Senator Collins Calls For Bipartisan Postal Reform

U.S. Senator Susan Collins today, from the Senate floor, outlined the importance of the bipartisan postal reform bill she has cosponsored with Senators Joe Lieberman (I/D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Scott Brown (R-MA).

The text of Senator Collins’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, is below:

The Majority Leader has indicated that the Senate may soon turn to legislation to reform an American institution, the United States Postal Service.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of having a Postal Service. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution gives Congress the power to establish Post Offices.

The Postal Service is also required by law to provide, as nearly as practicable, the “entire population of the United States” with “adequate and efficient postal services at fair and reasonable rates.” This is called the universal mandate and ensures that the Postal Service cannot leave rural states or small towns behind.

The Postal Service, which has delivered mail to generation after generation of Americans, will not be able to make payroll sometime this fall, according to the Postmaster General himself.

In the past two years alone, the Postal Service has lost $13.6 billion, and first-class mail volume has dropped 26 percent since 2006.

No one wants the mail to stop later this year. That means that we must pass a bill.

The U.S. Postal Service is the linchpin of a mailing industry that employs more than 8.5 million people and generates almost $1 trillion in economic activity every year. Virtually everyone — from big retailers to small businesses to online shops — relies on the Postal Service to deliver packages, advertise services and send out bills. The jobs of American in fields as diverse as direct mail, printing, catalog companies, and paper manufacturing all are linked to a healthy Postal Service.

Nearly 38,000 Mainers work in jobs related to the mailing industry, including thousands at our pulp and paper mills like the one in Bucksport, Maine, which provides paper for Time magazine.

The crisis facing the Postal Service is dire, but not hopeless. With the right tools and action from Congress, the Obama Administration, and the Postal leadership, the Postal Service can reform, right-size and modernize.

My colleagues, Senators Lieberman, Carper, Brown, and I have crafted legislation to update the Postal Service’s business model and give it the tools it needs to survive and succeed. We have introduced a bipartisan bill that will help the Postal Service reduce operating costs, modernize its business model, and innovate to generate new revenue.

However, the Postmaster General and I fundamentally disagree on how to save the U.S. Postal Service. He continues to make decisions that will severely degrade service and drive away customers.

It is clear we have two very different visions on how best to help the Postal Service. While each of us wants to ensure the Postal Service is set on a sustainable path, I fear Mr. Donahoe’s approach would shrink the Postal Service to a level that will ultimately hasten its insolvency.

The current plan by the Postal Service to slow first-class mail, close facilities, and ignore Congress flies in the face of the good faith we extended during the many months we have worked on the reform bill.

We worked hand in hand over a number of months with the Postmaster General to craft a bill that would save the Postal Service money in a way that prioritized the lifeblood of the mail – mailers and the service around which business mailers have built their business models and around which individual customers have developed their mailing habits.

Despite these negotiations, the Postmaster General has pushed ahead with plans to abandon current mail service standards in favor of reduced access, slower delivery times, and higher prices, which will force many customers to pursue delivery alternatives. If those adjustments involve shifting to non-postal options in even a minority of cases – say 10 or 20 percent, the Postal Service would face an irreversible catastrophe. Once customers turn to other communication options and leave the mail system, they won’t be coming back, and the Postal Service will be sucked into a death spiral.

What do I mean when I say businesses will adjust their business model? Companies large and small that rely on the mail tell me that if service continues to deteriorate, they will conduct more business online and encourage their customers to switch to online services for bill-paying and other transactions.

Other businesses, such as small newspapers or pharmacy suppliers, have told me that they would seek non-postal delivery options, such as for local delivery and transport services. Again, let’s assume only a small fraction of businesses change their operations by shifting to these online or non-postal options – it could still spell the end for the U.S. mail system. For every five percent drop in First Class Mail volume, the Postal Service loses $1.6 billion in revenue.

That’s why the downsizing of the labor force and excess capacity that the Postmaster General states is so critical to saving the Postal Service must be carried out in a way that preserves service and does not inflict avoidable harm on these dedicated workers. Too many have assumed that this simply can’t be done.

