Urgent alert on postal reform
January 3, 2012
A bipartisan group of Senate leaders broke a stalemate on postal reform legislation to develop a package of financial relief, workforce revisions and service protections for mailers in November. Led by the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, and postal expert Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, and Sens. Thomas Carper, D-DE, and Scott Brown, R-MA, the bill makes significant progress toward setting the Postal Service on course to avoid financial collapse in 2012.
This Legislation must be passed by the Senate within a few weeks. The session is expected to adjourn in about 30 days.
NNA Members are asked to CALL their senators—please do not email--and ask for a commitment to co-sponsor this bill. If they will not co-sponsor, please ask if they will support the bill on the Senate floor. Reports back to NNA will be critical, as we count votes.
This bill is the only legislation in the Senate that assures 6 day mail delivery for two years, and may protect it in the years to come. It also directs USPS to create an unprecedented option for newspapers to use the mailbox on Saturdays for delivery if the Postal Service abandons residential service.
Details of the bill:
- It preserves universal service with 6 day mail delivery for 2 years. After 2 years, USPS could again seek to eliminate a delivery day (probably Saturday) after completing a series of steps. Among them, it must address the negative impact of delivery loss on sensitive groups, like community newspapers. It must provide, where appropriate, access to the mailbox by newspapers affected by the loss of a delivery day. Before USPS changes delivery days, its proposal must be reviewed once again by the Government Accountability Office and the Postal Regulatory Commission. The change may not occur unless the PRC determines it is necessary in order for USPS to be profitable by 2015.
- If delivery days are changed, there may not be more than two consecutive days without mail delivery.
- Before closing or consolidating mail processing plants, USPS must provide more notice to the public, receive public input for 45 days, hold a community meeting, consider options to reduce the operation instead of closing, and advise the public of the results. The provision also requires greater consideration of impact upon communities and mailers. Congress must be notified. A plant may not close until 15 days after a published decision.
- It requires new standards for providing retail postal facilities, with attention to needs of rural areas. These standards will affect closings of rural post offices.
- For newspaper Periodicals mailers, it lessens the threat of steep postage increases to cover reported USPS costs, and instead requires the PRC to examine whether excess capacity in processing, transportation or delivery plays a role in the "under-water" status of the mailing class. The examination will take approximately two years. Following a determination that Periodicals remain "under-water" by not covering costs, postage increases no higher than 2 percent above the cost of living price cap may be created for each year until the Periodicals achieve 90 percent cost coverage.
- It provides USPS significant cash relief by returning approximately $7 billion in retirement trust fund overpayments. The funds must be used first for buyouts of retirement-eligible employees, and then may be used to pay down debt and other purposes. USPS expects to use about 25% of the funds for buyouts.
- By 2015, USPS may convert door delivery points to curbside delivery, serviceable by motor carriers. The conversion is estimated to save billions of dollars.
- Significant changes in mailing specifications could not occur unless notice and comment periods are conducted.
- If USPS engages in non-postal services--as it considers creating a digital postal address--the PRC must examine whether the new service creates unfair competition.
- It provides long-range financial relief by directing USPS to negotiate with labor unions on developing new health and retirement benefits plans that would be run independently of the federal government at less cost by changing the nature of the benefits and using USPS's independent purchasing power.
- It requires any arbitrator of labor agreements to consider the Postal Service's financial situation in settling contracts.
- Of great importance to newspapers, USPS must consider alternative operations for mail entry in reasonable proximity to a closed plant.
- It pushes for greater consolidation of mid-level management through mergers of area and district offices.
- It lowers death benefits and benefits provided under workers compensation, and pushes employees reaching retirement age out of workers comp. it also requires postal employees to apply for Medicare and Medi-Gap coverage, rather than relying solely on USPS health benefits.