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Stamping out the Postal Service using political ball & chain

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POSTED January 25, 2011 2:24 a.m.
It’s time to save the United States Postal Service.

They can start by ending Saturday delivery.

And they have to start acting like a business that has to respond to competition.

Unfortunately, some of the postal workers whose jobs such moves could save as well as Congress are effectively making it impossible for the Postal Service to do what it must do to survive and thrive.

The Postal Service now owes the U.S. Treasury $12 billion even after slashing a third of their work force since1999 to the point they have 532,800 workers left. By year’s end the Postal Service expects to max out its credit line with the U.S. Treasury when their debt hits $15 billion.

Part of the problem was the Postal Service was “cut loose” in 2006 when Congress passed the Postal Reform Act with strings attached that are the size of rope strong enough to choke the life out of the mail service.

First, Congress saddled the Postal Service right out of the gate with a mandate to prefund health benefits for retirees at $5 billion a year for a decade starting in 2007. It is a requirement that exists for no other private or federal agency.

Then they cobbled together a postal oversight commission that often thwarts attempts by the Postal Service to reduce costs and streamline operations. Congress also repeatedly threatens to intervene when the Postal Service proposes to do something to save costs that the politicians don’t like.

And - unfortunately - some of the very people who ultimately may have their jobs saved are fighting it.

It is a miracle that the Postal Service is still functioning given the “independence” they have attained to compete with the likes of United Parcel Service, Fed/Ex and the Internet.

Be honest. Do we really need Saturday delivery service? All of those bills, junk mail, magazines and such will still get to us but on a Monday instead. So what’s the hang-up? There are more than a few small weekly newspapers that have Saturday editions that rely on the mail to deliver that routinely put the squeeze on their Congressmen.

All it takes is one squeaky Congressman and all of a sudden it becomes more important to protect the publication date of a weekly newspaper that could simply rethink its business plan than to put the Postal Service on the road to financial solvency.

Postal workers, of course, don’t like the idea of five days of delivery because it eliminates a sixth day that requires additional workers. Reduce delivery so all you need is a postal worker for 40 hours, five days a week per route with enough staffing to provide rotating vacation and sickness relief coverage and you’ve cut back on the manpower need.

Naturally postal workers are going to howl the loudest as they are the ones who are going to be the most impacted and not people who will have mail service reduced from six to five days a week.

A case in point is a proposal to shift Stockton regional outgoing mail sorting from the Stockton facility to Sacramento due to dropping demand that has increased idle capacity at both mail sorting centers.

It won’t impact mail delivery but it will move 24 jobs out of Stockton to elsewhere. The strategy obviously is to use those 24 employees to fill positions elsewhere held by workers that are retiring. It will save $1.1 million a year.

Some of the workers don’t want to move out of the area. It’s time for them to join the real world. Private sector employees of firms with collective bargain agreements like the Postal Service has in place often have to choose between staying employed with the company they work for and moving or quitting in order to stay put.

Congress has done enough damage to the Postal Service. It is time for them to back off and let the Postal Service charter an efficient course that will allow them to stay solvent and afloat.

Keeping the way things are for pockets of communities around the country ultimately will cost everyone if the Postal Service continues doing business as unusual.
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