Bader on the postal closure

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Chuck Bader, treasurer of the local postal workers union APWU-CSAL #247 and vice-president of Colorado AFL-CIO, sent out this press release on the closure of the Springs-based processing center for the United States Postal Service.

In it, Bader, a longtime employee of the Postal Service, argues that the closure — one of hundreds — will "have a devastating impact on millions of individual citizens who rely on the mail to connect them to their communities and the nation at large. Nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t have broadband Internet access, and 28 percent of Americans have no Internet access at all. Approximately 55 percent of consumers still receive hard-copy bills and statements."

The USPS, he says, is at the "heart of a $1 trillion private-sector industry that employs 9 million people and generates more than $65 billion worth of mail annually."

And, as he has argued all along, the fiscal crisis within the USPS is not solely of its doing. Nor, he says, is it just a sign of the times, but due mostly to a misguided policy thrust upon it by Congress.

Although first-class mail has declined over the past four years, online bill payment and other forms of electronic communication are only part of the problem.

The primary cause of the Postal Service’s dire financial situation is a mandate imposed by Congress in 2006 that requires the USPS to “pre-fund” healthcare benefits for future retirees. This obligation drains approximately $5.5 billion annually from postal accounts to fund a 75-year obligation — in just 10 years. No other government agency or private business bears this burden.

Were it not for the financial chokehold Congress created in 2006, the Postal Service would have netted a $611 million surplus during fiscal years 2006-2010 instead of racking up a $21 billion deficit.

The whole release after the jump.

The USPS: Congress Broke It, Congress Must Fix It

The controversy over the Postal Service’s efforts to close the Colorado Springs USPS Mail Processing Plant is being repeated in hundreds of American communities, as the USPS prepares to close more than half of the nation’s 460 mail processing centers.

In Colorado Springs and cities and small towns across the country, business owners, citizens, community leaders and elected officials have demanded the USPS withdraw plans that will slow down mail delivery, kill jobs, and hurt the local economy.

At dozens of public meetings to address community concerns, the Postal Service’s answer has been essentially the same: Facility closures are necessary to help solve the USPS financial “crisis,” they say.

But the Postal Service is unable to substantiate projected savings, and many observers — including members of Congress — have charged that USPS estimates are wildly inflated.

And the cost of closures will be high: The Postal Service announced Dec. 5 that massive closures will force the USPS to eliminate overnight delivery for first-class mail and periodicals, change next-day delivery to two days, and extend two-day delivery to three days.

Locally, closing the mail processing plant means residents and businesses may not receive bills, payments, prescriptions, online purchases and community newspapers on time.

Nationally, dismantling the USPS distribution network will have a severe impact on companies that rely on the Postal Service to conduct business — to deliver bills and catalogues, return payments, distribute information about products and services, and deliver goods to customers. The Postal Service is at the heart of $1 trillion private-sector industry that employs 9 million people and generates more than $65 billion worth of mail annually.

Closing postal facilities also will have a devastating impact on millions of individual citizens who rely on the mail to connect them to their communities and the nation at large. Nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t have broadband Internet access, and 28 percent of Americans have no Internet access at all. Approximately 55 percent of consumers still receive hard-copy bills and statements.

Fortunately, the massive proposed postal closures are unnecessary. Congress created the problem and Congress can fix it — without any cost to taxpayers.

The cause of the Postal Service’s financial crisis is largely misunderstood. Although first-class mail has declined over the past four years, online bill payment and other forms of electronic communication are only part of the problem.

The primary cause of the Postal Service’s dire financial situation is a mandate imposed by Congress in 2006 that requires the USPS to “pre-fund” healthcare benefits for future retirees. This obligation drains approximately $5.5 billion annually from postal accounts to fund a 75-year obligation — in just 10 years. No other government agency or private business bears this burden.

Were it not for the financial chokehold Congress created in 2006, the Postal Service would have netted a $611 million surplus during fiscal years 2006-2010 instead of racking up a $21 billion deficit.

In addition, the Postal Service has overfunded its retirement accounts by billions of dollars. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which oversees these accounts, has concluded that it cannot allow the USPS to reclaim these funds without congressional authorization.

In response to the fiscal squeeze placed on it by Congress, the Postal Service has proposed to close thousands of post offices, slash its mail processing network, and eliminate prompt mail service for the nation’s citizens and businesses.

Unfortunately, the postal reform bill pending in the Senate (S. 1789) fails to adequately address the problems. Although the 21st Century Postal Service Act would reduce the level of retiree healthcare pre-funding, the annual cost of pre-funding would continue to impose significant debt on the USPS and would result in the unnecessary cuts in service the Postal Service is planning.

There’s a much better solution: Congress must repeal the pre-funding requirement, allow the USPS to recover overpayments to its retiree funds, and protect service to the American people.

Resolving the Postal Service’s financial crisis would free up the funds the agency needs to maintain service standards, protect the mail processing network, prevent the closing of rural post offices, retain six-day delivery, and modernize. For the USPS to remain relevant in the digital age, Congress must permit it to offer new products and services.

The USPS network is a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure. Destroying it will lead to the demise of the world’s largest, most efficient and most trusted mail system — one that our founding fathers expressly authorized in the Constitution.

Congress created the Postal Service’s financial crisis, and Congress must fix it, NOW.

I want to express my sincere appreciation to Senator Mark Udall and Senator Michael Bennet for supporting several amendments to S. 1789- the 21st Century Postal Service Act. I encourage you to join me in showing our appreciation by calling Senator Udall’s local office at (719) 471-3993 and Senator Bennet’s local office at (719) 328-1100 and thanking them for supporting the important amendments to S. 1789- the 21st Century Postal Service Act.

Please call Congressman Lamborn at (719) 520-0055 and ask him to oppose H. R. 2309; a bill that would financially devastate the USPS. Ask Congressman Lamborn to support H. R. 3591; a bill that will provide the right solution.

Sincerely,

Chuck Bader, Treasurer

American Postal Workers Union #247

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