But the fact is, there are many options to cut costs and expand revenue while preserving service such as: reducing the size of processing plants without closing them, moving tiny post offices into local grocery stores, reforming an expensive and unfair workers’ compensation program, allowing the Postal Service to ship wine and beer, refunding an overpayment into the federal retirement system, developing a new health plan that would greatly decrease the need to pre-fund future retirees benefits, and using buyouts to encourage employees to retire.

The Postmaster General is instead proceeding with a disastrously flawed plan, as evidenced by the recent announcement of draconian processing plant closures. This coupled with the still-pending closures of almost 4,000 mostly rural post offices and the Postmaster General’s push to eliminate of overnight and Saturday delivery tell me that the current Postal Service leadership is gravely underestimating the consequences of lesser service on revenue from customers who depend on the service as it is provided today.

It also suggests the Postmaster General is prepared to have rural America bear the brunt of service reductions in violation of the universal service mandate.

The Postal Regulatory Commission concluded just that in its analysis on the impact of the proposal to end Saturday delivery.

The Postal Service will not be saved by a bare-bones approach that will require massive adjustments by its customers. Perhaps that might have made sense in a time when customers had no other options, such as would have been the case decades ago. But today, the massive shift to online publications and commerce provides most businesses alternatives to using the mail. And a good portion of them will explore and settle on those alternatives if the Postal Service makes it harder for them to serve their customers.

Then there are the customers who simply can’t adjust their business model and could be forced out of business, taking the jobs they support with them.

Instead, the approach taken by our postal reform bill, the 21st Century Postal Service Act, would be to reduce excess capacity in the Postal Service while preserving service for customers. While our bill would not ban the closure of all postal facilities, it would establish service standards and allow for meaningful public comment procedures that would ensure that delivery delays and impact on customers were mitigated. The result would be that most facilities would remain open so as to preserve overnight delivery, Saturday delivery, and easy access to bulk processing for commercial mailers. Our bill would still reduce the workforce and processing capacity at those facilities to match the volume coming in.

For example, rather than closing a plant that has excess capacity, our plan would allow a plant to downsize its labor and volume capacity. This could mean running one shift instead of two, or half a shift instead of a whole shift, using one sorting machine instead of two, using half the space and renting out the rest, and so forth. That way the plant still could process mail in the region providing the same service it receives today, while saving money.

Under the Postmaster General’s plan, however, the plant would close, and its volume would be processed much further away, often hundreds of miles away. That megaplant further away would add shifts and capacity to handle the new volume, but because of the distance, overnight delivery would no longer be possible or guaranteed, and Saturday delivery would end.

The loss in revenue due to dramatically reduced service under the Postal Service’s plan would not take place under our plan – and the negative ripple effects on customers, jobs, and the broader economy would be avoided.

With our bill set to come to the floor imminently, the Postmaster General has, nonetheless, moved forward with preparations for sweeping closures and service reductions. That means that even if our bill were to pass, get through conference, be sent to the President’s desk, and start to be implemented over the coming months, the Postal Service’s ill-conceived actions would have already done damage to its customer base.

Customers have to plan now for what they see coming. With all these closures announcements, customers are already making contingency plans. In this way, the Postal Service has already triggered the hemorrhaging of customers that our bill could prevent if it were to become law.

But on top of the damage already incurred, what this reckless move demonstrates is an attitude that is dead-set on its service-degrading, customer-be-ignored approach. That attitude seems so stubbornly entrenched that I worry that even if our bill becomes law, the current Postal Service leadership would not enact it properly in good faith. Without an attitude of “service first,” I am concerned that all the important processes and considerations we place in the bill could just become box-checking exercises for a Postal Service that is looking to just maintain the appearance of compliance rather than embarking on a new path.

This approach by the Postal Service is all the more inexcusable given its reputation for fuzzy math. By cutting service and raising prices, and not calculating the resulting disastrous revenue losses, we have to ask ourselves if the savings estimates under the Postal Service plan are pure fantasy.

This is nothing new – the Postal Service’s assumptions about projected losses and savings from service cuts have proven unreliable in the past. For instance, the magnitude of the savings the Postal Service estimates from eliminating Saturday delivery has been challenged by the Postal Regulatory Commission, in part because of the Postal Service’s significant underestimation of likely lost revenue.

