Union reps: Federal law hurting postal service more than anythingThough the United States Postal Service announced today it will cut Saturday service starting in August, union representatives say it may be a push to get Congress moving on a decision to ease the agency’s financial burden.
By: Riham Feshir, Woodbury Bulletin
Though the United States Postal Service announced today it will cut Saturday service starting in August, union representatives say it may be a push to get Congress moving on a decision to ease the agency’s financial burden.
Jason Karnopp, assistant for the National Association for Letter Carriers serving the Minneapolis region, said eliminating one day would potentially cut one in six carriers out of the Woodbury area and about 26,000 nationwide.
But it’s not just about job losses, he said, the mail industry has so many aspects that the move would hurt the country’s gross domestic product.
Advertisers who mail out ads on the weekend will be hurt, so will the mailers who put those flyers together, as well as paper companies and lumberjacks, Karnopp said.
“You take out Saturday delivery, that’s one less day that business and our customers will have an opportunity to do business,” he said. “Which is the long term impact that we feel will be a detriment to the postal service.”
USPS said post offices will not close on Saturdays, however, customers in Woodbury’s only post office don’t seem to care one way or another.
“I suppose I’m one of the reasons,” Steve Dilley said.
The Woodbury resident said he does most of his billing online and sends and receives packages through services that don’t operate on Saturdays.
Even for people who do not rely on online billing, like Joy Daily who still writes checks and mails her bills, no mail on Saturday is not that big of a deal.
“It’s fine with me,” she said. “I don’t get that much mail on Saturdays anyway.”
Whether or not Saturday mail delivery will be cut is ultimately up to Congress, which letter carrier advocates say will have to consider changing some of the requirements of the Postal Accountability Act of 2006, to keep the six-day service going.
Under the law, the USPS was forced to prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in a 10-year time span – meaning that it had to put aside $5.5 to $5.6 billion annually for health benefits of employees, including some who haven’t been hired yet.
“There is no other federal entity or private entity that’s required to do so, but we are by law,” Karnopp said, adding, “At the time it didn’t seem like a terrible idea.”
But when the recession hit and the national economy began to struggle, those payments posed some financial stress on the USPS.
Karnopp said most people tend to lose sight of the situation especially when reports of the USPS financial crisis often credit increasing internet activity and declining first class mail.
“Eighty percent of that red ink is due to that payment that we have to make,” he said. “Take away that requirement, or even what we’ve suggested instead of paying that requirement in 10 years, let’s spread it out.”
Those benefits are currently “over funded” and there is no sense of urgency to finish out the payments in 10 years, he said.
“It’s funded better than our senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken,” Karnopp said, adding, “To bare the post service that type of burden just does not make sense.”
USPS announced it will not cut package delivery on Saturday and expects to generate cost savings of about $2 billion annually, once the plan is fully implemented.
“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe said in a statement. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”
USPS also said that package delivery has seen a 14 percent jump since 2010, a number that Karnopp said makes up for some of the losses in first class mail.
“That aspect of our company is rising just as fast,” he said.
USPS officials say they made the announcement six months in advance to give customers time to adjust.
But union representatives are hoping something will be worked out before August to maintain the current service.
“We kind of see this as potentially the Postmaster’s wake up call to congress,” Karnopp said. “I’m confident that we will be able to resolve this.”