Posts tagged ‘postal’



Speaking yesterday to the Board of Governors, PMG Jack Potter re-emphasized the fact USPS faces extraordinary financial challenges in the months ahead, and that there is no indication the faltering economy or continuing decline in mail volume will stabilize in the near future.

Mail volume was down more than 9 billion pieces last year, Potter told governors, and preliminary reports show mail volume dropped more than 5 billion pieces during the first quarter of FY 2009. And, with no economic recovery expected for the remainder of the fiscal year, year-end mail volume could tumble a total of 12-15 billion pieces.

If current revenue and volume trends continue, Potter said USPS could experience a year-end net loss significantly higher than last year’s $2.8 billion loss, due primarily to the cost burden imposed by the Postal Act of 2006. That Act requires USPS to prefund future retiree health benefits in addition to paying for current benefits.

“An adjustment in our retirement health benefit funding schedule could have a significant and positive effect on our bottom line — some $2 billion in 2009,” said Potter, explaining that legislative change to the funding schedule would not require any appropriated funds. It also would have no effect on retirement benefits, themselves, and would not change the Postal Service’s obligation to retirees.

To meet the challenge of declining revenues, USPS also is taking major steps to cut costs immediately, said Potter. These steps include:

  • Eliminating $5.9 billion in cost through fiscal year 2010,
  • Cutting 100 million workhours this year,
  • Freezing the salaries of all Postal Service officers and executives at 2008 pay levels,
  • Halting all construction of new postal facilities,
  • Pursuing efforts to consolidate some excess capacity in mail processing and transportation networks while protecting service,
  • Reducing employee complement through attrition and voluntary early retirement. The number of career employees at the end of the first quarter was down by 24,240 compared to the same time a year ago.

“The Postal Service is an important public service and a vital economic engine,” Potter told the board. “We are focused on identifying and implementing strategic solutions to ensure the Postal Service continues to deliver for Americans today and for future generations.”


Feb. 2, 2009


As most of you have heard, I talked to Congress last week about the economic situation of the Postal Service. I told them we are in a financial crisis. I told them how it came about. Then I offered some proposals that could help us through a very difficult economy.

The biggest problem we’re facing is the economy itself. Business is down. It’s harder for companies and families to get credit. Unemployment is up. People are worried about the future. Spending has slowed down across the board — on homes, on cars, on household goods, and even on the mail. And some of the businesses that were our largest mail users have had the most difficult time — so they’re mailing a lot less, as well.

That’s had a real effect on our business. You can see that every day where you work. There’s less mail to process and less mail to deliver. Volume was down by more than 9 billion pieces last year. That’s about 4.5 percent. It’s falling even faster today. By the end of the year, we expect to lose another 12 billion to 15 billion pieces. At the same time, costs have been growing — but revenue has not. This year, the money we bring in will be less than it was 2008, when we lost $2.8 billion. We could lose more than $5 billion.

Before I asked Congress for help, I explained that everywhere in the Postal Service — at every Post Office and every plant — our people have been doing a great job helping to make ends meet. We were able to reduce more than $2 billion in costs last year. And we’re doing even more this year. We’re reducing administrative positions and costs that we just can’t afford. We’ve stopped new construction. We’re going to keep adjusting operations as volume keeps falling. We’re on track to reduce 100 million workhours this year — double last year’s reduction.

Another thing I was very clear about with Congress was the fact that you brought service to the highest levels we’ve ever seen — during one of the toughest times we’ve ever faced. I appreciate that. You’ve kept our customers first. That will make a difference for us when the economy does get better.

But despite everything we’ve done, and everything we’re doing, volume is falling faster than our ability to adjust to it. That’s why I asked Congress for help.

The one thing that can help most is changing the way we pay for retiree health benefits. About two years ago a new law, for the first time ever, required the Postal Service to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. The Postal Service is required to pay $55.8 billion over a ten-year period, heavily front-loading the payment schedule. The Postal Service is the only federal agency that is required to pre-fund this obligation. This is a payment usually spread out over 30 years or more. It’s like having a 30-year mortgage on your house that you have to pay off in only 10. It’s not easy, even in the best of times.

Our retiree health benefit fund has a strong and growing balance — more than $32 billion. We pay more than $5 billion into the fund every year. We pay another $2 billion for current retirees. Last year, those payments were the difference between making money and losing money. I explained to Congress that if we paid our costs for current retirees out of the fund, we could save almost $25 billion over the next eight years. That would go a long way toward protecting the future of the Postal Service. This is a good solution. It won’t raise the premiums paid by today’s retirees or by you when you retire. And it wouldn’t have any impact on your benefits—they’d still be secure.

I made one other point to Congress. I said that if the economy doesn’t improve, and if our finances keep getting worse, we could reach a point when we may not be able to afford six-day delivery. If that happens — and it hasn’t happened yet — I asked Congress for flexibility in the number of days we deliver mail. I know you’ve heard and read a lot about this. So it’s important that you hear it right from me. That’s not a choice that’s at the top of anyone’s list, and it may be a decision we’ll never have to make. There are other things we can do, things that we’d prefer to do, and that can help us financially.

Thank you for everything you do. I know it hasn’t been easy, but it’s made a difference. I’m asking for your continued help as we work to weather this economic storm so we can continue to serve America, now and long into the future.

Jack Potter




As the national economy continues to decline, the Postal Service must continue to rightsize its workforce. And among those efforts, as announced yesterday by Postmaster General Jack Potter, are planned reductions in authorized staffing levels for the nine area offices.

This follows a similar workforce reduction at headquarters and headquarters-related offices announced last fall.

With this action, some vacant area-office positions will be eliminated and other occupied positions will be affected. Employees occupying impacted positions will be notified and given information and guidance.

On Feb. 24, a series of job postings will be available to place qualified employees in vacant positions. Area employees interested in competing for these vacancies — whether or not they are affected — can create a profile now by going to on LiteBlue. Some additional positions will become vacant as a result of regular and voluntary retirements.

Additional information will be released as it becomes available. Details also will be posted on the Organization Change Management website beginning Feb. 2 and will be updated on an ongoing basis.




PMG Jack Potter Wednesday shared with a Senate subcommittee the financial difficulties facing USPS caused by the current economic situation and asked for assistance in addressing these problems.

Potter requested legislative change to reduce the crippling cost burden imposed by the Postal Act of 2006 that requires USPS to prefund future retiree health benefits in addition to paying for current benefits. He stressed we have every intention of meeting our obligation to retirees, but just wanted Congress to stretch out the payment schedule. Last year, the combined $7.4 billion cost accounted for nearly 10 percent of the USPS operating budget.

The PMG also said worsening economic conditions may make it necessary to “temporarily reduce mail delivery to only five days a week.” He added, however, that a five-day delivery week would be a last resort and that it would take place only during periods of seasonal low volume when it would have the least effect on customers. He asked Congress to give the USPS Board of Governors the flexibility to make such a change.

The PMG’s testimony received nationwide media attention — focused primarily on the prospects of five-day delivery — but the real story is the Postal Service’s current economic situation and the need for some relief on retiree health benefit payments.

USPS will continue to focus on providing the excellent levels of service its customers expect, while keeping employees informed about actions the Postal Service will implement to meet its economic challenges.

Snow, Snow, Snow and Christmas

Hello. Just thought I’d catch up a little.

If you didn’t see the news, this past week the Seattle area got slammed with snow. Normally, we might get 1-3 inches. That’s enough to totally screw up traffic and make the big hills around here just plain dangerous. This week, we got 8-10 inches, which I understand was the most amount of snow we’ve gotten since 18 years ago, and the storm came on the very same day.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to work the first day after the storm, but the week didn’t get much better. I spent most of the day Tuesday, putting cable chains on the carrier vehicles. Then I spent most of the rest of the day, going out to rescue carriers. Wednesday, everyone wanted proper chains, so we did most of the vehicles, and we still had people throwing chains, and I still ended up on the street doing rescues.

Expresses were badly delayed due to flights being stuck at O’Hare and other airports. Tuesday, we actually got Expresses for the same day delivery after 4:00 pm. Insane. And a lot of these were gifts, so the supervisors and manager struggled out to the addresses the carriers couldn’t deliver. Imagine a Cadillac going where a postal truck couldn’t go. Very exciting. There were a few addresses that were messed up, and I felt bad not being able to get these to their destinations on time for Christmas.

There were many addresses we simply couldn’t deliver to, because they were too dangerous. I have a couple of routes that dead-end right into Puget Sound, and are at the bottom of terrifying hills.

Even for this ex-Hoosier used to dealing with multiple feet of snow and monster snow drifts, it was probably 10 times worse than anything I saw. Seattle and Tacoma just ground to a complete stop. Still, my “kids” made it to places that even UPS and FedEx feared to tread, and our guys were driving tin cans on wheels.

New York General Post Office By the way, Herodotus’ passage, “Neither rain, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” is NOT the official motto of the Postal Service. It originally appeared on a Postal building in the 1920’s or 1930’s, I think. “This inscription was supplied by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the New York General Post Office. Kendall said the sentence appears in the works of Herodotus and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done. Professor George H. Palmer of Harvard University supplied the translation, which he considered the most poetical of about seven translations from the Greek.” While a great passage, again, it is not the motto of the Postal Service.

By the way, the full passage is,roughly, “Now there is nothing mortal which accomplishes a journey with more speed than these messengers, so skillfully has this been devised by the Persians: for they say that according to the number of the days of which the entire journey consists, so many horses and men are set at intervals, each man and horse appointed for a day’s journey. These neither snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness of night prevents from accomplishing each one the task proposed to him, with the very utmost of speed.”

On other news, well, nothing new about pipes except I managed to break my old, much abused, meerschaum into many pieces and am unable to repair it, even with superglue. Stupid sweatshirt pocket.

Saint Nicholas For more on the Dutch celebration of Christmas, see

Finally, Merry Christmas to all, new friends and old friends! I’ll be posting pictures of some of my Christmas on Flicker later this month. Happy Holiday!