Category Archives: Post Office

Canada Post’s problems are driven by the neoliberal assault on public services

Micheal Laxer | June 30 2016 | rabble.ca 

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Photo via wikimedia commons

The “problems” facing Canada Post are entirely ideological.

Canada’s politicians and media have bought into a long-term project driven by right-wing notions of society and the economy that seeks to re-frame public services as “businesses” that should be run “efficiently” along the lines allegedly followed by the private sector.

While the mythology of the private sector’s supposed efficiency is nothing more than that, mythology, that is a matter for a different article.

What is abundantly clear is that by seeking to apply fictional market ideals to government run services successive governments have sought — intentionally or instinctively — to change the way the public views these services by no longer treating them as services at all.

Canada Post is run not as a public service for the public interest but as a corporation that seeks to make a profit, which is not the purpose of a public service.

Continue reading Canada Post’s problems are driven by the neoliberal assault on public services

Don’t Shut Post Offices—Reinvent Them

By Naomi Klein, published February 29, 2016 at Common Dreams

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(Image: Delivering Community Power)

Naomi Klein delivered the following remarks in Ottawa on February 29, at the Leap Day launch of Delivering Community Power, a proposal to turn postal offices into green community hubs to power Canada’s next economy. Leap Day is the official kickoff date for dozens of climate action and events already planned in Canada and around the world, which will take place throughout February and beyond. Check out leapyear2016.org and #leapmanifesto on Twitter for more.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging that we’re on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

I’m delighted to be here today with my colleagues from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Idle No More, ACORN and the Canadian Labour Congress, brought together by our allies from Friends of Public Services.

2016 is a leap year, and today, February 29th, is Leap Day. We are all currently enjoying the extra day we add to our calendars, every four years, to bring them into alignment with the earth’s orbit around the sun.

We do this because it’s easier to change our human-created systems than to change the laws of nature. In this way, the leap year is a perfect metaphor for the present moment, in which our political and economic systems badly need updating to accommodate the hard realities of our common home, the Earth.

We see the conflicts all around us. In the gap between what scientists tell us we must do to prevent catastrophic warming, and the emission reduction pledges our government has proposed. In the gap between even those inadequate pledges and the actual policies that would get us there.

Continue reading Don’t Shut Post Offices—Reinvent Them

Postal Banking Worked—Let’s Bring It Back

By Mehrsa Baradaran, published January 7m 2016 in The Nation

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A statue of Benjamin Franklin in front of the local post office in Markham, Virginia. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

Regulated, federally subsidized banks serve the wealthy and the middle class. A Wild West hodgepodge of unregulated lenders serves everybody else.

When I moved to Georgia a few years ago, I went to the town water office to get the water turned on. When I arrived, around lunchtime, there was a long line at the cashier’s window. At first, I waited in the line; then a woman approached me to ask me what I needed—she apparently knew I was at the wrong window. After I told her, she took me to a back office where I set up my water account and initiated auto-payment on my water bill. As I was leaving, I asked her what the long line was for. But given what I do for a living, I should have known. The line was for customers without bank accounts who have to spend their lunch break paying their water bill in cash. And their heat bill, and phone… you get the idea.

Then I heard from a local pastor that many of his parishioners have a cash crunch right before the holidays because their heat bills spike. The church tries to help out, but it can’t help everyone, and the folks it can’t help have to get a payday loan so they can keep the heat on in their homes. Those borrowers likely spend the first several months of the year (usually more) paying down the absurd interest rates on these loans (between 300 percent to 2,000 percent APR). I knew all about the statistics and the scale of the problem, but it’s still hard for me to believe how hard life can be for some people.

According to Federal Reserve statistics, about half of the US population would need to borrow money if they had a shortfall of $400 due to an unexpected expense. And as for basic financial services, over 30 million are either unbanked or under-banked—meaning that they rely on alternative financial services. The unbanked pay a significant portion of their paychecks—around 10 percent—to use and move their money. This is more than the average low-income family spends on food. And this doesn’t take into account the time and stress of having to take time off from work to go to the water office to pay your bill.

Continue reading Postal Banking Worked—Let’s Bring It Back

The Postal Service’s “Retail Channel Strategy”: A blueprint for privatizing the post office

by Save the Post Office, published November 12, 2015

Retail Channel Strategy presentation

t’s been clear for a long time that the Postal Service is in the process of privatizing itself by shifting processing operations to companies like Pitney Bowes through the workshare system and contracting out billions of dollars of work to private corporations (over $12 billion in 2014).  The Postal Service has also been working to privatize its retail operations by creating a vast network of alternative retail channels.

