H.R. 22 Needs Passed, Coughlin Says

WASHINGTON — Passage of the revised postal reform bill, H.R. 22, is essential for the U.S. Postal Service to continue in its present state, Deputy Postmaster General Michael J. Coughlin told an audience of 125 mailing service executives.

In remarks at the annual Mailer Strategies Conference here, Coughlin stressed the importance of keeping expenses down by motivating postal employees, something he thinks H.R. 22 would accomplish.”We believe [the bill] needs to give the postal service, first and foremost, a mechanism that [gives incentives to] the system's managers and employees to do the right things in terms of cost,” he said.

At least one mailer agreed.

“Any organization that doesn't have some incentive for the managers to either hold down costs or improve customer service is not going to be in business very long,” said Richard Jurgena, president of the Mail Advertising Service Association (MASA). “I think that making the managers accountable will add a great deal of improvement.”

Coughlin took the idea of control further by saying H.R. 22 would make the postal service more like members of conference sponsor MASA: an owner of its own business.

“You can make decisions to spend your own money, to hire someone or to invest in a piece of equipment,” he said. “We need to do that kind of thing here as well make the postal service more efficient.”

Ron Garrow, president of National Mail Advertising, Rutland, VT, and other mailers said H.R. 22 allows far too much privatization. They cited the bill's provision to allow nonpostal products to be authorized under a private-law corporation, which, they said, would let USPS get into the lettershop business and create unfair competition.

“The USPS is the best service of its kind in the world. If it starts branching out and seeking new opportunities, it will ultimately be in jeopardy,” Garrow said. He added that mailing services companies have to make a profit to survive and competing with the postal service — which is able to sell services at lower prices because of its position and resources — would be a concern.

“Mailing service companies are not operating in a monopoly. However, the USPS has only one mandate — and that is to operate at a break-even mode. We don't have that luxury,” he said.

Jurenga offered a solution: “When post office lobbies sell anything — from packing materials to shipping services — if it's going to be for the convenience of the customers, the USPS should charge more than the going rate.”

This would ease some of the competitive pricing woes that lettershops may face, he reasoned, as they inevitably compete more with USPS.

Coughlin said fears of heightened competition are unwarranted.

“We know [MASA members] have a lot of arguments surrounding competition, those kinds of things,” he said, “but we are not in the lettershop business, and the postal service is not going to get into that business — so I don't think those folks should have concern.”

Another conference speaker, U.S. Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), chairman of the postal subcommittee and sponsor of H.R. 22, said the postal service already is a competitor. To prove his point, McHugh displayed the official USPS mug, hat and Bugs Bunny tie.

“The reform that McHugh is proposing would not give the postal service any more latitude to compete [than it already has],” said Barry Brennan, director of postal affairs for MASA. “The USPS may even be under tighter controls because of his bill.”

McHugh told MASA members that he will have one more open comment period about H.R. 22 in the coming weeks.

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