It may come as a surprise to some that six-day mail delivery is currently a congressionally imposed requirement. It appears this requirement becomes null and void when a temporary funding measure expires March 27, 2013. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe plans to implement five-day mail delivery beginning in August 2013. Donahoe feels the Postal Service is on firm legal ground; some members of Congress aren’t so sure.
How much will the Postal Service likely save with the elimination of Saturday mail delivery? When this plan was discussed in 2011, the estimate was $3.1 billion. That amount was revised to $2.7 billion in 2012. Now it appears the savings would only be about $2 billion, based on the added costs of delivering packages on Saturdays, not part of the original plan. Unfortunately, there is a $20 billion gap to close.
Due to strong customer demand for package delivery on Saturdays, it was added back to the proposed postal services. Saturday post office hours and mail to post office boxes will continue. Donahoe says most staffing cuts would come through attrition and reduced overtime.
Representative Elijah Cummings (MD), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, The issue of service delivery frequency should be addressed in that legislation rather than through arbitrary action by the Postal Service.
At least two postal unions have called for Donahoe’s ouster. It is doubtful he will get much cooperation from them when he begins work on a new health insurance system for postal employees. It is also questionable how much help he will get from Congress to support reform legislation to help dig the Postal Service out of a much deeper financial hole.
Though Congressional inaction has left the Postal Service drowning in red ink, today’s announcement by the Postmaster General is essentially a declaration that the Postal Service does not believe that it is subject to existing law or the Congressional budget process, National Rural Letter Carriers Association President Jeanette P. Dwyer said in a statement. To act unilaterally and without reasoned legal justification puts the entire Postal Service at risk and is ample reason for the Postmaster General’s immediate removal
National Association of Letter Carriers President Frederic Roland said that if Donahoe arrogantly thinks he is above the law or has the right to decide policy matters that should be left to Congress, it is time for him to step down.
Democratic Senator Harry M. Reid (NV) chimed in by saying, The postmaster general’s actions have damaged his reputation with congressional leaders and further complicates congressional efforts to pass comprehensive postal reform legislation in the future. Reid added, Given the importance of the post office to communities in Nevada and across our nation, such a drastic policy change cannot be enacted without approval from Congress. Instead, the postmaster general relied on flawed legal guidance to claim that he can circumvent Congress’ authority on the matter.
No doubt, Donahoe has gotten tired of waiting for Congress to do its job and act on reform legislation for the Postal Service. Whether his drastic measure will force them to take action sooner than later remains to be seen. Meanwhile, hail nor rain, sleet nor snow may stop the mail, but apparently Saturdays just might.