Furthermore, we are relying on the Postal Service’s data and projections about savings and revenue, without giving the Postal Service’s regulatory body, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the opportunity to provide its Advisory Opinion. That opinion, likely due this summer, will provide valuable feedback from stakeholders and independent economic analysts.

I hope my concerns can be addressed. But for now, is it futile to move ahead on postal reform legislation? If the Postmaster General chases away his customer base with price hikes and service cuts before we can enact legislation to stop him, are we just wasting time trying to pass a bill that can no longer save the Postal Service? And if the Postal Service managers are so stubbornly attached to their flawed plan now, who’s to say they’ll faithfully execute the bill once it becomes law?

So, Mr. President, I find myself in a quandary, one created by the Postmaster General himself as he shifts from plan to plan, from negotiation to negotiation. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for those of us who want to save the historic Postal Service so it can continue to be a vital American institution for generations to come.

31 thoughts on “Senator Collins Calls For Bipartisan Postal Reform

  1. There is no hope for the Post Office remaining open….
    Management doesn’t manage.
    Workers don’t work, not really.
    Union is worthless.
    It’s too late.
    The USPS didn’t keep up with progress, now it’s too late.

  2. “ITs funny how the Die hard liberals will NEVER give any credit when due. All they do is point fingers and support radical moron liberal ideas. They will lie cheat or steal to get elected and have done just that. ALWAYS blame the other party no matter what. More union brain washing. THe liberals plan on nothing less then to blame the post office closings on any or all republicans true or not. Its what they do. As bad as the PO is the country will be in the same shape after the OBAMA health care trick goes into motion a little each year.ITs full of NON health care issues that the liberals have tried to force on america for decades. America was tricked into electing this president.Will be the last time it will be tricked. Liberals will always be on blogs like this one bashing and shouting negatives. Its what they do. NOV cant come fast enough.”

    Who is the finger pointing, bashing, negative shouting moron?

    He will be re-elected when he faces the meager pickings from the GOP.

  3. We needed law on this YESTERDAY!! Donahoe doesn’t have a clue what is going on in the field and doesn’t care. He is too busy lineing his pockets with millions, lieing to the employees, congress, and the world, that he can’t get the job done. He is not competant to do the job and needs to be fired, especially if he refuses to follow congressional direction. Post Office needs to get the 6.5 million bonus back from that jackass Potter that retired. ALL bonuses and lavish vacations for the upper eshelon need to end immediately. They have done nothing but piss away their money for years. They have too much white collar dead weight. Get rid of the assistant to the assistant to the assistant. They have people that do nothing but be on the phone all day with their family, friends, and planning their social life, when they bother show up for work at all. They aren’t getting the job done in 6 days a week, how do they plan to get it done in 5? It is taking from 9 to 20 days to get my periodical from TN to MI right now, and they say it will get worse?!? How does that idiot Donahoe plan to remedy that? They want to downsize everywhere but in white collar. White collar are the ones with outlandish salaries and benefits. People depend on USPS for their medicaitons, etc. Not everyone has a computer, example: Amish. They pay their bills, get their newspapers, magazines, packages, etc. through the mail. What kind of recession will happen when all these postal employees don’t have jobs and start losing their homes?

  4. Once customers turn to other communication options and leave the mail system? Got some news for you dude……THEY ALREADY HAVE, HENCE THE ISSUE USPS AND THE UNIONS HAVE TO FACE TODAY!!! But, have no fear, the APWU will just grieve itself into oblivion. As long as the stewards get to stay off the workroom floor (with the help of gutless supervisors that don’t want to deal with complaints)…all will be well! And…when that fails there’s always getting injured and on the rolls of the malingering walking wounded- a sure and guaranteed way of not working.

  5. Donahoe should NEVER have been put in that role in the first place. He is getting something out of this or he would not be playing the blatant games that are at hand. The constant lies is very stressful. He should be fired with a boot up his a** as well. If and when the economy turns around, we will need an intact Postal Service. Online sales are where it’s at and we need that package service to be strong. I could not have worded it any better than Sue Collins did. She sees management for what they are, incompetent liars who are gambling with the future of USPS and it’s services to every American household and business.
    First step should be to get Donahoe OUT OF HERE !

