Mail Carriers Unveil Their Plan For Saving Postal Service

Two months after the U.S. Postal Service’s Postmaster General announced how USPS leadership intends to resuscitate the wheezing institution by cutting jobs, raising rates and ending Saturday delivery, the union representing the nation’s mail carriers has gone public with the changes it believes are needed to keep the USPS from becoming irreversibly insolvent.

Calling the Postmaster General’s plan a “shrink to survive” strategy that “will simply facilitate the decline of this vital American institution,” the National Association of Letter Carriers says it’s time for USPS to think bigger and better.

“[B]y adopting the Postal Service ‘s proposals to reduce the quality and value of the services it provides to American households, it may actually accelerate the Postal Service’s decline,” reads an excerpt from the NALC white paper.

To bring the USPS back to prominence and profit, the NALC paper proposes:

*Better leveraging of the USPS delivery network to grow its parcel service business;
*Expansion of the kinds of products and services that the Postal Service is allowed to provide (this would require congressional action);
*Giving the Postal Service greater flexibility in pricing its products and services, some of which are notably underpriced compared to the cost of providing them (also requiring legislative action);
*Legislative action to address the burdensome – and unique – congressional mandate requiring USPS to pre-fund retiree health care for the next 75 years in just 10 years; and
*Shared sacrifice from of all postal stakeholders, rather than one-sided employee sacrifice.

“A successful restructuring of the Postal Service must start with a plan to better leverage its unrivaled last-mile delivery network — a retail network that touches every city, town and neighborhood in America,” reads the NALC paper. “Instead of focusing on shrinking its network and capabilities, thereby yielding its competitive advantage, the Postal Service needs an ambitious rethinking of its business model.”

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  1. Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

    “Legislative action to address the burdensome – and unique – congressional mandate requiring USPS to pre-fund retiree health care for the next 75 years in just 10 years”

    This is pretty much the entire problem, a Bush-era payoff to UPS and DHL lobbyists.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      No, a Bush era way to help destroy unions, since unions tend to vote Democratic.

      If UPS cuts service, it impacts the other service providers who hand off packages to the USPS for final delivery.

      • APFPilot says:

        Pretty sure that UPS is quite unionized from the drivers to the pilots…

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Nope, not at all. UPS has actually begun pushing that drivers are independent contractors, not even actual employees. That means there’s no union.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      And yet the last report of the USPS pension and retiree healthcare plans still showed they were underfunded.

      Sadly, we are complaining that we’re forcing an entity to actually fund its promises… and they complain that they want to go back to underfunding their pension and retiree healthcare plans.

      • hmburgers says:

        “…and they complain that they want to go back to underfunding their pension and retiree healthcare plans.”

        Because they know that like any government agency, even a quasi-government agency will never default on pensions unless the entire country is in a shambles… so they essentially bear little to no risk from allowing it to remain under funded, because they know someone will pay up.

        I do agree with their other ideas–first class postage should reflect the actual costs, maybe this means that it shouldn’t cost the same amount to send a letter within the same town as it does to send a letter across the country… or at least they should raise the first class rate to match the average costs. Open up delivery of other types of packages and become more competitive in that regard… there is no reason that the USPS should not be able to wipe the floor with FedEx & UPS when it comes to domestic delivery, and in particular domestic delivery where air freight is not required.

        Cost cutting is good, but there comes a point where cost cutting doesn’t make sense and has diminishing or even detrimental returns… you need to raise prices and increase potential for revenue.

      • Chris V says:

        Pre-funding retiree health care for the next 75 years means that the Postal Service is paying the health care benefits of people who aren’t even born yet. The original comment was right. This was a gift to lobbyists who want to see the US Postal Service eliminated.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        It’s not that they want to underfund their pension and retiree plans. Funding 75 years of it in advance is such an egregiously unnecessary requirement that it’s causing their budget to collapse entirely.

        Something more reasonable like 20 years wouldn’t cause quite this much turmoil.

