The United States Postal Service will end Saturday delivery of first class mail by August 1.
The move comes as the cash-strapped agency struggles to cut costs in order to meet a congressionally-mandated pension funding requirement. Under the plan, the USPS will continue to deliver packages on Saturdays and local post offices will remain open for customers.
The USPS has been dealing with declining volumes of mail for some time, as more and more personal correspondence moves onto the internet. Still, the post office has been dealing with a 2006 law that required the post office to put tens of billions of dollars into its pension fund within 10 years. That money would fund pensions for 75 years.
The 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush, required the USPS to pay between $5.4 and $5.8 billion dollars into a newly-established Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. The postal service is currently dealing with massive ongoing debt, losing $36 million a day. In 2012, the USPS lost $15.6 billion.
Postal workers are blaming the PAEA for largely creating the ongoing crisis with the USPS’s finances. In 2012, workers staged a four-day hunger strike to protest the law.
Certainly, you can make an argument for stopping Saturday delivery; the move will save the USPS $2 billion a year. Still, it’s unfortunate that it’s being done as much because Congress is unwilling to allow the USPS flexibility as anything else. The move will hurt direct-mail companies, especially magazines, which are already struggling. It will also mean that people who purchase medication by mail will have one less day per week to receive it — potentially risking adverse health impact.
The move is an especially big issue in rural areas, where the post office provides a convenient link to a variety of goods and services.
Understandably, postal workers are outraged by a move that seems certain to cost jobs and paychecks. In a statement, Frederic Rolando, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, decried the move, and called for the ouster of Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
“If the Postmaster General is unwilling or unable to develop a smart growth strategy that serves the nearly 50 percent of business mailers that want to keep six-day service, and if he arrogantly thinks he is above the law or has the right to decide policy matters that should be left to Congress, it is time for him to step down,” Rolando said.
The USPS has been in operation since before the founding of the country. Established by the Continental Congress in 1775, the Postal Service employs more than half a million people, and operates the world’s largest vehicle fleet. The post office was a government agency through 1971, when it was transformed into a semi-private regulated monopoly.
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Image Credit: Egan Snow