National Newspaper Association President Robert M. Williams Jr., publisher of the Blackshear (Georgia) Times, strongly objected this week to the U.S. Postal Service’s announcement that it would close or consolidate more than 80 mail processing facilities after January and lower service standards for periodicals and first-class mail.
In a letter to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, Williams said, “We deeply regret our long-time partnership with the Postal Service is about to be further stressed by another degradation of service. NNA does not understand how rising prices, slower service and further concentration of services into urban areas helps our nationwide mail service to survive Internet competition or any other threat.”
The Postal Service announced on June 30 that it is now targeting a broad list of mail processing plants for its second round of “network consolidation.” Though USPS is showing operating profits this year after several years of red ink, Donahoe cited a $40 billion debt on the USPS balance sheet as a reason. Most of the Postal Service debt is to the U.S. Treasury, which it owes for the accelerated prepayment of postal retiree health costs imposed by Congress in a 2006 postal law.
Many mailing organizations, labor unions and concerned postal users have lobbied Congress vigorously for the past eight years to relax the punitive requirements, which have been set up for no other federal agency. Williams emphasized again in his letter to Donahoe that NNA has set its Congressional Action Team in motion repeatedly to support legislative efforts to relieve financial pressure on USPS.
“We want postal reform legislation this year,” Williams said. “We have looked for several years now for legislation that balances the needs of USPS, of the postal workforce and of mailers, particularly those in rural areas hard hit by the previous round of postal plant closings. We recognize that the Postal Service is a powerful federal agency that influences our advertising marketplaces and therefore must be fairly regulated. But we object to Congress’s having tried repeatedly to use the postage-selling abilities of USPS as a cash cow. We are very hopeful that we will see legislation this year that strikes the right balance and that we can vigorously support it before these plant closings kick in. NNA firmly believes that mail service to rural and small-town America is critical to local economies. We will not stand by quietly when it is put at risk.”
A list of the facilities proposed for closing is available at: http://nnaweb.org/pub/doc/ofn-consolidation-list-063014.pdf. A USPS fact sheet is available at: http://nnaweb.org/pub/doc/weakening-service-standards.pdf.