  2. SkokieGuy says:

    To all busy writing comments

    1). The post office does not receive any Federal money, taxpayers don’t fund it.
    2). The USPS is the actual delivery service for many Fed-Ex and UPS packages, especially in rural and remote areas. Reduce the size and reach of the post office and what the rates of the competition skyrocket.
    3). No other company is required by law to prefund healthcare is such a laughable way.
    4). When gas prices skyrocket, UPS / Fed-Ex can slap a “fuel surcharge” on rates. The post office must literally get an act of Congress to raise rates ($0.44 to $0.45, wow…)

    • Doubting thomas says:

      wrong. The USPS does receive tax dollars.

      The USPS does get some taxpayer support. Around $96 million is budgeted annually by Congress for the “Postal Service Fund.” These funds are used to compensate USPS for postage-free mailing for all legally blind persons and for mail-in election ballots sent from US citizens living overseas. A portion of the funds also pays USPS for providing address information to state and local child support enforcement agencies.

      in addition to the money it receives it gets a government granted monopoly.

      • SkokieGuy says:

        I think what you are saying is that some government agencies are customers of the post office?

        • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

          You are 100% right. Too many people think the USPS is funded, at least partially, by taxpayer money. They are NOT. Every dime that goes to the USPS from the feds PAYS for a specific service just as the feds pay other contractors for other services.

          • Matthew PK says:

            The USPS is funded by the taxpayer through their unique exemptions and their federally enforced monopoly.

            They do not pay sales tax.
            They do not pay payroll tax.
            They do not pay vehicle tax.
            They do not pay property tax.

            They have a federal monopoly on bulk mail and standard letter.
            They have a federal monopoly on the use of mailboxes.

            The USPS is, without question, funded by the taxpayer, however many loopholes you want to use to claim otherwise.

            Eliminate these special GSE privileges and then there will be no issue.
            Or, alternatively, put their payroll on balance sheet and treat them like the cabinet agency they are.

            • jasonq says:

              “The USPS is funded by the taxpayer through their unique exemptions and their federally enforced monopoly.”

              I think you mean “constitutionally specified” monopoly, don’t you? The enforcement is a bit secondary.

              • Matthew PK says:

                The monopoly is not constitutionally required. The *existence* of the cabinet is constitutionally specified.

                There is no reason why the USPS should be the only agency permitted to carry out the tasks they do.

      • shepd says:

        Yup, they receive no money and have no connection with the government the same way Bellcore had no connection with the government and didn’t get anything from them.

        Except, of course, for a total monopoly, rights of way, and basically a ridiculously profitable business model handed to them by the government. You know, the sort of business model that guarantees free money because people don’t have a choice. Like taxes, except you can opt out if you want to live like a hermit.

        • DarthCoven says:

          You do realize that the USPS is written right into the Constitution, right?

          • shepd says:

            Does that significantly affect the similarities between them and old-skool Bell/AT&T, other than the fact that the government could eventually man up and break up AT&T via a ridiculously drawn out ridiculously expensive lawsuit rather than a pain in the ass amendment?

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        You proved your own point wrong by saying the $96 million is COMPENSATION, meaning that it pays for something, rather than being budgeted funding.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      1). The post office does not receive any Federal money, taxpayers don’t fund it.
      >True.

      2). The USPS is the actual delivery service for many Fed-Ex and UPS packages, especially in rural and remote areas. Reduce the size and reach of the post office and what the rates of the competition skyrocket.
      >Fine. Rural America is already hugely subsidized by urban America (roads, telecoms, etc.), this is as good a place to start fixed that inequality as any.

      3). No other company is required by law to prefund healthcare is such a laughable way.
      >Governments aren’t. Some companies do. If we _don’t_ require USPS to do it, then we need to make it explicit in all the Postal Service’s employee contracts that any promised future benefits can be funded only through Postal revenues, and that under no circumstances will any general fund revenues be used to fund them (i.e. make clear that the USPS could, in the future, go bankrupt and stop paying for retiree health care). If we don’t do that, then it’s an implicit guarantee by the taxpayers, which means that #1 goes away. Honestly, all gov’t entities should be subject to the requirements of ERISA, and should use accrual accounting, so polliticians can’t pretend that making pension promises today have no costs in the future (which lies to both voters/taxpayers and to gov’t employees).

