APWU sues USPS, MTAC for policy-making practices

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The American Postal Workers Union and an organization representing a coalition of consumers and nonprofit mailers filed a suit challenging so-called secret policy-making by a U.S. Postal Service advisory committee. The lawsuit was filed on May 30 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The panel, the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee, is made up of trade associations that represent large business mailers. Co-chaired by major mailer representatives and postal officials, MTAC, acting through work groups, commissions studies and makes recommendations to senior USPS management on postal operations, postal rates and postal regulations.

"It is unconscionable for the Postal Service to develop its most important policies in secret in consultation with a select group of business mailers, while excluding individual citizens and small businesses. CEOs of the largest mailers must not be permitted to decide the future of the U.S. Mail," APWU President William Burrus said in a statement.

"If it is true that the PRC is also now included in secret MTAC deliberations, this makes MTAC even more dangerous. It would mean large mailers are given a unique opportunity to provide input on service standards to government regulators, while differing and competing input is excluded. Postage rates for individuals and small business mailers will continue to go up, service will go down, and no explanation will be provided. This is wrong and illegal."

Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, government panels, such as MTAC, must open their meetings to all interested persons, and must make their reports and the minutes of their meetings public, APWU said. However, APWU said MTAC has refused to comply with this law -- holding its meetings in secret, and refusing to release any details, despite the APWU's repeated requests for access to the information.

As an advisory committee to a federal agency, MTAC is not legally permitted to conduct its activities in such secrecy, the suit said.

The U.S. Postal Service had no statement by deadline.

MTAC has refused the Consumers Alliance for Postal Services membership. The group is made up of nonprofit associations, small mailers and individual consumers that rely on the USPS to communicate with their members, APWU said.

MTAC claims that its current members, "in serving their respective constituencies, are already representing at the grass-roots level the millions of Americans which CAPS serves," APWU said.

And while shutting out consumers and small mailers, the APWU said that MTAC apparently has no problem with secretly working with the government regulators that oversee the USPS.

According to a publication that serves large mailers, the MTAC workgroup that is advising the Postal Service on service standards includes "observers" from the Postal Regulatory Commission, APWU said.

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