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U.S.P.S. CONSOLIDATION PLANS COULD DELAY MAIL DELIVERY

 

Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
by NWVs investigative reporter Jim Kouri
October 26, 2006
NewsWithViews.com

Postal Workers Warn: Corporations to Benefit at Expense of Citizens in New Post Office Plan

In the tradition of Chicken Little's "the sky is falling, the sky is falling," United States Postal Service officials claim that they fear the future America's mail processing and delivery is in danger.

Senior postal service executives are in the midst of not only consolidating mail processing centers but they've cut postal jobs by nearly 100,000.

With the alternatives of e-mail, fax machines, and private delivery services, postal officials claim they are seeing a marked decrease in the number of items being sent through the current mail system.

"Because the Postal Service continues to see a steady decline in first-class mail volume, postage prices will continue to increase and mailing industry jobs will be eliminated, unless the Postal Service can take the necessary steps to reduce its operating costs," said Robert McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council in a September 8 letter to members of Congress.

In addition, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in their report to congress said: "The [Postal] Service's strategy for realigning has not been clear because the [it] has outlined several seemingly different strategies over the past 3 years. None of these strategies include criteria and processes for eliminating excess capacity, which may prolong inefficiencies. Also, the strategy lacks sufficient transparency and accountability, excludes stakeholder input, and lacks performance measures for results."

The report points out that the Postal Service's plan to consolidate "facilities" and eliminate "duplicity" (jobs) must be implemented in order for the agency to survive.

Victor Dubina, a spokesman for the US Postal Service, says the Internet, higher fuel costs, 1.5 million new addresses a year, increasing employee costs, and a host of other reasons have created challenges that threaten the ability to provide high-quality, universal postal service at affordable rates, according to the Register Herald

"The business environment has changed and continues to change," Dubina said. "Postal employees and management see it, mailing associations see it, members of Congress see it, and it scares the hell out of all of us."

Dubina said when gasoline prices go up a single cent, it has an $8 million financial impact in increased costs to the Postal Service.

In an interview with The Register-Herald, Dubina said, "The impact from increased gasoline costs were $1 billion in 2002," Dubina explained. "That was during a period when we didn't raise rates."

Dubina says the US Postal Service is finding it harder and harder each year to just break even.

"Reform legislation is needed to minimize the risk of a significant taxpayer bailout or dramatic postal rate increases," he said.

The GAO study of the Postal Service concluded that "legislative reform must be done and it must include clarifying the service's mission and role so that it remains focused on universal postal service and compete appropriately. It also called for more flexibility to operate in a businesslike manner."

Currently, the US Postal Service is part of a $9 billion mailing industry that supports more than 9 million jobs. It maintains 37,000 post offices and 450 mail processing facilities that collectively employ more than 704,000 individuals in every state in the country.

The current government plan calls for consolidating some of the Postal Service's 450 mail processing plants, and doing it without laying off one postal employee.

"Postmaster General Jack Potter has said he is committed to cutting costs without reducing service or laying off workers," Dubina said.

But in the next breath Dubina says that nearly 100,000 jobs have been eliminated, according to the Register-Herald.

Postal workers union leaders say the US Postal Service has a major consolidation plan, and the union has selected October 26 for a nationwide day of picketing. In what they're calling a national day of informational picketing, the union plans to reveal how this consolidation plan will benefit big corporations, who utilize the bulk-mail system, at the expense individual citizens who use first-class mail.

"Tomorrow (Thursday) will be a nationwide day of picketing to protest ill-advised postal consolidations," Dennis Hotchkiss, Oregon's State President of the Postal Worker, told NewsWithViews.com.

Hotchkiss said the coordinated informational picketing is intended to highlight the potentially damaging effects of the consolidation plan and to expose how the postal service panders to major mailers.

"The Oct. 26 date was selected to give local unions the opportunity to seek support from elected officials and candidates prior to Election Day, Nov. 7," he told NewsWithViews.com.

The nationwide day of picketing will present an opportunity for union activists to encourage their coworkers to vote, Hotchkiss said.

The coordinated informational picketing is intended to spotlight the potentially damaging effects of the USPS consolidation plan, and to expose how Postal Service policy panders to major mailers, according to an American Postal Workers Union press release.

"I urge locals and state organizations to participate in the nationwide day of picketing," said APWU President William Burrus, "and I urge them to take our message to the public: This plan will delay mail to local communities, and it is being forced on the American people without their input."

"We intend to change that," Burrus said. "We will engage the public in a dialogue about their expectations and experience with the postal service. These informational pickets are an opportunity to express our concerns."

The union president also urged locals to inform elected officials about the USPS consolidation plan and the negative effect it will have on service to their constituents. In a Sept. 12 letter to every member of Congress, Burrus wrote, "The Postal Service has failed to consider the concerns of the American people, denied them the information necessary to determine if the revised network will meet their needs, and excluded them from having real input in the decision-making process."

To be sure, there has been practically no media coverage of the Postal Service's intentions to reorganize in a way that will slowdown the delivery of mail for private citizens while benefiting businesses using bulk-rates. According to the consolidation plan, bulk-mail will receive top priority.

There are many who believe the postal service is being overly secretive about their plans. For example, 19 members of Congress said in a letter, "Although GAO recommended that USPS improve its efforts to keep [citizens] informed, our communities affected by current plans to consolidate mail processing plants have told us that they have not been adequately informed about the Postal Service's plans, the extent to which the Postal Service proposed to analyze plant performance and make realignment decisions, or the potential impacts on these communities."

Meanwhile, there is added suspicion that the top officials at the USPS view the consolidation and cutbacks as a first step in privatizing the postal system. Dennis Hotchkiss told NewsWithViews.com that the new Chairman of the Postal Service's Board of Governors, James C. Miller, is a strong supporter of privatization.

A postal patron who wished to stay anonymous said "will the USPS be sold to a foreign company and when?"

Miller also shares many of the Bush White Houses traits in that he has a propensity to work and act in secret. A check of the USPS's press releases reveals practically no mention of consolidation plans; and there's even less information found on news search engines.

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Hotchkiss and other state presidents of the postal workers union hope that the October 26 action by the nations mail carriers and postal workers will open the eyes of Americans and remove the veil of secrecy surrounding the US Postal Service.

E-Mail Dennis Hotchkiss

2006 - NewsWithViews.com - All Rights Reserved

Related Information:

1. Postal service must change, official says
2. USPS: Strategy for realigning its mail processing
3. APWU: Day of picketing to expose ill-advised plans
4. USPS proposes new mailing standards

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Meanwhile, there is added suspicion that the top officials at the USPS view the consolidation and cutbacks as a first step in privatizing the postal system. Dennis Hotchkiss told NewsWithView that the new Chairman of the Postal Service's Board of Governors, James C. Miller, is a strong supporter of privatization.