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August 11, 2011 5:13 PM   Subscribe

In a draft document obtained by the Washington Post (print version), the United States Post Office proposes cutting 120,000 jobs, losing an additional 100,000 through regular attrition, withdrawing from employee health plans, and most dramatically "asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements," all by 2015.
The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence...If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality...Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015. Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.
The United States Post Office was established 1775, based on the Postal Clause in Article One of the United States Constitution, empowering Congress "To establish post offices and post roads." Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General, and until 1971 it was part of the Presidential cabinet (and the Postmaster General was the last person in the United States presidential line of succession). In 1971 The Postal Reorganization Act reorganized the USPO into the United States Postal Service, an independent agency of the United States.
posted by 2bucksplus (79 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe they just need to update their logo again.
posted by punkfloyd at 5:16 PM on August 11, 2011


Maybe they should ask to be allowed to charge what it really costs to send mail.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:17 PM on August 11, 2011 [52 favorites]


220,000 jobs? So, basically everyone except Kevin Costner?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Now we know why Netflix is forcing us all to use streaming.

On a more serious note, fuck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Union busting, you say? Here's a great opportunity for our leaders to be more like Reagan, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2011


On the one hand, that's a lot of people to put out on the street. On the other hand, abolishing the postal system might be a good idea. I can banish spam from my inbox, but I can't seem to stop the postman from delivering it to my mailbox.
posted by mullingitover at 5:19 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


At this point, I think Netflix is all that's keeping the USPS afloat, and with their mission to move everyone to streaming-only plans, the writing is surely on the wall.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:20 PM on August 11, 2011


If it was a private sector business it could raise it's rates as needed, rather than requiring an act of congress.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:21 PM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


If it was a service the private sector could easily provide, it wouldn't need to be an enumerated power of fucking Congress to keep and maintain it.
posted by absalom at 5:23 PM on August 11, 2011 [33 favorites]


If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality
If the Postal Service was a private sector business, people in rural Montana wouldn't have mail delivery. It's not a private sector business. We demand things of it that we would never demand of private sector businesses, because it provides things that are necessary and that can't be provided by the market. This seems pretty basic.
posted by craichead at 5:24 PM on August 11, 2011 [159 favorites]


How about charging (a lot) more for sending spam aka presorted mail? That's pretty much the only stuff that we get these days.
posted by dabug at 5:25 PM on August 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sounds like the USPS is experiencing the same challenges like many other government owned mail services. It's a pretty tough job balancing universal national service with diminished revenues resulting from lower volumes of mail. Posten, the Swedish equivalent, has been going through this transformation for almost two decades. They had to fire a lot of staff but they manage to offer the same level of service by partnering with convenience stores, super markets and pretty much any other type of store in the local communities.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:28 PM on August 11, 2011


Put the postal service in charge of maintaining the internet backbone as a public utility, granting non-exclusive usage to cable providers, and require by law that it make neither a profit, nor loss, and adjust rates accordingly. Gradually get out of the paper delivery service. Merge the postmaster general position with the CIO/CTO position that Obama created.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:32 PM on August 11, 2011 [120 favorites]


Because, afterall, it was originally meant as a communication backbone for America.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:35 PM on August 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Why aren't they petitioning Congress to have their health care expenses accounted for like every other corporation in the country has theirs?
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:36 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first paragraph of the WaPo article seems to contradict the lede here - the post office just wants to withdraw from FEDERAL health insurance, no? Get its own, non-federal plan?
posted by Vhanudux at 5:42 PM on August 11, 2011


We have this discussion about what the PO should or shouldn't do every time the PO is in the news, the real meat of this story is the APUW. The American Postal Worker's Union is one of the last, strong unions in the United States with over 500,000 members. Recently the new hires have been signing a different contract-- it looks like the Union already caved.

I think most Postal Workers knew dramatic changes were coming, no the question is-- how dramatic? What happens to the guys who have put in 20 years, too young to retire but too old to look for a new line of work?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:45 PM on August 11, 2011


They are talking about closing some of the village post offices here in Alaska. Imagine having to pay to have letters flown/barged in when you are mostly living a subsistence lifestyle. craichead is right, a private business wouldn't cover that... like how we don't have real UPS or FedEx ground in Juneau. They send it up to Anchorage until they can fill a plane. It can take forever... and we are the capitol! I can't imagine how they would handle this out in Sleetmute.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:45 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wow, they're already down almost 300,000 jobs from their peak in the late 90s, and down 150,000 since the beginning of the financial unpleasantness. There are fewer postal employees now than at any time since the mid-60s. This proposal would reduce their headcount to what it was in 1946.
posted by wierdo at 5:47 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


What happens to the guys who have put in 20 years, too young to retire but too old to look for a new line of work?

