APWU Denounces Five-Day Delivery Proposal
(This article by former APWU President Wiliam Burrus was first published in the May/June 2010 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The Postal Service has embarked on an aggressive campaign to change the frequency of mail delivery from six days per week to five by eliminating delivery on Saturdays. This change would alter the ability of American citizens to communicate by mail six days a week through the United States Postal Service — a right that has endured for generations. The American Postal Workers Union vehemently opposes this change.
I will dispense with a discussion of the effect the proposal would have on the number of postal jobs, along with the cynical assumption that the union opposes the plan simply because we want to protect jobs. That is not the basis of our opposition.
We oppose the reduction in delivery because it pierces any justification for the USPS monopoly. If the Postal Service refuses to deliver mail on a day of normal commercial activity, what justification can there be for granting the USPS the exclusive right to deliver mail?
If the Postal Service abandons Saturday delivery in the name of “cost reduction,” won’t private couriers demand the right to deliver mail on Saturday? And if this happens, what rationale can there be for giving the USPS the exclusive right to deliver mail on Tuesdays or Fridays? With this plan, the Postal Service is announcing that it intends to abandon the mailbox on Saturday, while simultaneously denying access to willing service providers.
Eliminating an Essential Freedom
As Americans, we are guaranteed freedom of speech, assembly, and religion — and the right to communicate is an integral component of free speech. The proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery will effectively deny citizens the right of speech through the mail on Saturdays.
Given the unofficial recognition that Sunday is a day of rest, the absence of mail service on this day is accepted in American society; however, if the requirement to deliver mail on Saturday can be eliminated as an obligation that is consistent with the Postal Service’s exclusive access to mailboxes, the same justification could be applied to the remaining five days.
Apparently, postal management fails to recognize that providing postal service is not simply a commercial enterprise like selling milk or bread. We provide a channel for communication, and in return are granted exclusive access to citizens’ mailboxes. Spare me the tired refrain that the purpose of postal “reform” was to change the USPS business model so that it can be run like a business. If the intent was to convert a government-run postal service to a purely commercial enterprise, then the USPS also must relinquish its monopoly and compete with private companies, pay taxes, and abide by all the rules that apply to commercial enterprises.
Of course, without exclusive access to citizens’ mailboxes, the Postal Service could not guarantee universal service at uniform rates; nor could it assure all citizens the right to communicate by mail. The USPS is not Fed Ex or UPS, companies that can adjust rates and service without public input.
The Postal Service is not simply a business, and the elimination of Saturday delivery is contrary to the public service model that justifies its existence.
Public-opinion polling on this issue — which purportedly showed that 60 percent of those asked preferred the elimination of Saturday delivery to an increase in postage — was a joke. Can you imagine the Veterans Administrations or the local fire department announcing that they will stop treating wounded soldiers or putting out fires on Saturdays because 60 percent of those polled said they preferred that option to a tax increase?
Furthermore, we cannot seriously believe that if the elimination of Saturday delivery is approved, it would put an end to annual rate increases as permitted by law. Postmaster General Potter has indicated that, if approved, the cessation of Saturday mail service would begin in 2011; he also has said that he expects the next general rate increase to take place that year. So, if the five-day proposal is adopted, the American people would suffer a significant reduction of service concurrent with a substantial rate increase.
The American Postal Workers Union opposes the proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery, and we intend to use all of our resources to prevent its implementation. We plan to initiate a nationwide program of opposition, and we ask our members and their families to help “Save our Service.”