This transformation of the retail system is the subject of a revealing and recently unearthed PowerPoint presentation entitled “Retail Channel Strategy.”  The presentation was prepared as a “discussion document” for the Postal Service by McKinsey & Company back in March 2012.  It’s about how the Postal Service could save billions a year by shifting its retail business from low-traffic post offices to alternatives like private retailers, self-service kiosks, and digital platforms.

The presentation is dated a month after the Postal Service published its five-year plan, “Plan to Profitability,” which was prepared by several other consulting firms, based on previous work by McKinsey (as discussed in this previous post).  The five-year plan indicated that the Postal Service would save $2 billion a year thanks to changes in its retail operations, but it provided no details about how that could happen.

Continue reading The Postal Service’s “Retail Channel Strategy”: A blueprint for privatizing the post office

When Titans collide: UPS petitions the PRC to change USPS costing methodologies

by Mark Jamison, published October 26, 2015 at Save The Post Office

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The United Parcel Service is very concerned that you might be paying too much for a postage stamp.

If you’re wondering why UPS would be worried about something like that, it has to do with the way postal rates are set.  According to the law, each USPS product is supposed to cover its share of the Postal Service’s operating costs, which includes costs attributable to that product as well as a share of total institutional costs.

UPS believes that market-dominant products — First Class mail, Standard mail, and periodicals — are covering more than their fair share of the Postal Service’s operating costs, while competitive products — Priority and most shipping services — are not paying enough.

As a result, argues UPS, the average customer who buys a First-Class stamp is paying too much because part of the stamp’s price is being used to subsidize competitive products.  UPS wants the cost allocation methodology changed so that competitive products pay a larger share of the Postal Service’s operating costs.

Then the Postal Service will to have to raise the prices of the products that UPS competes with, which will put UPS in a better competitive position and increase its profits.  UPS doesn’t really care that some USPS customers are paying too much for postage.  UPS cares about UPS.

The UPS petition

UPS has been complaining about the costing methodology for many years, but in recent weeks it has intensified its efforts to get the Postal Regulatory Commission to do something about the problem.  In a petition recently filed with the PRC, UPS argues that the costing methodology used by the Postal Service and PRC is seriously flawed, and it recommends several changes that are intended to make the system fairer and bring it into compliance with the law.  (The UPS filing is in PRC Docket Number RM2016-2.)

Continue reading When Titans collide: UPS petitions the PRC to change USPS costing methodologies

How prefunding retiree health benefits impacts the Postal Service’s bottom line — and how Brookings got it wrong

published at Save the Post Office on October 08, 2015

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Brookings’ panel on “The Future of the United States Postal Service

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a column by Lisa Rein entitled “Should the Postal Service be sold to save it?

The article was about a recent paper by Elaine Kamarck published on the Brookings Institute’s website.  Kamarck is the Founding Director of the Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings, as well as being a Senior Fellow in Brooking’s Governance Studies.  Her paper is entitled “Delaying the inevitable: Political stalemate and the U.S. Postal Service.”

Kamarck’s thesis is that the Postal Service is going through a “crisis of obsolescence,” its financial losses are unsustainable, and “the political system is stuck and unable to do anything about it.”  The thing to do now, concludes Kamarck, is split the Postal Service in two.  One organization would fulfill the universal service obligation by delivering market-dominant mail.  The other part would be privatized and take over competitive products (Priority Mail and package shipping); it would also be given the freedom to expand into new areas of business now prohibited for the Postal Service.

Continue reading How prefunding retiree health benefits impacts the Postal Service’s bottom line — and how Brookings got it wrong

The Right Wing’s Assault on the Post Office – Smashing the Myth That It’s in Financial Trouble

by Yves Smith, published October 06, 2015 at Naked Capitalism

Yves here. we’ve run posts on the issue of the manufactured Post Office budget “crisis,” but this bogus idea has been touted so widely that it apparently needs to be said, again and again, that the Post Office is more than able to pay for itself.

By Zaid Jilani, an AlterNet staff writer who you can follow at @zaidjilani on Twitter. Originally published at Alternet

The Washington Post recently published an article asking if the post office should “be sold to save it.” It begins with an explanation of what the author sees as an unsustainable postal service:

The U.S. Postal Service, which has been losing customers for almost a decade, is still struggling to right itself. Everyone understands its basic problem. The electronic age has pushed first-class mail into an unstoppable decline. To stay afloat, the post office needs to get its costs under control, by closing post offices, eliminating Saturday delivery, downsizing its workforce. To boost revenue, it could offer banking services and sell lots of stuff besides stamps.

It goes on to advocate for privatizing the agency by selling off parts of it to bidders who could then operate it independently.

