From the National Association of Postmasters of the US (NAPUS)
Tuesday’s business session at the NAPUS Leadership Conference lived up to President Bob Rapoza’s predication from the day before that some of the speakers will tell us what we want to hear; others will tell us what we don’t want to hear. It’s imperative, though, to be informed and have as much information as possible in order to be effective advocates for NAPUS and the Postal Service. Postmasters need to hear both sides.
Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, warned NAPUS members they may get a polite reception during their visits to Capitol Hill, but House Republicans have no intention of refunding or correcting USPS overpayments to its retirement and benefits funds. He said he has met with Hill staff who are unsympathetic and feel, “That’s not my problem, it’s the Postal Service’s problem.”And some on Capitol Hill think the Postal Service is a dying business. Polito disputed this: “No one is more of a geek than I am, but the belief that everybody is going to do business digitally doesn’t comport with reality or facts.”Not everyone allows technology to dictate his or her life. The Postal Service, he claimed, is evolving—not dying. “It’s a very powerful business tool. Mail still is an important part of how we do business.” He challenged Postmasters to choose one of two paths: Either figure out how to evolve the Postal Service, while explaining to Congress you need to be trusted with that responsibility and still meeting the nation’s needs, or continue with “business as usual.” He predicted a dire future unless Postmasters control their fate and take a responsible course of act
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to conference attendees. Cefalo said Sanders is a friend of Postmasters and knows what rural post offices mean to America. Sanders thanked the Vermont Postmasters at the conference for the excellent work they do for the state. He said, “I don’t have to tell anyone you’re visiting Washington at a very difficult moment in our history.” He talked about the anti-federal-employee mood in the nation’s capital and said it’s disturbing because there are many people who work day and night for the federal government who are trying to do their best.
He referenced the attempt by the Postal Service and some in Congress to do away with the provision in current law that prohibits closing a post office for operating at a deficit. He read the pertinent section of Title 39 that says it is the intent of Congress that effective postal services be insured to urban and rural communities. “I like that statement,” he said. “Let’s fight to maintain it!”
Megan Brennan, USPS chief operating office and executive vice president, told NAPUS members her presence at the meeting was out of respect for NAPUS, President Bob Rapoza and Postmasters. “I know what a valuable partner NAPUS is,” she said. “Given what the challenges are, it’s critical that relationship develops and we develop the Postal Service for the 21st century marketplace.” She thanked Postmasters for doing the “heavy lifting” and for their leadership—not only in the Postal Service, but their communities, as well. She said the demands on Postmasters won’t lessen, but averred the work they do is critical for the Postal Service.
NAPUS Hears from Postal and Congressional Leaders
David Williams, USPS Inspector General, praised Postmasters for the jobs they are doing. He pointed out that, despite the Postal Service’s monetary losses the past four years, revenue was $67 billion last year. “That’s still enormous,” he said. “You are the largest and most robust post in the world.” He discussed the crippling and wrongful payments being made to OPM for benefit funds, claiming the Postal Service is being used as a cash cow. He mentioned various legislation addressing this issue introduced by Sens. Collins and Carper and Reps. Lynch and Connolly, in addition to the president’s budget acknowledging the overpayments. Besides these challenges, Williams talked about the need to modernize and innovate the Postal Service. He said the agency is in the middle of a communications revolution and there are tremendous opportunities out there.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) as a strong and loyal ally of Postmasters. Connolly said reports of the Postal Service’s demise are premature. He acknowledged the USPS is in an area of intense competition and it no longer has a monopoly on the market. “But,” he added, “it’s not true that it can’t respond.” In addressing the Postal Service’s overpayments to its benefits funds, he predicted those overpayments, amortized over the next 10 years, could entirely wipe out the agency’s operating loss. He also stressed it needs to look at developing a new business model for the future. Connolly added, “The Postal Service has a lot of competitive advantages. It was the recession, not the Internet, that hurt volume. We need to look at post offices as focal points for a lot more commercial and civic activities.
Ruth Goldway, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, is an advocate of universal service. She said, basically, in the past six years, since the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act has been in place, the Postal Service has paid $21 billion into the health care retirement benefit fund established by that law and it’s lost $20 billion. If not for that $21 billion, it would have more than broken even and have less debt to carry forward.
Postmaster General Pat Donahoe thanked Postmasters for the excellent job they continue to do under trying conditions. He said there have been a lot of changes in the organization and in its legislative efforts. And any legislative efforts NAPUS makes with Congress are appreciated. Donahoe said he wants to look at all aspects of the Postal Service and make it simpler and easier for customers. “There’s a lot going on,” he said, “Be ready!” And some of the changes have to start at the top. “We’re reducing the officer head count, we’ve eliminated one area and will eliminate seven—if not 10—districts and shrink the others. Leaders need to lead,” he said. If those changes aren’t made, the Postal Service never will be financially healthy. He wants Postmasters to know what’s going on so they can let their employees know.