U.S. letter carriers rally to 'save America's postal service'

Apr 12, 2012

U.S. postage rates went up again at the start of this year. But the service is still in financial crisis.

And letter carriers say the latest legislative fix about to come before the U.S. Senate could devastate the mail service as we know it.

This afternoon, they’ll be holding rallies to "save America's postal service" in about 200 cities, including one at the federal building in Seattle. There's also a rally at the Marshall House in Vancouver.

Senate Bill 1789 is meant to improve the US Postal Service. But the National Association of Letter Carriers says it will lead to drastic cuts– eliminating Saturday delivery and phasing out door-to-door service in two years, unless the postal service starts showing a profit. The letter carriers say that’s unlikely.

 “Because of some other things that the bill doesn’t address," says Rick Horner with the National Letter Carriers in Seattle,  "we believe it’s a foregone conclusion n that the service will not be able to show a profit in that time period.”

He says the problem the postal service is facing was created by Congress in 2006. As part of sweeping reforms, lawmakers began requiring huge payments to pre-fund retiree’s health care benefits for the next 75 years.

“It works out to approximately five and a half billion dollars, every year, so essentially it starts in the hole, five and a half billion dollars, every year,” Horner says.

The Letter Carriers union says that’s not required of any other agency and it doesn’t make business sense.

At the rally, they’ll call on Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to vote no on 1789 and instead push for other reforms.

The postal service itself isn’t taking a stance on this particular law. But they say they could save more than $3 B dollars a year by eliminating Saturday delivery, a move they'd like to see as soon as possible.

They also agree that the pre-funding of retiree benefits is an burden from which they deserve relief.

Spokesman Ernie Swanson says they've already paid in about $40 billion dollars. He adds that USPS started the process last summer to possibly close 3,700 post offices around the country and to possibly consolidate some mail processing centers, all of which could result in layoffs.

He says they've delayed taking any action till mid-May, in hopes of action by Congress that could improve their situation.