By David Yao
You may not be aware of this, but your mail service was just degraded. With little public notice, the U.S. Postal Service has undermined one of its most basic functions – the delivery of firstclass mail. As of January 5, new service standards mean that such mail will now take longer to be delivered. For example, mail sent across town will no longer be delivered the next day, but will take a minimum of two days.
The public is seeing a delay in the delivery of bill payments, greeting cards, medicines, Netflix, ballots, newspapers, and checks.
Even worse, the new delivery schedules are not working. Since January 5, one-third of out-of-town mail, with a normal three-day delivery standard, has been delivered late.
While this may not seem like a big deal to some in the internet age, in fact this change degrades a basic function of the Postal Service, which is “to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people” ( Postal Reorganization Act of 1970). In addition: “It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas.”
Ruth Y. Goldway, Postal Regulatory Commissioner since 1998, criticized the latest service cut, which “threatens the very integrity and concept of Universal Service — the Postal Service’s primary obligation under the law…Under the law, the Postal Service is required to give the highest consideration to the requirement for the most expeditious collection, transportation, and delivery of important letter mail.”
A further problem is the delay in determining the results of Washington’s mail ballot elections, and potentially even voter disenfranchisement. The delay in counting returned ballots is an issue that has led to proposals for an Election Day deadline for receipt of ballots. If that change is made, most people would know that ballots mailed on Election Day would arrive too late to be counted. But thanks to the new delayed mail standards, those mailed the Monday before, and even ballots mailed on Sunday or Saturday afternoon, would arrive too late to be counted.
82 Mail Processing Plants Threatened -15,000 Jobs
The reason given for the service cuts is to save money by enabling the closing of mail processing operations from 82 sites nationwide. Many such moves are scheduled for April. Facilities in Tacoma, Redmond, and Wenatchee are targeted to lose mail processing in July, affecting around 300 jobs in Washington State, out of an estimated total of 15,000 impacted nationwide.
If the closures proceed, there are serious doubts as to whether the mail processed in Tacoma and Redmond can be absorbed by other facilities, with a very real possibility that mail service will be degraded even further. This kind of scenario invites the right wing to begin calls for privatization, after public services are damaged by conscious decisions that hurt service.
There is no crisis in postal finances that would dictate such a drastic action as hampering the basic delivery of first class mail, the product that meets the obligation to provide prompt, efficient, universal service. The Postal Service has returned to operational profitability since October 2012, with a surplus of $1.1 billion in the last calendar quarter of 2014. The losses that are being announced by postal headquarters are entirely on paper, a product of the 2006 law which demanded $5.5 billion in annual payments to the federal treasury, to be stored for future retiree health benefits. (That’s in addition to the payments the USPS has been making all along to pay for current retiree benefits.)
You Can Help Restore Overnight Mail Delivery
Please contact the offices of Senators Patty Murray ( 915 2nd Ave., #2988, Seattle, WA 98174; (206) 553-5545) and Maria Cantwell ( 915 2nd Ave., #3206, Seattle, WA 98174; (206) 220-6400). Describe any delays in mail delivery you’ve noticed since January 5 and any problems these have caused. Please ask them to contact the Postmaster General to restore pre-January 5 mail service standards.
In February “A Grand Alliance” formed of over 60 organizations with the stated purpose “to save our public postal service. “ It aims to reverse the tide of cuts and restore and expand services, such as postal banking. At the website, agrandalliance.org, individuals can sign a pledge “to support the fight to protect and enhance vibrant public postal services now – and for many generations to come.” We hope you will join us in this fight!
David Yao is Vice President of the Greater Seattle Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union and a member of PSARA.