      4). When gas prices skyrocket, UPS / Fed-Ex can slap a “fuel surcharge” on rates. The post office must literally get an act of Congress to raise rates ($0.44 to $0.45, wow…)
      >This is a fair point.

  3. Cor Aquilonis says:

    I think the union’s plan has a better strategic and long-term outlook than the management’s.

    • hansolo247 says:

      Agree, but the challenge is actually finding people at the post office who want your business.

    • mackjaz says:

      Doesn’t it always happen that way? Why can’t we let the people on the ground have a say in such situations?

  4. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    *Shared sacrifice from of all postal stakeholders, rather than one-sided employee sacrifice.

    AKA the top-level union cronies keep the sweet pensions and the low level clowns at the front desk take a pay cut.

    *Giving the Postal Service greater flexibility in pricing its products and services, some of which are notably underpriced compared to the cost of providing them (also requiring legislative action);

    - Increase the cost of service even if this results in pricing oneself out of business

    *Expansion of the kinds of products and services that the Postal Service is allowed to provide (this would require congressional action);

    - More crap that you don’t need and they don’t know how to sell.

    • StarKillerX says:

      I think you have most of it right but I think your reading the quote below to narrowly.

      “Shared sacrifice from of all postal stakeholders, rather than one-sided employee sacrifice.”

      I would be willing to bet that the union means “stakeholder” in the broadest possibly such that it means everyone in the US as everyone would be effected if mail delivery is reduced so I’d be willing to bet they mean everyone, meaning US taxpayers, should pay “sacrifice” to benifit the union’s members.

      • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

        Which goes back to the other bullet of pricing oneself out of business.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          People liked to complain a lot about the cost of USPS mail service. But $0.44 is still cheaper than $20.00, which is somewhere in the vicinity of the lowest price you’ll pay for letter delivery by UPS with a corporate contract with them. That’s roughly 45 letters to 1. I don’t see how they can possibly price themselves out of business.

          /sends out a lot of UPS envelopes

        • StarKillerX says:

          Oh you misunderstand me, while I’m sure they will support rate increases I’m also sure the union will call for the federal government to start “investing” tax dollars into the post office if that’s what it takes to keep the money flowing to the union, which if we’re honest is the ultimate goal anyways.

    • ARP says:

      Troll much.

      Can you tell me how much it costs to send a letter from Florida to Seattle with UPS and FedEx and tell me how much less it is than the USPS? USPS is obvious at lot more expensive, right? Can you tell me how much more expensive? You’re an expert in this area I assume?

      Also, why did FedEx offer me printing services when I went to the FedEx store to send a package. Why are they offering me crap I don’t want?

      So, you’ve already decided that USPS is going to fail and we should have our mail handled by private carriers for doing the very same things that private carriers do?

      • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

        The private carrier isn’t being forced to cover pensions for the next 75 years.

        And the last time I wanted to send something via FedEx or UPS they didn’t make me wait for 35 minutes in line while two union lackees were standing around “on break” while some mental midget that somehow passed the civil service test was taking their time counting $.02 stamps.

        Oh and when I need something the next day with-out-a-doubt or need something re-routed last minute I don’t see the USPS letting me do that.

        • Tacojelly says:

          You use the post office like an old then.

          There are many ways to print stamps from your home printer and often machines with scales where you can pay for postage. And if you don’t need to buy postage from the counter, there is no reason to wait in line.

          I ship packages all the time and most of the time I don’t even step foot in the building.

        • Cor Aquilonis says:

          Use the automated kiosk then. Our post office has one out in the lobby – there’s usually no line and I can get a package shipped lickety-split.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    The USPS should purchase eBay and Amazon and state that the only shipping method allowed would be through the USPS and payment would only be allowed via Postal Money Order.

  6. ianmac47 says:

    You ever try doing direct mail with the post office? Until you do, you cannot begin to comprehend the problems of the USPS.

    • longfeltwant says:

      “Direct mail”… heh… that’s a cute euphamism for “annoying shit that nobody wants”. Wait, wait, you are asking for that to be *easier*? Sorry, I’m not with you on that one.

