A group of 18 Senate Democrats are trying to stop the Postal Service from laying off 100,000 workers by cutting back mail service and closing post offices. The Senators are trying to freeze the layoffs for at least 6 months according to an article by Alexander Bolton in The Hill.
The Postal Service lost $5.1 billion dollars in the last fiscal year and the Postmaster General wants to close 3,700 mostly rural and inner city post offices, and eliminate mail sorting centers. The move would cost at least 35,000 persons their jobs immediately, and ultimately the number would reach 100,000—one sixth of its work force and end overnight mail delivery.
The Senators believe that these layoffs would hurt families and add to the nation’s unemployment woes. Many believe that ending overnight delivery will probably add to the decline in first class mail, which is one of the main reasons for the postal service losses.
A letter signed by 18 Senators was sent to Senate Leaders and the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the Appropriations committee asking them to add language to appropriations legislation that would prevent the Postal Service from consolidating area mail processing centers and rural post offices for the next six months.
There are several postal service reforms bills before Congress, but as with everything else, Congress has not found time in their busy vacation schedule to act on them. One of them, however, has passed at least one House Committee. The Senators are afraid that the Postmaster General will preempt Congress by making his cuts before they act on the bills.
“While we may have very different views on how to financially improve the postal service, we all believe that democratically elected members of the Senate and the House have the responsibility to make significant changes to the postal service,” the Senators said in their letter.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a signer said “If the post office starts making these drastic cuts, which will lay off workers, slow down mail delivery, cut back on rural postal services and Saturday deliveries, they’re going to give us a fait accompli. “They will have made major, irreparable decisions before Congress has time to act.”
In addition to Sen. Sanders, the letter was signed by Democratic Senators Ben Nelson (NE.), Tim Johnson (SD), Mark Udall (CO.), Michael Bennet (CO.), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Max Baucus (MT.), Mary Landrieu (LA.), Mark Begich (AK), Jay Rockefeller (WV.), Ron Wyden (OR.), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Patrick Leahy (VT.), Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Harkin (IA and Al Franken (MN.)
The Postal Service is no longer part of the federal government since it was turned into an independent entity that is funded solely on revenues from postage. However, it was the beneficiary of buildings and equipment that it inherited from taxpayers at the time of the change over. The post office also receives competitive advantages over first class mail by law.
The law also mandates that the postal service serve everyone regardless of how much money it loses in the process. Thus the conundrum: the postal service is supposed to be self-sufficient and profitable, but it must deliver mail to the far reaches even though it loses money doing so. UPS and Fed Ex do not serve those areas because they are not profitable and the postal service delivers parcels for them.
Why should Congress intervene?
The question is should Congress intervene if the Postal Service is independent? The Postal Service was created before the Constitution. It is the oldest agency next to the Army. Mail delivery to every citizen has been a part of the fabric of the nation since the beginning and is almost a right of citizenship.
Taxpayers gave the postal service assets and Congress gives the postal service advantages private companies do not have. It has also butted its nose into the matter contributing in a major way to the USPS’s financial problems.
It is clear that while the cost cutting measures would be appropriate decisions for a for profit entity, they may not be appropriate for an agency that taxpayers paid for historically because they believe every citizen has a right to receive mail at a price they can afford.
If the Postmaster acts on his own, he preempts the taxpayers from having a voice. Congress needs to change its do-nothing ways and act. The Senators are trying to buy time for that to happen. There is a lot at stake.
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