Forty-one years ago Congress told the U.S. Postal Service to start acting like an independent business and pay its own way. Every time the Postal Service tries, something stands in the way: Congress.
Facing annual losses of $18.2 billion by 2015 and a possible default this year, the Postal Service has a five-year plan for profitability. It wants to end Saturday mail delivery, close hundreds of letter-sorting facilities and thousands of post offices and consider breaking union contracts to fire employees. It also wants to set up an independent health plan, raise postal rates and enter lines of business such as delivering wine and liquor.
Senators who voted for an overhaul bill, which passed 62-37 last month, maintained that the prohibitions are reasonable to give the organization’s employees and customers time to adjust.
Postal workers’ unions including the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers say deep cuts aren’t necessary. They blame the Postal Service’s losses on a 2006 congressional mandate that the organization pre-fund 100 percent of its projected health benefits liabilities to ease concerns of a potential taxpayer bailout. The Postal Service is seeking a reprieve from $11.1 billion in those payments due in a few months.
“It’s just a process one goes through,” Donahoe said of the letter in an interview after a May 4 postal board meeting in Washington. “There are many different opinions.”