They begin practicing their marksmanship...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:47 PM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


.How about charging (a lot) more for sending spam aka presorted mail? That's pretty much the only stuff that we get these days.

This comes up again and again in these discussions.

Basically, the USPS would lose even more money. The real cost of the postal system doesn't come from sorting or transporting the mail across the country -- it comes from sending a truck to every address in the country at least once a day, 6 days a week.

Presort (ie. 3rd class) mail fills the empty space on the truck and plane that isn't occupied by first-class mail or priority mail packages. The cost for the USPS to deliver that material is close to zero, so they price it at a point where they'll maximize their profits. Raising the price would likely cause profits to drop, as fewer companies would be interested in running a direct-mail campaign at a higher price.
posted by schmod at 5:50 PM on August 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


I genuinely think that a federal postal service fulfills a basic common social good, regardless of profitability.

It concerns me that we seem to be on the cusp of getting rid of that..
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:50 PM on August 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Maybe they should ask to be allowed to charge what it really costs to send mail.

Maybe they should ask to be fully funded as a government service, like roads. They could call themselves the Paper Superhighway. (lolbutseriously)
posted by DU at 5:55 PM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


there is no common social good - there is only profitability

which is why things are going straight to hell
posted by pyramid termite at 5:56 PM on August 11, 2011 [33 favorites]


Postal service is basic social good as mentioned above, but it certainly could be much more efficient.

Drop Saturday delivery for one or go to even 4 day delivery. Expand use of self service machines (and stock pens next to them).
posted by zeikka at 5:57 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libertarians will miss civilization once it's gone. Hardcore libertarians are probably the least equipped, emotionally, to survive the all encompassing nature of the clan/tribal society that would replace what we have now. Your unfriendly local warlord isn't going to give a shit about natural rights or the Constitution.
posted by wuwei at 5:58 PM on August 11, 2011 [73 favorites]


Drop Saturday delivery for one or go to even 4 day delivery.

This, except reversed. Go 7 days for efficiency, speed and maximum employment. (Especially after reducing the work week [for everyone] to 4 days. You'd have two rolling 4 day shifts.)
posted by DU at 6:01 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abolish triple dipping. Half the workforce would quit.
posted by Talez at 6:03 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Half the Dairy Queen workforce?
posted by silby at 6:04 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Expand use of self service machines (and stock pens next to them).

You do realize that this "efficiency" measure is just another way of getting rid of employees, right?

Not your fault...the current business model being taught all over to boners in B-school is how employees=cost rather than investment.

.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:10 PM on August 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's no way Congress will let this happen this fast. That's enough job losses to make a VERY significant difference in overall employment figures.
posted by miyabo at 6:11 PM on August 11, 2011


There's no way Congress will let this happen this fast. That's enough job losses to make a VERY significant difference in overall employment figures.

Yeah, but they want unemployment high, so they can blame it on Job-Killing Obama and his Job-Killing Health Care Bill. Because it kills jobs!
posted by ubernostrum at 6:17 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's no way Congress will let this happen this fast.

THIS congress? - just look at the hash they made out of the debt ceiling debate

i dare anyone to overestimate the stupidity and ineffectiveness of this congress
posted by pyramid termite at 6:18 PM on August 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


It (was) one of the great middle class jobs: guaranteed full time employment for people without a college degree that came with good (not great) medical benefits, pension plan, and paid vacation. Even overtime at Christmas. My husband, his father, his cousin and his uncle are or were US postal workers. They all own their own homes. Like I said, good, solid middle class.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:19 PM on August 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Wow, as an Australian who regularly sends and receives items from all over the world - but especially the UK and the US, I feel like the US Postal system is a terrible joke.

From my perspective, sending anything to the US, compared to the UK - despite the fact they are equally far away - generally costs almost three times the amount, and triple the time. E.g:

Send/Receive average book-sized package to/from the UK: Costs about $10 and takes a week to ten days.

Send/Receive same package to/from US using USPS: Costs $25-$30 and takes 15-25 days. Also, USPS has lost/damaged my packages. Royal mail never has. I despise USPS!
posted by smoke at 6:21 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another cave-in of a once world-class organization that has been hobbled by government.

Now the investors in UPS and FedEx can profit with even more egregious rates as demand for services goes up, because the Post Office loses capacity.

What gets lost on the bean counters - as usual - is that the low rate of sending stuff via USPS helps keep the cost of things lower than they would normally be. So, the increased rates that will help profit UPS and FedEx will get passed right on to - guess who?

As the Post Office starts to go; when K12 schools start to go; and others key, vernacular services start to go to the private sector, the money people can raise their $$$ flag a little higher on the flagpole.

I never thought I'd see the day, but we are fast approaching official, step-by-step dissolution of a once-great culture, and that ain't hyperbole. Man, we are gonna be paying - literally paying - for the lack of attention we have been lulled into thinking was our right, just because we got rich after WWII.
posted by Vibrissae at 6:28 PM on August 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


It (was) one of the great middle class jobs:

That's why it was one of the first to go.
posted by DU at 6:28 PM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


You do realize that this "efficiency" measure is just another way of getting rid of employees, right?

Not your fault...the current business model being taught all over to boners in B-school is how employees=cost rather than investment.


I guess you could have those employees digging and re-filling ditches out back if you prefer. That we don't have a lot of high value added jobs for delivery-workers and clerks to do is unfortunate, but make-work is a pretty sub-optimal solution. I don't know that current USPS practices are very inefficient (I don't know anything about that business), but if efficiency exists they should take them. If nothing else there are other valuable objectives that federal dollars could (and probably won't be) spent on.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:34 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Newman will not be the first to go. Cliff Claven will.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:37 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blue Beetle has the right idea, and it is similar to one I floated a couple on months ago on the blue. We don't demand the Department of Defense turn a profit. Neither should we expect the Post Office to do so.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:41 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think they should go to one day delivery. If people need things faster than a week do it online. I check my home mail once a week as it is.

This is coming from someone that trudges to a PO Box every day for other reasons. No one should be in a hurry when it comes to mail.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:44 PM on August 11, 2011


Drop Saturday delivery for one or go to even 4 day delivery.

In my neighborhood, we're already at 4-day delivery, I think. I can't tell you the last time I've had mail delivered on a Friday or Saturday, but the paper spam shows up M-Th like clockwork.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:48 PM on August 11, 2011


I think they should go to one day delivery. If people need things faster than a week do it online.

You're right. There's nobody without access to the Internet!
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:51 PM on August 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Nooooooo not the post office!!!!!!
posted by Kloryne at 6:53 PM on August 11, 2011


and most dramatically "asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements," all by 2015.

And yet another giant fuck you to workers.

Just remember kids, rights and contracts only count if you're rich enough to fight for them. Constantly.

(Just once, I'd like to see a news lede that says "Company aims to get house in order by firing dead-weight middle management and expensive do-nothing upper management while keeping workers who actually do the fucking work....")
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:04 PM on August 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Send/Receive same package to/from US using USPS: Costs $25-$30 and takes 15-25 days. Also, USPS has lost/damaged my packages. Royal mail never has. I despise USPS!

If these cuts go through you can look forward to sending things to the US Fedex for $125.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:05 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Post apocalypse.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:09 PM on August 11, 2011


I always choose USPS when I have a choice. I also get mail nearly every day, and I’m not counting junk mail. I guess it wouldn’t seem that important to those who don’t use it, but it is very freakin important.
posted by bongo_x at 7:24 PM on August 11, 2011


I thought all those Mike Bradecich "If it fits it ships" TV ads were supposed to save the USPS from all of this. Guess not.
posted by blucevalo at 7:42 PM on August 11, 2011


So why don't they open up 3rd class mail delivery to competitive bidding? I think the USPS is dismal, and see no reason to pretend that their service is A+ swell/wonderful.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:45 PM on August 11, 2011


As I was filling out a postal satisfaction survey last week (online, incidentally, because I felt guilty about being late on it) I was especially cautious not to just bitch and moan about the junk mail, because I know that it's USPS' bread and butter, or at least bread. I need to receive the non-junk mail that's sent to me and I need my outgoings to get to their destinations in a timely, cost-effective fashion. Just this past week, I was blithely confident enough to send a big check through regular mail knowing it would get there in 2 days. I did, after the fact, think about the horrors of having to say "but the check's in the mail!" if it didn't get there in 2 days, but lo, speedy delivery, at my service.
If such blithe confidence requires me having to shred a bunch of junk mail every few days, I'll gladly sacrifice those minutes.
Also, the stupid circular mailings make excellent bird cage linings.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:48 PM on August 11, 2011


This is by design. There are people in the government who want the Post Office to fail, and have been doing everything possible to ensure its failure.
In 2006, Congress mandated that the Postal Service prefund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade—something no other public agency or private firm does. The resulting annual payments run $5.5 billion a year, costing the Postal Service $21 billion since 2007. That’s the difference between a positive and a negative balance sheet, as it would be for virtually any entity facing a similar burden — if any did.
Solutions?
Remove that unreasonable obligation and the Postal Service would have been profitable.
Or....
Allow the Postal Service to stop depleting its operating funds to make these payments, and instead permit an internal transfer of funds from its pension surpluses — as any responsible business would do.
Also, it is my understand that the Postal Surpluses earlier in the decade were simply absorbed by the Federal government. If so, that's just another no-win situation forced upon them by the government.

(FWIW I personally believe the Post Office is a core function of government and would have no problem with it being subsidized by taxpayers. But the current arrangement seems to be the worst of both worlds - socialized profits, privatized losses.
posted by Davenhill at 7:58 PM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


oh wow, i went to college with mike bradecich
posted by asockpuppet at 7:59 PM on August 11, 2011


If the Postal Service was a private sector business, people in rural Montana wouldn't have mail delivery

It's OK, they'll have broadband fiber internet.*

The co-op plans to use the [$70M federal loan] to install 1,700 miles of fiber-optic cable that will bring high-speed Internet to 4,700 households, 500 businesses and 82 “critical community organizations,” such as hospitals, libraries, schools and public safety departments.

* Unlike me, a short drive from the birthplace of the router, BSD Unix, and ethernet, and probably a bunch of network protocols.
posted by zippy at 8:05 PM on August 11, 2011


I guess you could have those employees digging and re-filling ditches out back if you prefer. That we don't have a lot of high value added jobs for delivery-workers and clerks to do is unfortunate, but make-work is a pretty sub-optimal solution. I don't know that current USPS practices are very inefficient (I don't know anything about that business), but if efficiency exists they should take them. If nothing else there are other valuable objectives that federal dollars could (and probably won't be) spent on.

Your response would have been better had it been made by an automated bot.

You should go out in the coal fields and coal stuff because machines can't do that yet. And when they can do that...then we will decimate you because then you will be made useless.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:05 PM on August 11, 2011


We don't demand the Department of Defense turn a profit.

But it does turn a profit: for the military-industrial complex our elected leaders are sworn to serve.
posted by bryon at 8:12 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is such a conservative and insular place at times. Every postal service in the world is facing this challenge as its core business evaporates to the internet. Every post service in the world is therefore trying to cut costs and increase efficiency and business as usual is not an option for anyone. First-Class mail, in which the USPS enjoys a legal monopoly, fell 29% from 1998 to 2008 and continues to decline so its absurd to argue that the second largest civilian employer in the USA shouldn't or couldn't rationalise its services and workforce. It still has almost 600,000 employees, guaranteeing each of them a job for life and then asking how it can provide a better service in changing times is a non starter.
posted by joannemullen at 8:41 PM on August 11, 2011


Every postal service in the world is facing this challenge as its core business evaporates to the internet.

Pretty ignorant, joannemullan, when the exact opposite is true in your very own country of residence.

You've got mail: online purchases make post office prosper

"...with shoppers rapidly deserting bricks and mortar shops for online stores, Australia Post - whose job is to deliver the goods we are buying online - has emerged an unlikely winner.

'We say that the internet is our letters business's worst enemy and our parcels business's best friend,'' said Alex Twomey, Australia Post's general manager of external affairs."

posted by smoke at 8:55 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


First-Class mail, in which the USPS enjoys a legal monopoly, fell 29% from 1998 to 2008 and continues to decline so its absurd to argue that the second largest civilian employer in the USA shouldn't or couldn't rationalise its services and workforce.

The Postal Service mainly carries Third Class Mail. It lets advertisers walk all over it because pro-business lawmakers let the governmenlt practically subsidize that stuff.