  6. We need more senators like Sen. Collins, B. Sanders, Brown and others who are fighting to keep the postal service open and available to all americans, whether rich or poor! Help keep thousands of americans working, and to provide universal mail service to this country, and abroad! Congress are you listening? President Obama, we also need your help and input! The Postal Service is a federal agency also, that’s very much needed in this country to keep mail delivery inexpensive as it now is! Let’s keep it this way congress! America need your support!

  7. Thank you Congress for destroying the Post Office. You can do something, but refuse to this year because you want re-elected. Look in the mirror congress- this is all your fault. And did you not all swear to up hold the Constitution? Ever read where Congress is to maintain a PO? And it’s not talking about the ones we build in the Middle East after blowing up their country.

  8. Senator Collins’ letter does a good job of demonstrating the impossibility and intractable attitude of Donohoe and his lackeys who are hell bent on ruining the Service. The solution is simple: fire him and the whole upper echelon that supports the degrading of service and other measures that threaten universal service and six day delivery.
    Then, as one person has posted here, the Senate has to get on the ball and pass some fair and reasonable legislation much quicker and be ready to hold accountable managers whom, if reform legislation and regulations are made law, ignore the law or in their usual way screw it up every which way.
    Incompetence is something that should not be tolerated and the managers of the Postal Service, especially the highest level personnel are grossly inept, liars and cannot be trusted. The USPS deserves better than that, and busting up this web of disaster is imperative.

  9. Pay close attention to the full article. Statements to the effect of make sure the large mailers are coddled, at the expense of general public. This of course is to make sure the larger mailers profit margins remain high. Anything to not lose profits.

  10. When decision is made to save this American Institution who and how is the price to be paid? Going to continue as presently operated with all giant salaried headquarters management and down the line as is being operated with a big bottomline loss. Restructing is a must from top to bottom. A price must be paid to meet bottomline breakeven or operae in present mode and let taxpayor pay to preserve this giant red dianasour as was done prior to 1971 when tax money was eliminated and postal service was restructed to breakeven which is not working as presently operated. Who is going to pay the price ?

  11. I read all this crap from all these loud mouth politicians and how all their ideas are supposed to help the postal service. My advise is start paying the price for a premium product when you send your political B.S. through the mail that is a start. I see all these political mailings come in the plants and are payed for at a standard rate yet they have to be treated like it is 1st class mail and above all others. These politicians pay for a standard mailing and that is the way it needs to be treated ,the average citizen pays for 1st class service and political mailings should be no different Maybe when those mailings take five to ten days to get somewhere and and they miss out on some of those votes they can sit home and wonder why they lost their elections.Then again it wouldn’t matter because we the people will still be paying their sorry asses for the rest of their lives.I think politicians need to stop worrying about the votes and start doing what is right helping save an AMERICAN INSTITUTION and the jobs of alot of people who helped put them in their positions.

  12. How long is this gonna take? This senator finally realizes that the PMG is a fraud and a liar? If it takes this woman this long to figure that out, how long will it be that the woman figures out that the PMG’s agenda is to destroy the post office so private industry can take over? I wonder if anyone knows shat the PO’s assets are worth? Buildings, trucks, land, and equipment. Gotta be billions, how much does the PMG stand to gainout of the fire sale?

  13. Senator Collins has a lot of nerve! She and Bush are responsible for the PAEA legislation that forced the Post Office to pay $5.5 BILLION for health benefits for people that aren’t even hired yet. Remove that legislation and the Post Office will get healthy again. But she can’t get her own party, the “Republican kill the American government” party to support her.
    While the Postmaster thumbs his nore at the Congress, who have collectively sat on their butts for the past eight months, postal management is unilaterally destroying service standards.
    Then there are our flag waving Congressmen, Issa and Ross who want to destroy the whole Post Office immediately; not mentioning HOW and WHAT the plan is for continuing mail delivery.

    My opinion: never listen to what ANY politician says, watch what they do and how they vote. As a group are the biggest liars and deceivers America has.

