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 Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora