There have been rumblings in the news media lately about the possible end of 6-day mail delivery in the USA. I decided to find out more, so I sought a union perspective. (If you want to know what’s really going on in an organization, ask the workers.)
I had the opportunity to interview Michael Sturm, who holds titles with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the AFL-CIO. Michael is the Legislative Aide for the state organization (Texas Postal Workers Union) and a Craft Director with the local (the Lubbock Area Local 952). The interview follows below.
What is the American Postal Workers Union?
The APWU has nearly 300,000 members nationwide, and represents three of the main five occupational groups in the Postal Service which are called crafts. We represent all employees in the clerk, maintenance, and motor vehicle crafts.
How much, if any, of the US Postal Service has been “privatized?”
I’ve had people ask me if I thought the Postal Service was ever going to be privatized, and I’ve told them it’s already being privatized. The Postal Service avoids the word privatized, and instead uses code words like contracting or work sharing. Whatever you want to call it, the Postal Service has been aggressively shifting work, whether it’s building maintenance, vehicle maintenance, sorting mail, transporting the mail, or even delivering the mail, away from postal employees to the private sector. It’s been a major factor in how the Postal Service has been able to radically reduce work hours and its employee complement, but it’s also a major contributing factor in why the Postal Service is in its present financial condition.
Who is pushing to end 6-day delivery and why?
The Postmaster General Jack Potter is the major force behind eliminating six day mail delivery. A coalition of large mailers and the Postal Service’s domestic competitors have been pushing for major postal reform since 2000, but the large mailers are not in favor of reducing delivery frequency. It’s hard to understand why the PMG is so intent on making the change, especially considering his top advisors are also against it.
What are the most important reasons to keep 6-day delivery?
The things that alarm us most about the Postal Service’s Plan to eliminate six day mail delivery have to do with oversight, universal service, and the long term viability of the Postal Service.
It’s a myth that the Postal Service is already obsolete and unnecessary. I think Alaskan Senator Murkowski’s recent testimony to the Postal Regulatory Commission concerning the dependence that rural America has on the mail service is very poignant. Also, how many TV ads do you see each day that are directed at seniors with disability issues telling them they can get medical supplies and other items through the mail?
Many Americans depend on frequent dependable mail service, and so do many companies and businesses of all sizes. The economy is directly tied to the mail. The frequency of mail delivery is too important to be left to one person’s discretion.
What is the APWU doing in the fight to preserve 6-day delivery?
The APWU feels strongly that the public and our congressional leaders should know the whole story about six day mail delivery, and that any changes should not be made until all the facts have been made known. The number one thing the APWU is attempting to do is to educate everyone so they understand exactly what changes are being considered before any decisions are made.
What can individuals do to help in the fight to preserve 6-day delivery?
Individuals can start by spreading the word talking to family and friends, but what is most important is that individuals contact their congressional leaders and let them know how important their mail service is to them.
Your first question was probably the hardest to answer. The Postal Service historically has gone through several cycles. Often when faced with having to make tough decisions concerning difficult problems, past Postmaster Generals had decided the easiest thing to do was cut service. When they did the public good suffered. It really seems like the current PMG has not learned from lessons from the past. We hope he doesn’t just cut service because it’s the easiest thing to do.
I appreciate Michael for agreeing to this interview. You can contact Michael Sturm and the TPWU at firstname.lastname@example.org or (806)762-7869.
I think a letter or phone call to Neugebauer, Cornyn, and Hutchison is in order. Don’t let one quirky Postmaster General take away 6-day mail delivery!