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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More