Senate Postal Reform Hearings Begin Today

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More bad news for mailers from the Capitol
More bad news for mailers from the Capitol

The postal Board of Governors gave mailers, postal workers, and U.S. Postal Service (USPS) executives a matter of weeks to build momentum behind postal reform to avoid an exigent rate increase. Today these parties will be given a stage to bring the issue front and center before a Congress preoccupied with foreign military intervention and healthcare legislation.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, Direct Marketing Association SVP of Government Affairs Jerry Cerasale, and American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey lead the witness list at the first of two hearings on postal reform scheduled for this morning by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The hearing can be viewed via live stream beginning at 10 a.m.

Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) and ranking member Tom Coburn (R-OK), introduced the Postal Reform Act of 2013 (PRA) in August that, if passed as is, would almost guarantee higher postal rates for business mailers. The PRA would place a two-year moratorium on plant and retail office closings, a jobs preservation feature likely to win the approval of labor unions and Senate democrats. The bill would also let the rate cap pegged to the Consumer Price Index expire in 2016, at which time the USPS would be able to set its own rates. But the bill at present is a discussion draft, and discussion begins in earnest today.

Alerting members of Congress to the urgency of postal reform is one of the key issues mailers aim to accomplish today. “We can make exigency a moot issue if we can drive action forward on reform,” says Patrick Henderson, director of government affairs at Quad/Graphics, whose president and CEO Joel Quadracci gave testimony to the committee prior to the drafting of the PRA. “Part of what we have to achieve is getting through the clutter of Congress. They've got Syria, the Affordable Care Act, and a budget fight on their agenda, but they need to take care of postal reform, too, and we have to get their attention.”

The Board of Governors rang Congress's bell, say industry officials, who now hope to clang it louder. “The Postal Service got people's attention with the threat of exigency,” says Hamilton Davison, president and executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA). “We could be looking at increases as high as 10%, which would deal a mortal blow to many mailers. Pat Donahoe has said several times, ‘Exigency or reform, pick one.' That's where we are now. We are running out of options.”

Jim Federico, VP of sales for Offset Impressions, will be following today's proceedings with great interest. “If we can get some good heads together, we can figure out how to save the Postal Service and keep it around forever,” says the printer, who worries that an increase will seriously curtail the direct mailings of his retailer and nonprofit customers. “We need to hold the line on postal rates and lay down strict guidelines on where we need to be a year from now.”

Also sure to be watching today's proceedings will be the postal governors, who meet in Kansas City, MO, next week to discuss the exigent increase. “What happens today will absolutely have an effect on what the governors do next week,” ACMA's Davison says. “They want to see both the House and the Senate make progress on reform.”

The scheduled witness list for today's hearing, which will focus on maintaining services, reducing costs, and increasing revenue:

Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO, U.S. Postal Service
Ruth Y. Goldway,
Chairman, Postal Regulatory Commission
David C. Williams,
Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service
Cliff Guffey,
President, American Postal Workers Union
Jeanette P. Dwyer,
President, National Rural Letter Carriers' Association
John Beeder,
President and COO, American Greetings Corporation
Jerry Cerasale,
SVP, Government Affairs, Direct Marketing Association
Seth Weisberg,
Chief Legal Officer, Stamps.com

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