News / USA

Postal Chief: Delayed Service Cuts Threaten Iconic Institution

USPS carrier Jamesa Euler encounters barking dog in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 7, 2013.
USPS carrier Jamesa Euler encounters barking dog in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 7, 2013.
The head of the U.S. Postal Service has dismissed union calls for his removal, saying his controversial plan to reduce Saturday mail service is necessary to prevent one of America’s oldest institutions from suffering the same demise as other iconic industries.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in an interview Friday that cutting service from six to five days would be only a “short-term solution” to address the USPS’s $20 billion deficit, but that he couldn’t wait any longer for Congress to make long-term legislative changes to ease the burden.
 
Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe at U.S. Postal Service headquarters, Washington, Feb. 6, 2013.Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe at U.S. Postal Service headquarters, Washington, Feb. 6, 2013.
x
Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe at U.S. Postal Service headquarters, Washington, Feb. 6, 2013.
Postmaster General and CEO Patrick Donahoe at U.S. Postal Service headquarters, Washington, Feb. 6, 2013.
“Time is money. If these issues would have been dealt with in 2008 or 2009, we would have been in much better shape financially,” he said, acknowledging it’s not a “happy decision politically.”
 
A witness to industrial decline
 
Donahoe, who grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, once the steel capital of the world, says that industry’s steady decline left an impression on him. As the mills closed, he recounts, the newly unemployed would say, “I never thought management would let that happen to us.”
 
Now, as head of the Postal Service, Donahoe says he’s not going to let his postal workers suffer the way Pittsburgh’s steel workers did.

“We’re not going to kick the can and not do what we have to do and jeopardize this great organization that’s great for America, that’s great for American business, that’s great for employees,” he said. “We’ve got to make the right decision.”
 
Big labor weighs in
 
But cutting service is the wrong decision, according to some members of Congress and labor unions, two of which are calling for Donahoe’s removal.
 
“He did not get the stakeholders of the Postal Service together to make this decision,” said Jeanette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association. “He let the unions know less than 24 hours before the announcement was made.”
 
Dwyer questions Donahoe’s assertion that his plan could save $2 billion annually, and says costs to remote communities would outweigh the benefits. Part-time letter carriers who’ve spent years doing Saturday service to in order to get full-time jobs will be cut, she says, and rural residents not connected to the Internet will be more isolated than ever.
 
“There are competitors out there that would like that mailbox for any of those six days,” Dwyer said. “I believe this could be the beginning of the postal service losing business.”

But the postal service has been losing business for a long time. It reported a $15.9 billion net loss for the 2012 fiscal year—three times the 2011 loss.
 
Changing times

The service that once tied the country together, delivering letters and news to the biggest cities and the smallest towns by pony, steamboat, rail, road and air, has lost relevance with the rise of the Internet. As more people communicate and pay bills online, the volume of lightweight letters and packages sent through the post has declined dramatically.
 
The organization’s problems are far more complicated than a drop in First Class mail, however. Struggling with a kind of public-private identity problem, USPS receives no taxpayer funding, yet is an independent government agency; it is expected to make money, yet Congress, influenced by the lobbying power of private shipping and office-equipment companies, can tell it how to run the business.
 
It’s also legally required to pay for employee health retirement benefits for the next 75 years, a law to which no other public or private entity is subject.
 
For Donahoe, it is this dynamic that must change if the Postal Service is to stay open.
 
His push to cut Saturday service, which critics say may not be legal, is a way to force the issue.
 
“Why don’t we fix this thing once and for all,” he said.
 
Political differences

While he declined to blame anyone in Congress for the Postal Service’s money troubles, he says lawmakers must own up to reality.
 
“When the law was decided in 2006 to require us to pre-fund health benefits: that was a good decision,” he said. “The problem that happened was, instead of spreading payments out over 25 or 30 years, they required us to pay them in 10 years. As soon as recession hit, we were unable to make the payment without going into debt.”
 
The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs will hold a hearing on the issue next Wednesday.
 
Donahoe will be there, as will Dwyer.
 
The labor leader says she shares Donahoe’s primary goal—to save the U.S. Postal Service—even if their approaches couldn’t be more different.
 
“If you’re a service-oriented company, what company can succeed by slashing service when service is your brand?” she said.
 
If Donahoe’s plan works, Saturday service will end in August.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid