Bursting the Bubble
There is a silly app for smart phones called “Bubble Wrap,” and a kid’s game for those and other devices modeled after the animated movie “Up” that lets you pop balloons to raise and lower the floating house. Both of them are fun and “Bubble Wrap” I think was created to annoy people at staff meetings. Both of them made me think of another bubble about to be burst. Various elements of the Postal Service haven’t yet come to realize how serious the situation out there is for their future, and for the future of the mailing industry that depends on them.
For a very long time the USPS management kept a game face, talking about how “when First-Class Mail volume comes back” things would get better and the financial problems will be eased. Only recently have they realized and publicized that this volume is not coming back. Postal life has to go on with a new roadmap. That realization was good but allowed the USPS to come dangerously close to an even bigger financial and operational disaster.
On the employee side, the unions are still in the bubble, with American Postal Workers Union factions urging the membership to reject the contract offer because there is a call for more part-time workers, more flexible hours, and a lower pay scale for new hires, albeit unsuccessfully. The contract did pass by membership vote but still highlights serious issues with comprehending the new reality.
Labor (I mean those unions that haven’t resolved your issues yet): Come back to the real world. Millions of people would jump at the chance to just to be working again. You are not privileged and you most certainly are not considered skilled labor. The USPS can do many things, and while they can print stamps, they can’t print money. Rejection of the upcoming contract proposals is a losing proposition.
The Postal Regulatory Commission is still hesitant to look at how far the Postal Service can reach to offer new products and to develop new, mail-related and practical products and services. Continue to handcuff the Postal Service and you may as well find a gallows for them. Now the exigent rate case is back in your hands. Find a solution that everyone can live with!
Congress, you are not off the hook either. Blood from a stone is an old edict that does not work. You must act to drop these deficit hideaways that you call annual postal debts for future retiree health benefits; they are funded more years in advance than anyone needs for a cushion. And for the love of common sense and fair play give the USPS back the Civil Service overpayments. It is their money. The return of these funds will go a long way toward solvency.
Worst-case scenario would be for the government to once again take over the Postal Service and operate it as a full-fledged government agency. The last time that was in effect, it was a disaster that formed today’s Postal Service. Face it folks, you aren’t that good at running the government; you’re not going to roll up your sleeves and steer this ship of state anywhere but on the rocks. Give the USPS what it needs; unions, think of your member’s future—and let’s forget that bubble.
Ed Mayhew worked for the Postal Service for 37 years, becoming one of the most recognized experts on periodicals mail in the country. Ed was a part of the Rates and Classification Service Center (RCSC), ending his career as a Classification Specialist in the New Pricing and Classification Service Center in New York City. He has written rulings, instructions and articles for postal publications, appeared as an expert witness in court, a rebuttal witness for the Postal service at the Postal Rate Commission, co-authored postal handbooks and applications, and was the RCSC coordinator for six postage rate cases.
He is the 2002 winner of the Angelo R. Venizian award for contributions to the publishing industry, the first postal winner of that award in its history.
Ed has made training videos appearing on radio and TV, speaks at numerous seminars and is an 11-time top National Postal Forum speaker. He is founder and president of consultancy Eddie Mayhew’s Classification Station. Contact Ed at 973-462-5662, E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @eddiemclass.