  14. i love how postal management with all its lifers need and deserve more money to keep a viable business operating. but yet the experienced craft employee lifers need to go becaused they are over-payed and under-worked. would it really work if an nfl organization ran a pee-wee football team? when all the clerks, mail-handlers, and letter carriers are gone will the usps be the most trusted agency? the postal service needs to return to being a service for the good of the country.

  15. Senator Collins said what I’ve been saying for he past 20+ years: “Postal management will always do what they want to. PERIOD!”

  16. Sen Collins is SPOT ON!!!!!! She gets it!!!! About time someone spoke up and told it like it is. DOHo is going to teat the PO apart.Could care less about the outcome and lose of businesses. Every Buisiness I serve say they will leave the PO as soon as it drops SAT delivery. ITs funny how the Die hard liberals will NEVER give any credit when due. All they do is point fingers and support radical moron liberal ideas. They will lie cheat or steal to get elected and have done just that. ALWAYS blame the other party no matter what. More union brain washing. Someone like the President better listen to Sen Collins NOW before its too late. THe liberals plan on nothing less then to blame the post office closings on any or all republicans true or not. Its what they do. As bad as the PO is the country will be in the same shape after the OBAMA health care trick goes into motion a little each year.ITs full of NON health care issues that the liberals have tried to force on america for decades. America was tricked into electing this president.Will be the last time it will be tricked. Liberals will always be on blogs like this one bashing and shouting negatives. Its what they do. NOV cant come fast enough.

  17. Do we really want Collins, Lieberman, and Carper deciding the USPS fate? They’ve taken us on the edge of destruction. Start with ushering out Donahoe. Let him be the fall guy. Buy time until after the first of the year….. At least time to charge a blue ribbon commission to review complete operation. USPS needs new service mentality, new revenue streams including email, ecommerce components. bureaucracy in postal hierarchy needs big shake up. Too many chiefs – nothing to do / or make work (at best) – USPS could save gazillions.

  18. Only 1st class mail is deceasing, last year by only 1.7 percent, standard mail or bulk mail is increasing and is expected to do so by 2 percent every year. According to the Postmaster General it takes 3 pieces of standard mail to bring in as much revenue as 1 piece of 1st class mail. That is assuming the standard mail does not create problems that require extra handling. If this mail has to be run through a machine additional times for what ever reason, it is no longer profitable and is being subsidized by 1st class mail. All this means that large mailers will have to pay more for service, unless they can cut saleries of the postal workers. The current plan to make the service profitable, means cutting out rural America, or charging them more money to get mail delivery.

  19. S. Collins is a true politicans:all the blah sounds great but in the long run the laws of economics control the outcome . Supply and demand are critical factors. When supply exceeds demand revenue decreases. Demand for postal services have declined and will continue to do so until new services and products are made available in the market place and purchased by customers. Revenue generation must be created. Operations must be cost effective. Time with increasing technologyy has made this country totaly unimaginable from postal fathers viewpoint in primitive manual labor means to provide communications via the postal system. The need of the Postal Service as the leader in personal and business communication diminished at the end of the 20th century. The rapid advances in technology has adversely affected the USPS in less demand for First class mail which has resulted in loss of revenue resulting in the USPS operating at massive monatary loss with out any recovery unless steps are taken to reduce cost. Reducing street delivery to 5 days a week would be cost effective reducing vehicle and fuel cost for 200,000 vehicles. Reducing delivery days from 302 to 250 would greatly reduce monatary loss in delivery workhours.
    Management is top heavy and a loss on return of massive investment . The postal salary data upgrade reveal the 38 high dollar group who have been responible for guiding the financial course of the USPS into a state of devistation: sinking as massive debt is too heavy to keep afloat.
    Management and crafts must be reduced. Officies that were once needed 40 years ago but due to changing demographics are no longer farm community post offices but are now suburbs of larger town. Many of the small offices are within a radius of 6-7 miles of each other with a larger office in town these offices surround. Many of these offices have Postmasters with 1 employee and have a salary of $56,000 and $63000. No delivery. 1 ptf clerk at $26.00 hr. 1 office 3 rural routes a Postmaser and 2 PTF clerks. PM salary $82,000. A reduction in these small officies with high salary postmasters would create massive cost reduction and not change service proided. These small officies could be reduced to a county station with the Postmaster of the large office responsible for the stations.Service would not be hindered but would cost effective.