      I wish they would make sending junk mail as difficult as possible, but alas I know that isn’t the case. It is obvious from decades of spamming Americans, that businesses have no problem whatsoever sending bulk mail.

      • Major Tom Coming Home says:

        Meh, if it keeps people employed they can send me all the crap mail they want. It doesn’t bother me and I have actually signed up for more of it to “help out”. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t take a long hard look at other aspects of their operations to become more competitive.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          I tried to get rid of it, but for some reason I am actually getting MORE. There’s no reason for it unless it’s from job searches. If so, what fish-brained company thinks that if I’m job-hunting, I have any money???

          I’ve had to resort to calling the individual companies and getting myself off their lists. Fortunately, I did this at Exjob so I’m pretty good at it.

  7. KyBash says:

    I really, really hate siding with a union, but this plan makes a lot more sense than what’s been proposed.

    The only thing I would add is to make all retailers have a USPS option. There’s so many things I can’t buy online because companies only ship UPS, and UPS simply isn’t capable of making a proper delivery here. I’m sure they are many others in the same situation.

    • longfeltwant says:

      Indeed. Just this weekend I had to shop several little online stores before I found one that would ship via USPS. I really don’t understand why that is — USPS is cheaper, faster, easier, comes right to my door, delivers packages instead of keeping them forever… is there any measure by which USPS isn’t the best service? Why has the market gone for UPS and FedEx? What kind of magic pixie dust do they use to convince companies to not offer USPS?

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        Their logistics support for major shippers is mediocre at best (way behind Fedex/UPS), they’re not global (ship to the UK, they hand off to Royal Mail, Fedex doesn’t, at least for many services), their pricing isn’t always competitive, etc.

      • vivalakellye says:

        I use only USPS for online purchases–lacking a car makes it very inconvenient to pick up UPS and FedEx packages after three attempted deliveries (I have a busy schedule and no work address to mail the packages.) I do have my family send packages via FedEx to the local 24/7 store. Not having to pay the storage fee that UPS charges is awesome.

      • pgr says:

        I always use USPS over FEDEX or UPS. it’s cheaper, faster and more reliable (and they make Saturday deliveries).

        The USPS worked just fine till the conservative, right-wing, union buster, asshole, lawmakers decided that less is more!

    • nbs2 says:

      Not sure how you’d force businesses to offer USPS unless you made USPS a proper government entity. Otherwise I think you’d stray into forcing businesses to use a specific TP private business, which is part of my issue with the insurance mandate.

      Otherwise, I agree. This seems to be a more sensible solution than the management solution. But, I think some of that has to do with management having lower expectations of what Congress and the union would have allowed

      • bbf says:

        It only makes more sense because it lacks any solid details.
        Pretty much all it says is: work smarter, offer more stuff, increase prices and offers a dig at “the man” only making the worker take the brunt of the cuts.

        The devil is in the details.
        – Exactly adding *what* new services will actually make money, versus losing more?
        – How much should rates of what services should be raised? Would it actually result in more income, or less?

        Hey, I have an effin fool proof plan to balance the US Federal Budget:
        – The government should waste less money, and spend less than it collects.
        There you have it. Pay me $1 Billion dollars, I’ve solved the problem. You can work out the details yourself. :rolleyes:

        • Ryno23 says:

          Exactly.

        • nbs2 says:

          I think you’re missing the one big detail – they want to reduce congressional control over operations (which, of course, would fly in the face of a mandatory usage policy). This isn’t an innovative request, I know.

  8. dpeters11 says:

    The problem with most of their suggestions: requires legislative action.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      Legislative action is like a snail performing dressage: majestic but slow.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Well, that one fact is one of the major issue with the postal service, personally I think if they want it to operate outside the federal government then they need to select the people to run it and then give them the power they need to do so.

      Until they do that anything else is just putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound.

  9. Shtetl G says:

    Eliminate email and online bill pay! Bam, I just saved the post office!