That year, the Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). Under the terms of PAEA, the USPS was forced to “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span” – meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn’t even hired yet, something that “no other government or private corporation is required to do.”The problem with the Post‘s argument starts in its thesis: that the post office is in some sort of deep fiscal hole of its own making – a result of being left behind in the Internet Age and a shrinking consumer base. The truth is that almost all of the postal service’s losses can be traced back to a single change in the law made by the Republican Congress in 2006.

Continue reading The Right Wing’s Assault on the Post Office – Smashing the Myth That It’s in Financial Trouble

New USPS service performance reports show significant delays in delivering the mail

by Save the Post Office, published May 13, 2015

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The Postal Service has released its service performance reports for the second quarter of the fiscal year, January 1 to March 31, 2015.  They show that it’s not just your imagination — the mail has been slowing down, and in some cases, by a lot.  The reports can be found on the USPS website here, and a more complete data set can be downloaded from the PRC website here.

This is the first period during which the new service standards were in effect.  These standards, which began on January 5, eliminated overnight delivery and added about a day to most delivery times.  The new reports show that even with slower standards the service performance has gone down compared to both the previous quarter and the same period last year.  The scores also fall well short of the Postal Service’s own targets.

The results shown in the reports will come as no surprise.  According to a Washington Post article on April 27 by Lisa Rein, “Preliminary internal data shows that the Postal Service did not meet even its lower targets for first-class mail during the first seven weeks of 2015, with letters that are supposed to take three days … arriving on time just 54 percent to 63 percent of the time.”

Continue reading New USPS service performance reports show significant delays in delivering the mail

Civil Disobedience and the Mailman

by Save The Post Office, published April 22, 2015

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From the Tampa Bay News, “Ruskin gyrocopter pilot says postal officials are telling him not to talk to media,” April 20, 2015

The Ruskin mail carrier who last week flew a gyrocopter into restricted airspace over Washington D.C., to make a political statement says he has been put on paid leave with the U.S. Postal Service with orders not to discuss his story with the media.

“I was informed by the acting postmaster—and he sounded like he was reading from a script—that I was on administrative leave pending an investigation,” Hughes wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

“I am NOT allowed on postal property without advance permission and I can only enter the building through the front if I do visit with permission. (This injunction always precedes a termination.) I asked about the nature of the administrative leave—it’s with pay BUT I’m not allowed to talk to the media AT ALL.”

It is another restriction that Hughes said he intends to violate. He said the move amounted to a “gag order” that he did not respect.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service said she could not discuss Hughes’ employment status.

“I can confirm that he is a rural mail carrier,” said Enola Rice, the USPS regional communications director for Central Florida. “We don’t discuss the status of employees.  All I can do is confirm that he is an employee.”

*   *   *  *  *

From NBC News, “Gyrocopter Pilot, Doug Hughes, Frustrated His Message Isn’t Getting Through,” April 19, 2015

Hughes spent a night in jail after Capitol Police arrested him.  The ultralight aircraft and its cargo—a U.S. Postal Service bin carrying the letters—were seized.

Hughes’ Russian-born wife, Alena, told the AP that her husband acted out of patriotism for the United States.

Asked Sunday if he too thinks he’s a patriot or simply crazy, Hughes said. “Everyone gets to make up their own mind about me, that’s what I’d say.”

“But do you consider yourself a patriot?” a reporter asked.

“No, I’m a mailman,” he said.

*   *   *  *  *

From his Letter to Congress, Doug Hughes, April 15, 2015

“The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself. They know it.  They know we know it.  And yet, Nothing Happens!” —John Kerry, 2-13

Continue reading Civil Disobedience and the Mailman

How long does the mail take? Let the Postal Service count the days

by Save the Post Office, published April 9, 2015

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The Postal Service is proposing to change the way it measures the on-time service performance of First Class Mail.  Instead of contracting a third-party to evaluate how long it takes for the mail to be delivered, the Postal Service wants to count the days itself.  The change requires the approval of the Postal Regulatory Commission, and yesterday several stakeholders and postal watchdogs filed comments to PRC Docket PI2015-1.

The current system is called External First-Class Measurement (EXFC).  The Postal Service has been using this system since 1990.  As the Postal Service explains on one of its quarterly performance reports:

“EXFC is a rigorous external sampling system measuring the time it takes from deposit of mail into a collection box or lobby chute until its delivery to a home or business.  EXFC measures the transit time for single-piece rate First- Class cards, letters, and flat envelopes and compares this actual service against service standards.”

The EXFC system is conducted by an external independent third-party — IBM — and it measures the end-to-end length of time it takes for mail to be delivered.  The participants, known as droppers and reporters, are supposed to be kept confidential, and the whole process is supposed to be conducted without managers and workers knowing which pieces are being tested.  The test mail is statistically analyzed based on sample volume, mail characteristics, and the location where the mail was entered and delivered.

Continue reading How long does the mail take? Let the Postal Service count the days