The good news in the fight for postal reform is that there has been more legislative progress during the current session of Congress than there has been since John McHugh started the crusade in 1995. This important achievement is the result of a great deal of effort by many individuals and organizations.
Now for the bad news: It is clear that passage of any bill by this Congress, much less a bill good for the mailing community, is by no means a sure thing. Congress does not move quickly until there is a clear and present crisis.
When the men and women of Congress consider the U.S. Postal Service, they do not see an organization in crisis. The mail is being delivered reliably every day. Hundreds of thousands of employees are working and being paid regularly. Their constituents generally think highly of the Postal Service and especially their mailman. Not surprisingly, many wonder, What’s the big deal?
Fortunately, as a result of our efforts, there are some, including Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), the chairs of committees with jurisdiction over the USPS, who recognize the urgent need for reform legislation. Their committees have voted bills out unanimously. Both agree that the USPS business model must be changed. While there is consensus on the broad outline of reform, currently there is no such agreement on the details.
We can hope the House and the Senate each pass bills, meet in conference to resolve differences, and send final legislation to the White House for the President’s signature before the 108th Congress is history. But realistically this is probably not in the cards. It is far more likely that the 109th Congress will enact postal reform legislation.
So what should direct marketers do to improve the odds for effective legislation? We first need to deal with the following reality: Our issues, even when known, are not viewed as priorities by most members of Congress.
Why? We have done a poor job of communicating with them where it has the most impact — at home.
The mailing industry employs more than 9 million people and generates in excess of $900 billion in revenue. And most members of Congress hardly know us. We are active in every state and virtually every community, but the evidence is convincing that we have not made ourselves heard.
It is critical that your elected officials know of your company and the issues that affect its success. Meet them and their staff in their local offices, invite them for a tour of your facilities, and reinforce these contacts with meetings in Washington. If you can assemble several companies or organizations with similar issues to meet with their senators and representatives, the impact can be significant. Last year Sen. Collins met with just such a group of Maine companies brought together by Chris Bradley, president of bedding cataloger Cuddledown. Since that intensive exposure to the issues, the senator, as chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, has been a driving force in the postal reform effort.
While the 108th Congress is still in session, ask your representatives to pass H.R.4341 and your senators to pass S.2468. You can go to www.House.gov or www.Senate.gov to get addresses, phone numbers, staff member’s names, etc. The Direct Marketing Association’s Website (www.the-dma.org) also provides information (click the Gov’t. Affairs & Ethics link at the top and keep drilling down under Postal), and the group has staff available in Washington. Now is the time to get started. The law is not yet in final form. Your efforts will make a difference.
John Van Horn is group president of Chicago-based Lehigh Direct, a subsidiary of printer Lehigh Press. He is also chairman of the DMA’s Government Affairs committee.