that the continuing resolution that’s keeping the federal government operating through March 27th does not explicitly prevent the Postal Service from altering its delivery schedule, so they are free to axe Saturday delivery.
The elimination of Saturday delivery is actually a move that Donahoe and his predecessor, George W. Bush appointee John Potter — who was Donahoe’s boss for years — have wanted to make for a long time.
Until this week, they’ve only talked about it.
But now, they’ve decided to actually try to do it, and dare Congress to stop them. They evidently think they’re not going to be overruled.
And recent history would certainly lend credence to their view. Congress has been ignoring the Postal Service’s mounting problems (some self-inflicted) for years.
Last session, the Senate belatedly passed a bill to modernize the U.S. Postal Service and unchain it from the ridiculous requirement that money be set aside to pay all retiree health benefits for seventy-five years… a requirement imposed on the Postal Service by the corrupt Republican majority that was in power during 2005 and 2006. The bill had flaws, but it was a start. The Republican-controlled House, however, failed to take up the legislation, and it died.
Patrick Donahoe’s response could have been to bring pressure to bear on Congress by working cooperatively with postal workers’ unions, civic groups, and activists all over the country to demand legislation to strengthen the Postal Service.
Instead, he is shamefully using his position as Postmaster General to destroy the Postal Service from within by closing post offices, shortening hours, eliminating jobs, and now axing Saturday mail delivery.
To be clear, the scheme Donahoe is planning to implement only calls for the elimination of mail pickup and mail delivery to street addresses. Packages would continue to be delivered on Saturdays (for now) and incoming mail would still be placed in post office boxes on Saturdays (for now). But it’s still a stupid move.
The well-paid Donahoe — who makes more money than any federal official save for the President of the United States — has become obsessed with cost-cutting, to the detriment of the people of the United States and America’s postal system, which is one of the essential public services explicitly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
Thankfully, America’s postal workers are having none of this. The National Letter Carriers Association and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association both reacted to Donahoe’s scheme by calling for his immediate ouster as Postmaster General.
“The National Association of Letter Carriers has tried time and again to work with Postal Service management to pursue growth measures and cost savings, but it has become clear that the Postal Service leadership’s only strategy is to gut the unique postal network that provides us with the world’s most affordable delivery service, and to eliminate the services on which Americans depend,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said in a blistering statement.
“America’s letter carriers condemn this reckless plan in the strongest terms. We call for the immediate removal of the postmaster general, who has lost the confidence of the men and women who deliver for America every day.”
“And we urge Congress to develop a real reform plan that gives the Postal Service the freedom to grow and innovate in the digital era.”
“Today’s announcement by Postmaster General Donahoe to eliminate six-day delivery is yet another death knell for the quality service provided by the U.S. Postal Service,” agreed National Rural Letter Carrier Association President Jeanette Dwyer.
“For decades, the Postal Service has upheld a personal and professional standard of service, delivering to every household nationwide six days a week. To erode this service will undermine the Postal Service’s core mission and is completely unacceptable. Saturday mail delivery is an important communication and marketing tool used by millions of citizens and mailers across the country, especially in rural areas that lack broadband Internet access.”
“Many customers rely on the Postal Service to deliver prescription medications, social security checks, and financial statements. Many other citizens and businesses rely on Saturday for the collection of outgoing invoices and materials.”
Dwyer, who characterized Donahoe’s scheme as “reprehensible” and “irresponsible”, also announced that NRLCA’s board (which was meeting in Alexandria, Virginia) had voted unanimously to endorse his ouster.
The American Postal Workers Union, meanwhile, echoed the sentiments of NRLCA and NALC. (The APWU represents postal clerks and maintenance workers).
“The APWU condemns the Postal Service’s decision to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, which will only deepen the agency’s congressionally-manufactured financial crisis,” President Cliff Guffey said.
“The USPS has already begun slashing mail service by closing 13,000 post offices or drastically reducing hours of operation, shutting hundreds of mail processing facilities, and downgrading standards for mail delivery to America’s homes and businesses. The effects are being felt in cities and towns across the country.”
“USPS executives cannot save the Postal Service by tearing it apart. These across-the-board cutbacks will weaken the nation’s mail system and put it on a path to privatization,” Guffey added. He noted that the Postal Service would be on a much stronger financial footing were it not for the Orwellian-named Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act conceived and passed by Republicans in 2006.
We at NPI stand with America’s letter carriers and all the households and businesses that unequivocally oppose the elimination of Saturday mail delivery.
Saturday delivery is one of USPS’ most significant competitive advantages. Eliminating Saturday delivery will only exacerbate USPS’ challenges and cause the public to further lose confidence in the Postal Service.
It may save some money in the short run, but in the long run, it will be incredibly destructive in every respect. It is an irresponsible and likely illegal decision, and we call on Congress to put a stop to it immediately.