Postal system

Minnesota unions protest postal system slowdown

Union members lined up outside the main Minneapolis post office on Monday to protest cost-cutting measures which by design will slow the delivery of some 1st class mail.

MINNEAPOLIS – The 10-year plan designed to ward off $ 180 billion in losses to the U.S. Postal Service sparked protests from union members in Minnesota on Monday.

Union postal workers and their allies have been picketing the main post office in Minneapolis, saying changes to 1st class mail delivery standards will have a disproportionate impact on older customers, especially those in the areas rural.

“If you have urban communities that still get their mail in two days and rural America doesn’t get it for five days, you’ve failed the post office mission,” Peggy Whitney, business manager for the Minneapolis American Public Workers Union, told reporters.

“In rural communities, they rely heavily on courier delivery which provides them with their social security checks, their medications, many things that need to be delivered in a timely manner.”

The strategic plan, which went into effect on October 1, changes the service standard for mail, allowing up to five days for delivery of mail items traveling between regions. The USPS predicts that 70% of mail sent to a metropolitan area will be delivered within three days.

One of the reasons for the slowdown is that some of the mail that now travels by air will instead be routed to trucks on the ground. This change will have the biggest impact on coast-to-coast mail or shipments going to Texas and Florida due to the distances involved.

Whitney said Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, the architect of the cost-cutting reforms, was in fact inside Minneapolis’ main post office on Monday to greet staff members. A USPS spokesperson did not confirm this, saying only that DeJoy’s travel itinerary is not public.

According to a document placed in the Federal Register, the USPS Board of Governors will meet in Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon. The document is a legal opinion from legal counsel to the panel that the meeting can be held behind closed doors without violating federal agency open meeting laws.

In a press release explaining the changes, the USPS said traditional levels of service and speed are simply no longer affordable. It’s a financial strain that was made worse by the COVID pandemic when people began to rely more on parcel delivery as an alternative to in-person shopping.

“Our reach is unprecedented: we deliver nearly half of the world’s mail volume, as well as goods and services to more than 160 million addresses across the country; and ninety-nine percent of the population has a post office within 10 miles of their place of residence, ”the statement read.

“And yet our organization is in crisis. The Postal Service has incurred $ 87 billion in financial losses over the past 14 years and has failed to meet service standards. Our business and operating models are unsustainable and out of step with the changing needs of the nation and our customers. “

The system’s severe financial woes were exacerbated by Congressional action in 2006. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act required the USPS to create a $ 72 billion fund to cover the cost of post-retirement employee health care. for 75 years in the future.

No other federal agency faces such a prepayment requirement, let alone private employers. At the time, lawmakers were looking to tackle a wide range of underfunded pension plans at a time of unprecedented increases in medical costs.

In addition to slowing down the roll of flat mail, customers have been urged to expect higher prices for sending packages, especially during the rush to the holiday season.

DeJoy’s reform efforts over the last year of the Trump administration have drawn fire from unions and Democratic politicians. He caught fire for removing unused sorting machines from regional distribution centers. Union leaders said when mail volume picked up after the pandemic, equipment would be needed.

The Board of Governors approved the current 10-year plan, based on projections that the money saved will be invested in technology that will make the postal system more efficient and competitive with other parcel delivery companies.