Postal Union Chief: Think of USPS as Asset, Not a Cost Center

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Jim Sauber, chief of staff, National Association of Letter Carriers; photo copyright Phil Fabrizio
Jim Sauber, chief of staff, National Association of Letter Carriers; photo copyright Phil Fabrizio

If there's one thing that postal workers unions and mailers can agree on, it's that, when it comes to the U.S. Postal Service, Congress is clueless. “There's very little thinking going on in Congress [about the Postal Service], in general,” Jim Sauber, chief of staff of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), told a group of international postal stakeholders today.

Not only is the union in favor or reamortizing the Postal Service's prefunding commitment to the retiree's health benefit funds, but it's in solid agreement with direct mailers and catalogers on the power of the individual mailbox. Addressing the Postal Vision 2020 conference in Washington, he said that the union's mission to save jobs for its members goes hand-in-hand with its commitment to help make the Post Office a more valuable proposition for mailers and consumers going forward.

“Our ability to reach more than 150 million addresses is a real asset. Our carriers have personal knowledge of customers that is powerful, and I think the key to the future of the Postal Service is to harness that knowledge,” Sauber said, adding that carriers could be virtual sales reps who could sell local businesses on the value of direct mail.

“Congress,” Sauber maintained, “needs to stop thinking about the Postal Service as a cost factor and treat it as an asset.”

Sauber saved some criticism for USPS, questioning its planned move to five-day mail delivery and cluster boxes—a labor-saving device that many mailers also oppose due to lower response rates. “We're moving to seven-day package delivery with Amazon. Why wouldn't we move to seven-day mail delivery and delivery at night?” Sauber posited. “There's defeatism in the air [at USPS]. They want to degrade or dismantle the ‘last mile' proposition.”

NALC engaged Lazar Bank to study what it termed the government's “shrink to survive” strategy, said Sauber, and declared it doomed to fail. “Eliminating direct-to-door delivery is insanely unconstructive. It will lead to more lost revenue,” Sauber declared. “Congress should just get out of our way and let us do what we do best.”

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