  20. Nick….Good Point. It seems we the Postal Service, are the Political Pawns in this whole mess. However, I wouldn’t worry about our PMG, Im sure he has a pretty hefty safety net from his 800k a year paycheck!

  21. She said it, the PMG is gonna do what he wants to do. Bet if heads in high USPS positions went rolling those leftg behind would be more susceptible to listening.

  22. Senator Collins, you and the rest of Congress had 8 months to pass a Postal Reform Bill. Yet nothing has come about! Thats because its Election Year, and nothing will be passed untill way after November.
    So stop blaming the PMG! He agreeded to give Congress a crack at solving the problem and like always nothing gets DONE!!!

  23. Last year the Postmaster General signed a contract with one of the postal unions, then within a few weeks said he could not honor this contract. About the same time Congressman Issa of Calif. came out with a bill H.R. 2309 and the Postmaster General anounced plans to restructure the post office. This two proposals were almost identical, from closing processing plants and small town post offices, changes to health benifits and even the number of employees needed for operations. This suggests that these two men talked with each other at sometime. Issa contends his bill will save the post office, yet the changes so far have caused chaos at many processing plants. Mail is already showing up 1 or 2 days later than it used to, in some cases mail has not shown up at all.
    Knowing the postal service was in danger he signed the workers contract anyway? Why? Did he know that a plan was in the works for a member of congress?
    The American people and the employees of the U.S. Postal Service deserve to know, when did two “gentleman start talking to each other? All news media has reported the overfunding of the employee retirement plans of $5 billion a year. Yet Congressman Issa insists there is no overfunding. Don’t let Issa get away with this! Ask your Congressman for answers!

  24. Senator Collins did such a great job with the PAE Act of 2006 that requires USPS to make $5.5 BILLION “prefunding” payments to the US treasury. I am sure her new plan will be equally good…

  25. Sen. Collins wrote a very good letter and I hope the President hears her words. The 21st Century Postal Act with its amendments is perfect for what we need and I don’t know why something hasn’t been done yet. Everybody has a stinkin agenda of their own instead of looking at the facts and making a smart decision. Politics— I hate it.

  26. The facts outline by Honorable Susan Collin are what they are fact. I respect her opinion, even though she would not go as far to say, that the Postmaster General has lied in the past and is lying now. I am currently working in one of the plants that is schedule to close, even in my small community, business, senior and the disable will be hurt, the surrounding communities will also feel most of the pain of closing our plant. We have a Republican Congressman, who don’t care and he supports bill 2309, without pause. The PMG, needs to be fired, because his plan is a plant that will surely have the postal servcie heading for failure, which is not an option in my view. He is also having the local plant manager and district manager lying to employees, every time they call a meeting. Postal management has damage what little cretibility they had with their employees, because we cannot believe anything that they or the PMG says, becasue we see that it changes from week to week. My suggestion, which should be taken seriously by congress, fire the PMG, he has no plan for success, he has put forward plans for failure, he needs to be fire without any bounuse.

  27. the post office is in terrible shape because it is a big bureaucracy with
    incompetent and unaccountable management. ironically, now
    the fate of the post office may very well be in the hands of a bigger
    and more incompetent bureaucracy called the
    united states congress. God help us.

  28. Wow. Who are these people? BLAH BLAH BLAH………….These are the people receiving the “Big Bucks” and the ones that point the finger at everyone else. These are our Leaders. Congress, Dorkmaster General. The ones that expect YOU to do YOUR Job, while they get their Fat Paychecks and sit around on their Fat Asses and let our livelyhood slip away. In my opinion they are no different than those Wallstreet Whores who swindled the American Working Public. Do I sound Angry? HELL YES! Its a crying shame that these people too will get away with what they are doing. How can with all the “data collection” and “budget meetings” and “Phone meetings” and all “Audits” and Statistics they couldnt see this down the road? Well my hardworking, honest fellow Postal Worker… we go again, prepare to get F#@$%!

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