In a letter sent to every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Arlington, VA-based Mailers Council has asked Congress to oppose any legislation that would prevent the U.S. Postal Service from closing outdated and inefficient mail-processing facilities in its campaign to keep postage affordable.
Bob McLean, the council’s executive director, cites continuing declines in first-class mail volume–which contributes more than half of the agency’s revenue—and rising fuel costs and employee wages as the reason behind the letters. The ability to close inefficient mail centers is, he says, “an essential way of keeping down their costs and is directly related to keeping down their postage. They have to become more productive and more efficient by reducing the number of facilities.”
While no legislation aimed at preventing the USPS from closing outdated, inefficient facilities has yet been proposed, McLean says some members of Congress have proposed legislation that would prohibit plant consolidations. Hence the council’s preemptive strike. “There is a possibility a member could introduce a resolution or attach an amendment to an appropriations bill,” McLean explains. “We don’t know if that’s going to happen, but we want them to think about this before anyone does anything.”
To cut costs, the USPS has already eliminated nearly 100,000 jobs, McLean says. And that’s without laying off one employee. “These people are offered other jobs within the USPS,” McLean says.
“When USPS consolidated facilities in past years it was handled badly, there was a drop in service, and there were problems in delivery,” McLean continues. “We believe the USPS has learned from these problems.” In the Sept. 8 letter, McLean wrote, “Postmaster General Jack Potter has assured us that he is committed to cutting costs without reducing service to postal customers and is working with the council to identify and resolve any service problems caused by plant consolidations. We believe Congress should allow the Postal Service to manage its operations–as was intended with passage of the 1970 Postal Reform Act that created the independent Postal Service.”
And because of lower first-class mail volume, McLean says, the USPS “simply isn’t going to need the same facilities in the same locations it did in the past. Because of automation equipment, the Postal Service doesn’t need as much space to sort the same amount of mail. It’s about cost and efficiency.”
What’s more, trucks transport most mail, and many of the existing smaller facilities don’t have easy access to interstate highways. “The smaller facilities can’t accept larger equipment, and many of them have totally undersized loading docks,” McLean says.
Each year the Postal Service adds 1.5 million new addresses, requiring the hiring of more employees, the purchase of more vehicles, and the building of new post offices. As McLean wrote in his letter: “Fewer Americans are using the Postal Service, which means that overhead costs are being spread among fewer pieces of mail. Fuel costs are spiraling, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to transportation costs. And unlike airlines or delivery firms such as FedEx and UPS, the Postal Service cannot add a fuel surcharge whenever it would like to. Instead, it must wait at least nine months after going through a costly, litigious regulatory process.”