News & information

Mixed messages and straw men

On April 3, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe recorded a “State of the Postal Service” video, to “address a couple of mixed messages that need to be cleared up,” he said.

“Just amazes me,” he said: “People say, well, it’s first ‘five day’ [mail delivery], then it’s going to be four, three, two and one. Unless their routes have no mail in them, I don’t know how in the world you would deliver less than five days a week.

“The idea that there’s plans on moving from six to five and then four, three, two? There’s nothing to that,” he said.

“It just amazes me that he would say that,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “He seems to be forgetting that he suggested we might need to go to three-day delivery in the July 19, 2011 issue of USA Today.”

Asked about the long term, Donahoe said, “At some point, we'll have to move to three" days a week of mail delivery, possibly in 15 years.” Source

“The postmaster general has created a straw man, denying there are plans to go to four-day, three-day or two-day mail,” Roland said. “We’ve never said there is a plan to do this. We’re saying that that’s what the consequence will be if we continue to slash service and drive business away from USPS: Businesses will find other providers and those providers will further weaken the Postal Service.”

Somehow missing from the April 3 video was the bravado the postmaster general presented two months earlier, in the Feb. 6 press conference where he announced his intent to go ahead and unilaterally move to five-day mail delivery in August and claimed he had the legal authority to do so.

Of course, in the intervening weeks, Congress has passed—and President Obama has signed—a continuing resolution that keeps the federal government operating through September. This resolution contains language mandating that the Postal Service “continue 6-day delivery and rural delivery of mail at not less than the 1983 level”—that is, full mail delivery six days a week.”

And then there’s the Government Accountability Office’s legal opinion, issued on March 21, which upholds the notion that the Postal Service is bound by law to continue six-day delivery of mail. Never mind the fact that the USPS website admits that “Congress must elect not to renew the legislation requiring the Postal Service to deliver six days a week.”

So on April 3, Donahoe sounded a little less confident about the matter. “There’s a lot of discussion about whether we are prohibited from moving in that direction,” he said. “We have a board meeting coming up in a couple weeks. The board of governors will discuss the next moves that we’ve got to make and we’ll go from there.” (The board was still meeting as this article was being prepared.)

“It seems to be sinking in with the postmaster general that the law is not on his side in this matter,” Rolando said. “Cutting a day of mail delivery would not save the Postal Service money, but would instead drive more business away to look for more reliable alternatives, sending the agency into a spiral toward insolvency from which it would extremely hard to recover.

“Instead, the Postal Service should focus its efforts on growing the business first, rather than cutting it to the bone and hope something good happens afterward,” the president said. “And it should join us in calling on Congress to repeal its 2006 pre-funding mandate, which is the real source of the Postal Service’s financial problems. Without this requirement to spend billions each year to pre-fund the health benefits of future retirees—something no other government agency or private enterprise must do—the USPS would actually have shown a $100 million profit in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2013.

“Donahoe’s video gives us a glimpse of what we continue to be up against as we fight to protect the Postal Service and its competitive advantage—delivery of the mail to every household in America, six days a week.”