Second, no employee is guaranteed for life. I'm probably the only person on this thread whose actually read large portions of the collective bargaining agreement. If a private employer wanted to abrogate a CBA, they'd be crushed by the NLRB. It is a contract they entered into, a promise they made. Yet the Postal Service wants to have others pay for its own mistakes, rather than renegotiate the CBA, which every other industry (see UAW and the Big Three automakers for a prime example).

This is about a series of large-scale mistakes the Postal Service has made and continues to make and their attempts to make everyone else but them pay for these mistakes.

Its officially too damn late for me to go and look up the CBA, but it is on the web and I encourage you all to look it up and read it. No matter what the provisions, the Union lacks the funds to individually fight that number of RIF actions. As a federal employment attorney, I can assure you that the union lacks the funds to fight all of them. The procedure is generally massively slanted towards the agency anyway.

No civil service employee anywhere, other than federal judges, is guaranteed a job for life. A simple review of the regulations in the federal government would suffice to inform people on this issue.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:04 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically any federal or state or county job you can think of now, there's somewhere not too far away a bunch of angry citizens slavering to either entirely eliminate them or at the very least discard all existing labor agreements. It still shocks me to hear things like NASA or NIH or the national labs be referred to as works programs. At one time I blamed the individual agencies for not doing enough outreach or promoting their mission and their successes. But now I feel like everything is just inverted in the taxpayers' minds - that pretty soon, being a federal worker will itself be a crime because you are forcing the taxpayers to give you their own money (in the form of wages and benefits).
posted by newdaddy at 9:31 PM on August 11, 2011


"I personally believe the Post Office is a core function of government"

In the U.S. you'd be correct, as it's one of the handful of federal government functions specifically mentioned in the Constitution. (Art. I, sec. 8)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:44 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just once, I'd like to see a news lede that says "Company aims to get house in order by firing dead-weight middle management and expensive do-nothing upper management while keeping workers who actually do the fucking work...."

If this ever happened at any company ever we would know that the Apocalypse was nigh, because that is totally the first sign of the end of the world.

I have a boss who makes six figures who does about four hours of work a week, and that work is sitting on conference calls being an ass. Why he should earn six figures for that will always be a mystery to me, but I quite frankly suspect that it's because above a certain level there is no one who actually recognizes what a good employee looks like, because they're all incompetent morons.
posted by winna at 10:19 PM on August 11, 2011


We don't demand the Department of Defense turn a profit.

Sure we do, it's just that the profit is for Exxon.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:20 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But yeah, the post service in most countries will have to change radically. Delivery three times a week instead of 5 (or 6?), focusing on fast parcel delivery, and streamlining everything would be a good start.

Oh, and if there's money left over after cutting all that stuff, use it to subsidize internet access for rural areas or something.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:25 PM on August 11, 2011


During the past four years, the service lost $20 billion, including $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010. Over that period, mail volume dropped by 20 percent.

In one month, February 2010, the U.S. spent $6.7 Billion in Afghanistan and $5.5 Billion in Iraq. Total war costs exceed $1.5 trillion and to deploy 100,000 troops for one year in the Afghan theater costs about $100 billion.

My point isn't that the past decade's military follies are enormously, unfathomably expensive (they are) or that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should end now (they should) but more that the U.S. government could easily afford subsidize (read: bail out, because that is how it would be portrayed) the USPS. I know it's an independent agency and supposedly self-sufficient but the overall public good has to trump all that free market nonsense. The postal service is essential for a variety of reasons, many pointed out in this thread and they provide a public service that is of benefit to many Americans. I don't think it's too much of an expense to ask the federal government to step in and save the USPS in this instance. Their last four years of losses were spent in a couple of months in the Middle East and Central Asia.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:48 PM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe they should be funded by the federal government again. Or is that "socialism"?
posted by autoclavicle at 3:10 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but they want unemployment high, so they can blame it on Job-Killing Obama and his Job-Killing Health Care Bill. Because it kills jobs!

