Saying that he has long been “skeptical” about whether the increased use of electronic communication is to blame for the Postal Service’s economic woes, APWU President William Burrus told lawmakers July 29 that “It is imperative that postal decision-makers correctly identify the cause of the reduction in volume and the trends that will drive future communication.”
“Too often,” Burrus told members of the House subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia, “decisions are being made with scant appreciation of what will cause volume to increase or decrease.”
The USPS must respond to the troubled economy, the union president testified [PDF], but the cost-reduction programs the Postal Service is pursuing, such as closing facilities and reducing the number of days of delivery, will leave the Postal Service unable to compete when the economy recovers and mail volume returns. Postal executives are making decisions based on an analysis that mail volume will never again reach previous levels, he said.
“It is important to note,” Burrus said, “that our nation’s mail volume was highest in 2006,” when the economy was strong and the use of electronic communication was already widespread. Of the 213 billion items mailed that year, 190 billion pieces involved business communication, and only 2.9 percent, or 19.4 billion pieces, was sent from one household to another, he noted.
The union president cautioned that strategies based “on the premise that the conversion of hard-copy mail to electronic communication was the cause of declining volume” don’t take into consideration the impact of the economy. “We must keep in mind that the mail stream is — and will continue to be — dominated by business-related communication, which is especially sensitive to the economic environment.”
“The diversion of hard-copy communication has been less affected by electronic conversion than by corporate marketing strategies that focus on the nation’s economic downturn,” he said.