  10. dicobalt says:

    Half the time my post office only has 1 person at the desk and a line about 8-10 people long with a 30 minute wait. The really hilarious thing is that there is the sign on the desk that says “Our goal is to serve you within 5 minutes, if we are unable to accomplish this please ask for a supervisor.”

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      Well you try providing service to a line of people without being allowed to hire the staff to provide the services. USPS is a poster child for doing more with less, and all they ever get is crap from their customers and fewer employees to do the work.

      • dicobalt says:

        I was in a similar position, totally swamped in customers 13 hours a day for 5 years I know exactly what it’s like. Being yelled at because I had to take 5 minutes to go to the bathroom OMG! It’s not the fault of the guy behind the counter by any means they are doing a good job under pressure. The problem is if they cut back our post office anymore it’s going to totally close. What’s worse is the couple people left working there all say the manger doesn’t ever lend a hand and barely does anything. All this while the post office in a neighboring city has 7 people working the counter and never has a line. Just odd.

  11. hmburgers says:

    I’d also like to point out that as much as I like the idea of “Forever Stamps” they are essentially a really bad idea because they limit future revenue in exchange for immediate gains.

    You see a bump in revenue from people buying stamps, especially ahead of a rate hike, but that only creates a vacuum on the other side.

    I think a tiered postage system makes more sense, a first class stamp is say 45c today so drop that to 25c… one stamp for intra-town mail… two stamps for intra-state… three for going to a bordering state… four for anywhere in the US… now you see lower costs within a town, but generally higher costs elsewhere… and when it comes down to it paying $1 to send something across the country? Doesn’t seem too bad when we pay $1-2 for a bottle of water. It would also encourage local mailing to be done in a more postal network efficient manner–i.e. if I’m paying a bill addressed to the near by town, I may choose to drop it in a box in that town instead of my home town… now the letter is entering the system at a more efficient point and I save some cents.

    • ajaxd says:

      First-class mail is not a big part of USPS business – bulk (junk) mail is. Increases in first-class mail cost generally have been below the rate of inflation so it is better for USPS to just sell “forever” stamps – otherwise inflation just eats the whole increase amount. Finally, charging much less for local or in-state mail wouldn’t make much sense: cost of collecting, sorting and delivering is the same, only transportation is affected by distance.

    • Not Given says:

      They send my local mail on a 230 mile round trip to be sorted. They used to sort local stuff in the post office and there was a separate box for local mail.

  12. atthec44 says:

    Well color me shocked that not a single one of their solutions involve reducing the cost of labor.

  13. Dr.Wang says:

    Is it my imagination or is it true that the industries suffering the worst financial situations also happen to be those that are heavily unionized and well paid?

  14. RandomHookup says:

    If you are going to be a retailer of any kind, you need to think like a retailer … meaning hours more appropriate for people who work. 9 am to 4 pm doesn’t cut it for most people.

  15. quirkyrachel says:

    I notice that none of the ideas involve better customer service and not treating your customers like crap when they walk through the door.

  16. SiliconPM says:

    So essentially privatize them. Lol.

  17. Tacojelly says:

    I really want USPS to be successful. When they work, they work well and help keep shipping prices down.

    Having good shipping is obviously going to be more as more retail stores close.

  18. sparc says:

    i’m on board with everything except raising prices.

    Left on their own to decide, they’re going to price themselves out of the lives of most Americans.

    • gman863 says:

      USPS should be allowed to raise prices on parcels relative to the cost of fuel.

      UPS is notorious for this. Even if you print ad pay for UPS shipping online (as opposed to getting raped with inflated fees at the UPS Store or Office Depot), their pricing structure would make Spirit Airlines blush.

      * Base fee
      * Fuel surcharge fee
      * Extra charge for residential delivery.
      * If the package is undeliverable, the sender must pay return UPS shipping.
      * Additional charge to pick up package (USPS does this free on Priority Mail).

  19. deadandy says:

    The biggest problem is that the public isn’t willing to support an organization that now largely only brings them things they don’t want. Bills and junk mail, pretty much. Most people are now using ebills, so it’s just junk. When I get the mail every day, I have two piles: shred if it has my personal information on it, recycle if it doesn’t. I don’t even look at the stuff.

