Mailers, Postal Employees Cooperate for Postal Reform

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A coalition of postal employee groups and mailer organizations has issued the outline of a legislative approach to address the financial crisis facing the U.S. Postal Service.


The group's main goal is to present to Congress a unified plan for long-term postal reform to improve the agency's financial troubles instead of the approaches mentioned by the USPS Board of Governors in recent weeks. The governors directed management earlier this month to study potential cost savings by reducing mail delivery service to five days a week and consolidating postal facilities.


The coalition, which is scheduled to meet again today, also is looking at how the USPS can improve its financial situation immediately.


In addition, the group will address ways to improve service in the face of increasing economic challenges. In September, the USPS projected a surplus of $150 million for fiscal 2001. That projection was based in part on the increase in postal rates that took effect in January. More recent estimates, however, project a deficit of $2 billion to $3 billion.


"These challenges facing the USPS cannot be addressed by drastic reductions in service such as eliminating residential Saturday delivery, closing post offices, diminishing collective bargaining rights or increasing the postal rates charged to Americans, but can only be addressed by reform," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. "You can't just go get a quick fix and just eliminate Saturday delivery, because the problem still remains; you've just pushed things off. We have to get underneath and fix the core."


Cerasale also said the coalition wants USPS management and the Board of Governors "to redouble their efforts at eliminating inefficiencies and mismanagement, to continue enhancing improvements in productivity and to look for other options that would increase net postal revenues without raising rates."


For example, the group is encouraging the USPS to improve and promote its core products and services. In addition, it is working to secure a legislative change to increase the USPS' borrowing authority, thus allowing the agency to address short-term cash needs through borrowing rather than through strategies such as increasing rates or reducing services.


However, at a meeting of the Graphics Communications Association in San Antonio earlier this month, David Fineman, vice chairman of the Board of Governors, said the board "had no intention" of borrowing to solve fiscal problems.


Cerasale said the key of the coalition is that "mailers and postal employees are working together....That doesn't mean we are going to agree on everything, but we all agree that the postal service is necessary for all of us economically, and we want to be able to fix it so it will remain financially strong."


Among the coalition members are the Direct Marketing Association, Magazine Publishers of America, Association for Postal Commerce, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Parcel Shippers Association, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, National Association of Postmasters of the United States and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.


Meanwhile, members of Congress also are trying to promote postal reform and to eliminate quick fixes.


Rep. Dan Burton, R-IN, wrote a letter to President Bush urging legislative action to address the problems facing the USPS. Burton is chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, which oversees the USPS.


Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, introduced a resolution this month urging the postal service to preserve six-day mail delivery. The resolution, S.R. 71, was referred to the Committee on Government Reform. This type of resolution is nonbinding.


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