The United States Postal Service, which has reported that it will run out of money in October 2013, is currently at a crossroads in order to maintain sustainability and remain a vital part of America’s economic growth.
On the one hand, the Postal Service can remain a private company, whose daily operations are regulated and entrenched in red tape by the United States Congress. Under the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA), Congress has ordered the Postal Service to pre-pay 75 years of retirement in a ten year period. It seems, coincidentally, that is the same year mail volume started to decrease dramatically causing the Postal Service to default twice on the retirement payment. Congress controls how Postal rates should be calculated, what the company can legally ship, and also controls their ability to close retail offices and reduce delivery day standards. Basically Congress has forced the Postal Service to pay billions of dollars for future retirees but, on the other hand, has restricted the company to make its’ own decisions to raise the money it owes. While the company loses 25 million dollars a day, Congress has been procrastinating on making postal reform. So the Postal Service could continue to operate in this fashion and, hope, that Congress comes up with a viable solution so it can continue to operate for the next 235 years.
The alternative the Postal Service faces is continued privatization of its’ operations, which is gaining a growing consensus of acceptance nationwide. In early April 2013, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) and Pitney Bowes, a company which has supplied the Postal Service with most of its mailing software and hardware, conducted a study on reinventing the United States Postal Service. With funding by Pitney Bowes, NAPA presented the study during a conference, called PostalVision 2020, in Washington D.C. a few short weeks ago on April 23rd and April 24th (source http://www.savethepostoffice.com/privatizing-post-office-napa-pitney-bowes-study-reinventing-retail-network). During the conference, NAPA’s proposal, which is called “Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service: The case for a Public-Private Partnership”, laid out a plan to privatize the Postal Service’s retail division and processing facilities by opening up Village Post Offices around the country and continue the public sector’s control of letter carriers delivering the mail. Village Post Offices (VPO) are current businesses like gas stations, retail outlets, and movie theaters that are allowed to conduct USPS transactions like selling stamps and provide shipping services. Basically the plan calls for current government controlled post offices to close down, reduce the clerk craft, eventually eliminating them, and continue the growth of these VPO’s to reduce costs for the United States Postal Service.
Either way you look at it, the United States Postal Service has a rough couple of months until October. Eliminate good paying jobs and reduce hard fought salaries; cripple the unions that protect the companies’ employees; close down centuries’ old post offices; completely convert the Postal Service to a private company; gouge customers with over-priced shipping and delivery costs; CEO’s and/or Board of Directors profiting from all this. Every one of these scenarios could play out in the next few months. One thing is certain, the Postal Service can not survive when the public doesn’t care, Congress doesn’t care and ultimately the employees, that currently work there, stop caring.
Vocal RCA is a Rural Carrier Associate