    Oh please, legislators! Spend more time fixing the problems with an organization that exists to bring me crap I don’t want!

  20. crazydavythe1st says:

    So basically the same plan that the Postmaster General is advocating, minus the job cuts and any cuts to benefits.

    I’m completely biased since I’ve never worked at an employer that has provided pensions but it might make sense to start moving toward the 401k model like everyone else. With the amount they are spending they could move toward a 401k, set employer matches to a level that would be unprecedented in the private sector, and still save money.

    Heck, there are even hybrid models that at least guarantee a minimal pension even if the market completely collapses – provided that an employee makes certain minimum contributions.

  21. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    The one thing I didn’t see, and forgive me if I missed it, was delivering mail fewer days per week. Wouldn’t that help?

    • MrEvil says:

      Canning Saturday delivery is on the table still. However, the residential customers are baaaaawing at losing Saturday Delivery and business customers don’t want to lose a day during the week. It’s doubtful we’re going to lose a day of mail.

  22. bravo369 says:

    I have no issues with USPS going to a 2 or 3 day delivery system with the option of mail being picked up at a post office on the offdays. I think of the mail I get and there’s not a single thing that I absolutely positively need immediately. Even bills. This saves money on fuel, labor, maybe health and pension payments too if they are now considered part time. Have the post office open 6 days a week from 8am to 7pm so people can manually pick up mail if they so desire

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      Considering that mail delivery has gone from 2x/day deliveries direct to your door->1x/day delivery to your door->delivery to a mailbox->delivery to a group mailbox at the end of your street in the span of 20 years, I’d say they are well on their way.

  23. Jer in Denver says:

    ‘Requires Legislative Action’

    Doomed to fail. NEXT!

  24. Extended-Warranty says:

    I don’t want to see Saturday mail cancelled. It’s already somewhat annoying when you’re waiting for something and Sunday isn’t an option. 2 days in a row without mail service sucks in some situations. I say kill Wednesday.

    • pythonspam says:

      This.
      Cutting Tuesday or Wednesday delivery may inconvenience a few businesses, but stopping Saturday delivery means we have to wait up to 3 days for a netflix or newegg delivery depending on the time the item arrives at the sort-for-final delivery site.

  25. VashTS says:

    I wanted to work for the USPS but hardly any job offerings because it’s such a sweet deal working there. No one ever leaves, and the employees seem to work at their own, slow, pace. It’s a dream job to be honest.

  26. SiddhimaAmythaon says:

    need to go buy a few books of forever stamps this weekend (i only use like 8-10 a year but still)

  27. psm321 says:

    A much more logical plan

  28. SerenityDan says:

    Stop loosing so much mail and so many packages, more people will use you. The end.

  29. sj_user1 says:

    Republicans hate the USPS because it is an example of a successful government entity. They will do everything in their power to ruin it so they can show government run business does not work. The real problem is that Republican run government does not work.

  30. Rick Sphinx says:

    Do we really need delivery of home mail 6 days a week, NO, 2 or 3 days is fine for most, need something quicker, have it sent priority, just have Priority mail/pkgs delivered 6 days a week. I tried to notify the post office last week on the Virus email going around, I went to their website, it was impossible to do this, so I gave up.

  31. jayphat says:

    *sigh* pre funding. This argument again. On my phone, so i can’t give you the exact numbers but it goes something like this. The pension fund draws money from the contributors. The have been using a projected growth number for years of 6.5%. Instead, the actualized number was and still is closer to 3.1%, hence the mandate by the government for a higher contribution. NOW, if you take the contribution now and plug it into the 6.5% formula, oh yeah you get a 75 year pre funding that only exists on paper. Everybody uses these high ball theoretical numbers for their pensions, but the USPS is the only one Congress can mandate to do the correct thing.

  32. atomoverride says:

    how about we go to a paperless solution and end the need for mail service.

  33. mcgyver210 says:

    One of the only real positives for using USPS is Saturday delivery but in typical Incompetent Government Fashion they want to get rid of a good thing about them.