Solution: zombie jobs!
posted by armage at 3:18 AM on August 12, 2011


My solution: Eliminate third-class (junk) mail or price it similar to first-class. Then deliver first-class mail once a week to residential customers with commercial customers maybe 2 or 3 times. Without junk mail, how much does anyone actually receive in a given week? Wouldn't one delivery of nothing but mail you actually want (well, maybe not the bills) per week be better than the piles of crap we get six times a week now?
posted by tommasz at 6:02 AM on August 12, 2011


I personally noticed the decline of the United States Postal Service since October 2010.
When my father retired.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:13 AM on August 12, 2011


My solution: Eliminate third-class (junk) mail or price it similar to first-class

Rural mail delivery has nearly always been subsidized by bulk mail. This has been the case since 1896:

"The time was right for mail order merchandise. Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical."
posted by krinklyfig at 6:30 AM on August 12, 2011


Expand use of self service machines (and stock pens next to them)

What would you put in the stock pens?
posted by Floydd at 7:31 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I'm using a different USPS than everyone else, or the offices in VA have it on lock, because they're fast, efficient, and most of all, affordable. I wouldn't STOP selling t-shirts and shipping them out if the USPS by me closed, or they slashed it to the bone like the common desire seems to be, but between FedExKinkosOffice all but charging me money to walk in the door, or UPS either losing my packages, lazy brown-shorts handing my packages off to whomever feels like signing for them (and charging $10 more for the privilege), I'd have to at least increase shipping costs and handling times on my site, if not for the increased costs in using FedEx or UPS, but also the amount of drinking I would have to do to make up for the additional stresses of dealing with those clumsy idiots.

Also, the whole conceit of "Fuck the USPS because I don't like junk mail and besides people can just use the internet!" is like the AppStore version of "Let them eat cake!" Seriously guys, quit it.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:53 AM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


No civil service employee anywhere, other than federal judges, is guaranteed a job for life.

I'll defer to your expertise as a federal employment attorney, but I think when many people call it "employment for life" they refer to the disproportional effort required in the public sector to terminate employment. It frustrates the majority who have no contracts, work in right-to-work states or in at-will employment to hear stories of people who endured years of probationary treatment to eventually terminate employment. The protections for the laborer are on balance positive but a minority makes a mockery of the process.
posted by dgran at 7:54 AM on August 12, 2011


they refer to the disproportional effort required in the public sector to terminate employment. It frustrates the majority who have no contracts, work in right-to-work states or in at-will employment to hear stories of people who endured years of probationary treatment to eventually terminate employment. The protections for the laborer are on balance positive but a minority makes a mockery of the process.

That's not how this works. I've done dozens of these cases. 90% settle, with 85% settling with the employee leaving the job. 90% of the remaining cases are decided in favor of the Agency.

And there's a larger reason. Its to stop the endless recycling of jobs in the government in every election.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:19 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


James Meek's essay 'In the Sorting Office', published in the LRB a few months ago, discusses the problems in the British, Dutch and German postal systems. He argues that the rise of junk mail is actually one of the reasons why the postal services are in trouble:

A few hundred giant firms and organisations which want to send bursts of millions of letters and catalogues every few days are competing for the same set of postal workers with millions of people who want to send a few Christmas cards and once in a while something that needs signing. In this competition the power lies with the few, whose priority is cheapness, rather than the many, whose priority is regularity and universality; cheapness wins, and it is the postal workers who suffer.
posted by verstegan at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2011


That's not how this works. I've done dozens of these cases. 90% settle, with 85% settling with the employee leaving the job. 90% of the remaining cases are decided in favor of the Agency.

I guess I'm recalling a few outliers then. One case in particular I know took five years, during which the public sector employee scarcely did any real work. This was about ten years go. More recent situations have seemed more swift and decisive. That said, the private sector (for good or bad) is much swifter about ending bad working relationships.

And there's a larger reason. Its to stop the endless recycling of jobs in the government in every election.

Good point. That would be terribly unproductive.
posted by dgran at 10:15 AM on August 12, 2011


dgran wrote: That said, the private sector (for good or bad) is much swifter about ending bad working relationships.

The private sector need not be so careful; they're not using public money to reward or punish someone for political reasons. They're using private money for the same ends. That's not great, IMO, but it's a damn sight better than every federal employee's job being at the whim of whatever jackhole just got elected to the Presidency.
posted by wierdo at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail..."

One of the first books I can remember being read to me was about a postman. I think he was American.

And he would zoom along on a train. And there would be various sacks of mail left on poles along the route. And it was his EXTRA SPECIAL SUPARR IMPORTANT JOB to grab the mail with a big stick as the train sped past.

And I’d always be "You better not miss the sack of mail Mr postman!" as that particular page came up. And then a "Phew, Yes!" each time he grabbed it with his stick.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:37 PM on August 13, 2011


I was 17 at the time.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:42 PM on August 13, 2011


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