In part one of my two-part series on the United States Postal Service (USPS), I concentrated on the myriad advantages being handed to giant package delivery service, FedEx. These corporate gifts are channeled through friendly legislators and compliant trade agreements, past, present and future. I neglected to mention that FedEx is also in the process of exploiting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for its latest expansion plans into Canada and Mexico. Go here for the enormous harm precipitated by NAFTA.
But today I’m here to present some other distasteful facts as they directly relate to USPS. Let’s start with a bill in the Senate hopper, S 1486, named (pause for laughter) the “Postal Reform Act.” It hasn’t been called up for a vote as yet, though introduced way back in August of 2013. S 1486 has already been marked up by its committee daddy, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, by predictable Republican support, but surprising yes votes from such Democratic committee member stalwarts as Carper (a co-sponsor), Levin, Pryor, McCaskill, Begich and Heitkamp. Montana Senator Jon Tester recorded the only no vote that counted from a Democrat. In fairness, Landrieu and Baldwin voted no by proxy, but the votes were not recorded. Even Rand Paul voted no, but I’m sure for all the wrong reasons.
It probably won’t hit the full Senate floor for a vote until sometime after the March 17-22 recess. That gives you time to contact the six DINO’s (on this issue at least) and persuade them to get do-right minds!
Why would a ‘no’ vote be almost an imperative? Let’s start with what appears to be a joke. S 1486 would allow firearms in postal parking lots. Guess they’ve never heard of “going postal.” The American Postal Worker’s Union lists a number of other obvious negatives, including the threat to 100,000 more jobs and another pre-funding snake oil demand of $17 billion. You’ll recall that it was the 75-year pre-funding of the retirement system that left the USPS in an annual $5 billion hole as opposed to predicted profits in the $500-600 million dollar range.
On the subject of pre-funding, Forbes Online points out that the Postal Service 2013 Fiscal loss was almost the exact amount of the annual pre-funding payment. Forbes also reveals the reason FedEx is throwing its considerable legislative and trade weight around. While taking a bath on first-class mail, the USPS package volume was actually up 8% or $12 ½ billion for 19% of FY 2013 revenue. That’s a real threat to the big boys. FedEx owner Fred Smith might have to downsize his mansions to one less bathroom. Forbes also reminds us of other competitors in UPS, Google and Amazon.
There’s no question in my mind that the sole purpose of S 1486 is to kill the Postal Service and leave its core business to complete privatization. The USPS is technically a government agency, essentially self-sustaining with some private elements; but unlike FedEx and similar private delivery services, USPS is not supposed to make a profit. That’s the big difference. USPS profits could be utilized to improve services, products and dare we say, wages. And if you don’t have to answer to stockholders, you can hold price increases down, unlike a private entity with profits as its guiding principle. If mail services go completely private, consumers are at the mercy of the fiscal avarice of multi-nationals.
Embarrassingly, Democrats and the management leadership of USPS are signing on to the latest legislative virus of S 1486. Here are more concerns from the APWU.
On the House side, Daffy Darrell Issa wields the legislative hammer. For openers, the House Government Affairs Committee Chair wants door-to-door delivery cut, he wants to chop thousands of more USPS jobs and eventually fully privatize the Postal Service. For now, he proposes allowing FedEx and UPS to use USPS mailboxes.
The APWU is also having trouble on another front. That’s the establishment of basic mail service that started late fall of last year and will grow to 84 Staples outlets in 4 states as part of the just renamed “Retail Partner Expansion Program.” Neither USPS or Staples Corporate will answer the most important union questions about the move. APWU wants a copy of any and all agreements about the pilot program. USPS, in doing nothing to honor the unions reasonable request, called it overly broad and burdensome, not to mention the contention that the contents could be proprietary and confidential and some information may be redacted. The USPS is telling its own employees that what their employer does is none of their business. Now that’s Democracy. Staples response? Pound sand!
Most inquiries received a variation of a half-dozen or so buzzwords: “Overly broad, unduly burdensome, proprietary, confidential, irrelevant. One question that was answered, in its fashion, was the proposed pricing structure. The USPS response was, “Postal products and services are being sold to customers at published retail prices.” There would be no extra add-ons. This begs the question, whose retail prices? Staples? The Postal Service? Will Staples undersell? No, but the office supply chain will certainly underpay their non-union workforce. Average postal worker union wages are over $52,000 a year. Staples reportedly pays an average of about $27K to their employees annually.
Postal and private retail partnerships aren’t new. There are 65,000 in-store Postal services throughout the U.S. But Staples, with 1,600 potential outlets, may be the last straw. Virtually all of the retail partnership services are manned by modestly paid non-union help. The practice has certainly cost USPS jobs.
On the postal worker ground level, it seems that all the breaks are going to Supervisors and upper management as the average employee, number of years notwithstanding, is being given very little information about his or her job future. The muckity-mucks all seem to land on their feet. Part of the information deficit could be that with so many closures, things aren’t exactly working out as planned with some facilities unable to fill their jobs rosters or acquire the technology required to carry on. To say there’s a great deal of confusion within the ranks would be an understatement to be sure.
Many of those still employed face the prospect of a substantial reduction in operating hours, in some cases as many as 8 hours chopped off of the daily work schedule. Most likely during the period when the Remote Encoding Center, for example, receives the lowest volume of mail. The union has filed a grievance because the move looks for all the world like a ploy to force veteran and therefore well-paid workers to quit. That relieves the Postal Service from having to find new work for those who are victimized, not to mention the money saved. And remember, muckity-mucks are grabbing off the remaining appealing jobs.
One of my still employed postal friends likened the next few months of intrigue to Bette Davis’ “All About Eve” character, Margo Channel, a great, albeit, slightly too old, Broadway actress. Prior to the predictable fireworks of a cocktail party she’s about to attend, Margo utters the famous phrase “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” For those of you familiar with the film, the part of a modern-day Eve Harrington is being played by the leadership of USPS and Congress.