Postmaster General Calls on Congress to Enact Postal Reform

WASHINGTON—Postmaster General Megan Brennan called for sweeping postal reform at the U.S. Postal Service’s Temporary Emergency Committee meeting Friday morning, as the Postal Service faces another year of financial losses.

“Despite our best efforts, under the current legal framework we will not be able to stem the tide of our ongoing losses and return to financial stability without legislative change,” she said.

Brennan called on Congress to pass the Postal Reform Act of 2017 and to confirm President Trump’s nominees to the currently-vacant Postal Service Board of Governors.

According to the Postal Service’s website, the board is responsible for implementing an array of postal policies, including the company’s budget and long-term planning.

President Trump made three nominations to the board in October, but the Senate has yet to confirm them.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which oversees postal policy and is responsible for initial confirmation of the Board nominees, did not respond to our emails asking when nominee confirmations might occur.

Nonetheless, Brennan was hopeful that the nominees would be confirmed soon.

“We’re encouraged, in talking with some of our key public officials, that they understand the urgency of this,” she said in a web conference. “As we’ve said from the outset…we are best served, as is the American public, by having a fully constituted board, so I’m optimistic we’ll have them confirmed and on board by our next scheduled meeting.”

As for the Postal Reform Act of 2017, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced the bill in January of last year, but Congress has made no recent move to approve the bill.

If passed, the bill would amend the Postal Service’s employee and retiree health benefits and revise rules surrounding postal rate changes. The bill would also allow the Postal Service to work with state and local authorities to provide government goods and services and would encourage the use of centralized delivery, through which customers can opt to pick up their mail at a centralized location instead of at their front door.

The bill establishes a Postal Service “Chief Innovation Officer” to focus on innovation within the company and would reduce the number of seats on the Board of Governors to five, which has historically consisted of nine governors, who serve seven-year terms.

At Friday’s meeting, Chief Financial Officer Joe Corbett outlined the Postal Service’s financial results in quarter one of fiscal year 2018. The Postal Service faced a net loss of $540 million, as first class mail revenues declined about four percent and marketing mail revenues declined about five percent. With the holiday season, package revenues increased around nine percent and international mail revenues increased around the same amount. However, this was not enough to offset the losses.

Brennan attributed the Postal Service’s financial troubles to the high cost of employee benefit programs and to the Congressional mandate to deliver to every American home and business. She suggested that the price cap on stamps and mail services prevents the Postal Service from earning enough revenue to cover costs. She also noted that current regulations limit the Postal service’s “ability to pursue new sources of revenue.”

The National Association of Letter Carriers, the national labor union for city-delivery mail carriers, released a statement on the Postal Service’s first quarter results, echoing the Postmaster General’s call for action from Congress.

“Congress should address the pre-funding burden it imposed in 2006, which requires USPS — alone among all public and private entities — to prefund future retiree healthcare benefits decades into the future,” they wrote. “This produces an onerous annual burden of billions of dollars.”

The only current postal legislation being considered by Congress is the renaming of post offices, a common practice to honor community leaders and other important officials.

by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW

President Trump Targets Postal Service in Morning Tweet

WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, President Trump took to Twitter to voice concerns about the United States Postal Service.

He wrote, “Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!”

President Trump Tweet

It is unclear if Amazon is the source of the Postal Service’s financial troubles because the details of any deals between the Postal Service and retail giant are confidential, and the financial troubles of the Postal Service are often attributed to the requirement that it pre-fund its employee’s health insurance benefits and to the decreasing volume of first-class mail.

According to a Forbes article, shipping industry analyst David Vernon “estimated…that Amazon pays the USPS $2 per package, which is about half of what it would pay United Parcel Service and FedEx.”

The Forbes article noted that Postal Service chief financial officer Joseph Corbett “wrote in a post for in August that the [Postal Service] is required by law to charge retailers at least enough to cover its delivery costs.”

In 2013, the Postal Service made an agreement with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays. The Postal Service also provides “last-mile” delivery for the retailer.

The Postal Service offered no comment in response to the tweet.

While Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced postal reform legislation in January, Congress has made no recent moves to reform the Postal Service.

by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW

Smithsonian National Postal Museum Holds Holiday Card Workshop

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Postal Museum was bustling with visitors Saturday as the museum held its annual holiday card workshop.

Visitors of all ages attended the event, at which they could design their own holiday greeting cards.

NPM Attendees

As visitors entered the museum atrium, they started by choosing two pieces of cardstock, one large and one small. They then moved to embellish their cards with stickers, twine, and other materials available at the various craft stations. Visitors could sit at the tables in the atrium to assemble their cards with glue, scissors and other materials.

The museum’s Post Office was open for visitors to mail their cards affixed with the museum’s special postmark.

The museum also provided a photo booth for visitors to share their photos on social media using the hashtag #nationalpostalmuseum.

Sponge Bob MailboxIn addition to the card making, visitors had the opportunity to write holiday messages to families at The Children’s Inn, an organization that provides housing and support for families with children receiving care at the National Institutes of Health. Visitors wrote messages on Spongebob-themed postcards and deposited them in a special Spongebob-themed mailbox. Director of Education Matthew White said he saw both parents children deposit postcards.

Referring to the Spongebob postcards, Public Programs Manager Motoko Hioki noted in an email, “The letter writing set up is still there in the museum atrium…if anyone wants to participate in the letter writing, they are welcome to do so at the museum until Thursday, December 14th.”

The Postal Museum holds several public events throughout the year, including another card workshop around Valentine’s Day. Volunteer Coordinator Maggie Sigle said the museum also does letter writing campaigns around Veterans Day for Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages and letters to U.S. troops and first responders.

Hioki, who organizes the museum’s public events, detailed their Wine and Design program, available as a once-a-month happy hour event. At these programs, people can come to the museum after hours and complete various postal-related arts and crafts. The events typically occur once a month.

Hioki was instrumental in starting the Wine and Design program at the museum. “People don’t write letters anymore,” she said. “Encouraging people to write is something important to me.”

The Postal Museum continues to provide educational activities for the general public to learn more about stamps, postal history, and the stamp collecting hobby. It is open seven days a week, from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.

 by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW

All photos courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution National Postal Museum

USPS Board of Governors Gets First Nominations After Being Vacant for a Year

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, President Donald Trump made his first nominations to the United States Postal Service Board of Governors, which has been vacant since December 2016.

Nominees Robert Duncan, Calvin Tucker, and David Williams hope to join the Board, which is responsible for implementing an array of postal policies, including the USPS budget and long-term planning, according to the USPS website. Governors serve seven-year terms and cannot serve more than two terms.

Robert Duncan, a Republican from Kentucky, is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee (2007-2009) and currently serves as chairman of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Calvin Tucker is from Pennsylvania, and David Williams is from Illinois.

To take office, the three nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and then by the entire Senate. Their confirmation hearings are not yet scheduled.

Postmaster General Megan Brennan welcomed the nominations in a statement saying, “The public interest and the Postal Service are best served by a fully constituted Board made up of well-qualified individuals with diverse perspectives and experience.

USPS contractors have also expressed delight at the new nominations. BCC Software, which builds software for the USPS, said on their website, “…we are hoping for a quick Senate confirmation. It is also worth noting that there are open positions on the Postal Regulatory Commission as well and the potential implications that could have.” The Commission is responsible for overseeing postal rate changes and has one vacant seat.

Six nominations are still needed to complete the Board of Governors, which has historically been comprised of nine members, the Postmaster General, and the Deputy Postmaster General.

It is unclear when further nominations will be made.

by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW