My name is Leah Pack and I am the A&E Section Editor this year. I have been a member of the Harbinger staff since sophomore year and participate in other school activities such as Student Council and SHARE. Read Full »
The U.S. Postal Service is taking another step towards saving their government-run business after facing financial struggles for the past six years. The Postal Service has announced a plan to stop the delivery of mail on Saturdays by August 2013. Although this change will mark the ending of a 150-year tradition of Monday-Saturday mail delivery, it could take away $2 billion annually from their losses, which totaled $15.9 billion last year.
First-class mail volume has declined by 37 percent since 2007 because the Internet has become a source of communication due to its convenience and speed. More Americans have also turned to online banking. As of 2011, the total volume of first-class mail being sent was at 73.5 billion pieces of mail, compared to 95.9 billion in 2007. This number is expected to continue shrinking based on Generation X’s dependence on electronic devices.
“If I need to talk to my friends I just call or text them,” junior Joe Frazell said, “and I don’t send mail very often so I think it makes sense to stop delivering mail on Saturdays.”
Along with the reduction of mail flow causing economic problems, the U.S. Postal Service is required to pre-fund health benefits for retirees. This extra expense added up to be $11.1 billion of the total losses in 2012.
“Our business model was based off the assumption that mail volume would always grow, and it did for more than 200 years right up until 2006 when we delivered more than 212 billion pieces of mail,” Richard Watkins, U.S. Postal Service Corporate Communications representative said. “Then for the first time ever it began to shrink in 2007.”
Over the past five years, the Postal Service has unsuccessfully appealed to Congress for the elimination of mail delivery on Saturdays. In the past year, they have been urging Congress to pass legislation. This would include allowance for a five-day-a-week delivery, reduction of annual payments towards the future retiree health fund and experimentation with different types of business. Their decision to make the switch was announced without congressional approval, and it is unknown whether they will be able to follow through with their plan without the support of Congress.
“We are hoping that members of congress will see the wisdom in the approach that the Postal Service is taking,” Watkins said. “We have seen some members of Congress come out and support but again we will know more at the end of March.”
In hopes of decreasing losses, the Postal Service has closed post offices, reduced hours at some locations, eliminated jobs and consolidated mail processing centers. Even after implementing those changes, the U.S. Postal Service still lost $41 billion over the past six years.This loss further encouraged them to act on their plan to end mail deliveries on Saturdays.
“I think there are better solutions out there [than stopping Saturday deliveries],” Craig Pedeliski, local Mail Carrier said. “They keep throwing money in the wrong directions, for example, renting buildings for the last several years instead of owning them, supporting Lance Armstrong with thousands of dollars for advertising, renting the sorting machines instead of owning them and [putting] too many people in upper management positions.”
The switch from a six-day-a-week delivery to a five-day-a-week delivery would mainly affect first-class mail. Under the new schedule, packages, mail-order medicines and priority and express mail will still be delivered on Saturdays. Post office hours will also remain unchanged which will allow people to rent a PO box in order to get their letter mail on Saturdays if necessary.
“Independent surveys have shown that 80 percent of both residential and commercial customers prefer going to a five day delivery week for letter mail rather than more drastic measures such as closing post offices and/or raising the price of postage,” Watkins said.
Since 2006 the Postal Service has reduced their nationwide workforce by more than 193,000 employees. They have been able to achieve those workforce reductions completely through attrition, but it is projected that the workforce will still need to be reduced by about 25,000 more employees nationwide.
“With less employees, I would have weekends off with my family but lose days off during the week which comes in handy for getting personal things done,” Pedeliski said.
The U.S. Postal Service is not tax supported and does not receive money from Congress, pushing them to make changes on their own.
“We have not received a single dime of taxpayer money in more than 30 years for our daily operations, and we are proud of that,” Watkins said. “We are self sufficient. We support our own daily operations, but we want to keep it that way.”