Monday, March 20, 2006

Postal Service Consolidation Plans Will Benefit Big Mailers At Expense of Citizens

Olympia Local American Postal Workers Union

Informational Picket to Protest Reduction of Mail Service
Wednesday, 3/22/06 11:00 am to 1:00 pm

For Immediate Release 3/20/6
Contact Clint Burelson, President 360-970-2965

Statement by Clint Burelson, President

The United States Postal Service is reducing service to many communities by consolidating mail canceling and sorting operations into just a few large hubs. The proposal to discontinue canceling mail in Olympia, and to move many mail operations to Tacoma on April 3rd, is part of a larger national restructuring where as many as 250 mail processing facilities may be closed and consolidated. These consolidation plans will benefit the big mailers at the expense of citizens, non-profit organizations, small businesses, and businesses of any size that require fast mail service to and from their customers.

Large advertising based mailers such as AOL Time Warner (People magazine, etc.) plan to benefit from the consolidations by obtaining huge discounts for taking more work away from the USPS. At the same time, the big mailers want the average citizen and small mailers to receive less service or pay more for the same service.

It is a common understanding that the Postal Service provides first class mail service at the same rates to citizens wherever they live and however far their mail has to travel. The relatively low cost of mailing a letter to someone in the same town helps to balance the more expensive cost of mailing a letter to the other side of the country. This type of system makes it affordable for everyone and insures that everyone can correspond equally throughout the United States via the Postal Service.

However, out of public view, large mailers have lobbied and have been successful in securing discounts for their advertising based mailings through “worksharing,” which is what the USPS and large mailers call the process by which mailers perform the functions such as applying barcodes, sorting, and trucking that would otherwise be performed by the Postal Service. Through “worksharing,” the large mailers pay less than the regular citizen for using the mail. The “worksharing” discounts have been so large, in excess of the savings to the USPS, that it has caused the Postal Service to have continuous revenue problems and for rates for the small mailers and citizens to rise unnecessarily in order to pay for the discounts to the big mailers.

The large mailers are pushing to pay even less of their fair share of the costs of universal postal service. In documents submitted to the President’s Commission on the Postal Service, the large mailers indicate that regular citizens should have to pay more or receive reduced service because they are not as efficient as the large mailers in their mailings.

In their submission to the President’s Commission, AOL Time Warner stated,

“Rates should be deaveraged and unbundled to reflect actual USPS costs of providing service.”

AOL Time Warner and other large mailers argue that local mailings should not have to subsidize the more distant mailings or that the “efficient” high volume mailings should not have to subsidize the small “inefficient” mailings of small organizations or the general public.

With the Postal Service consolidation plans, which began as the large mailer plans, the large mailers are hoping to capture more postal work and discounts by eliminating and/or consolidating as many as 250 mail processing facilities across the country. So, instead of processing the local originating mail locally, mail will be trucked miles away to be processed before returning to the same town for delivery. Not only is this more costly in terms of fuel and work time, it also results in delays in first class mail service. This design is inherently inefficient and benefits only large advertising based corporations able to take advantage of the discounts.

In general, the large mailers want as much of the Postal Service work turned over to the private sector as possible. In theory, the discounts they get simply reflect the work they have done to sort the mail. But the mail from the big mailers still needs to be processed, sorted, and delivered with the rest of the mail. The discounts awarded are far deeper than the costs the publishers have “saved” the Postal Service. In reality, they amount to a subsidy for big mailers – a subsidy paid for by the average stamp buyer.

The excessive discounts for the large mailers have reduced the Postal Service role and dramatically increased the private sector role in the mailing industry. The CEO of RR Donnelley Logistics, a large mailing company, in testimony to the President’s Commission on the Postal Service, stated,

“You have already heard that the mailing industry is a $900 billion industry employing 9 million US citizens. If we then think about the role the USPS plays in supporting the mailing public, these figures imply that the USPS makes up less than 10% of the mailing industry. That 10% share includes both upstream processing and transportation functions, which can be outsourced, and the Postal Service's unrivaled delivery capability...which cannot.”

Corporate speakers laud a reduction of the Postal Service budget as a savings to the public, but in reality it is a transfer of work and income to the corporations. The corporations generally have this work performed by workers who are paid far less than postal workers, so the process destroys good jobs and replaces them with low wage ones.

The big mailers hope to secure this arrangement by the closing and consolidation of mail processing facilities, which will make it difficult to return mail processing functions to the Post Office. The Postal Service is also closing small post offices. In fact, over 200 small post offices have been closed in the last 2 years.

Large advertising based mailers will benefit from the Postal Service plans. For the average citizen however, the Postal Service consolidation plans mean a reduction in mail service, higher costs for the reduced service, and a loss of union covered living wage job opportunities. The loss of living wage jobs will hurt our communities in turn.

The reduction in mail service and higher cost for using the Post Office will also mean a reduction in equality and will harm small business owners and non-profit organizations. Many small non-profit organization and small businesses will find it increasingly difficult to use the mail for their communication needs if the service is slow and expensive. In the magazine business, the big mailers like Time Warner will be better able to discourage competition if the smaller mailers have to pay more for their mailings.

Perhaps most importantly, the plans to dismantle the Post Office will mean a reduction in democracy. Higher costs for small mailings will reduce the ability of citizens to communicate through the mail. Corporate media, no matter how many channels, is still corporate media. A real democracy needs to provide support for the voice of the regular citizen. The Postal Service is one place that historically has provided that support.

The large mailer response to the loss of the small mailings is that people can always use the internet. AOL Time Warner (an internet provider), not surprisingly, has been especially vocal on this argument.

If that’s the case, then why don’t they take their own advice? Because catalogs and magazines are easier to browse and read in print form, and because products can’t be sent through the internet. Small businesses, non-profit organizations, and regular citizens deserve services and rates equal to those that big business can get, at least from our public institutions.

Moreover, not everyone can afford a computer, internet service, and the time it takes to keep it working properly. The cost of internet access prevents many people from accessing information and participating in our democracy. The Postal Service rate structure was historically designed to encourage the sharing of information at affordable rates to nurture a democratic culture. The Postal Service is too important to our country to have it be taken over, as have mostly all other media, by “market” principles, which invariably leads to corporate control.

USPS Consolidation Plans Not Receiving Adequate Media Coverage Because Corporate Owned Media Benefit by USPS Plans
The story of how large corporations are benefiting and the average citizen losing in the Postal Service consolidation plans are not being adequately covered by the corporate media because many of the large mailers who will benefit from the consolidation plans are also the large media corporations that provide most of the news to the country. AOL Time Warner, which owns CNN and many other media sources of information, argues for the “de-averaging” of postal costs and supports the consolidations plans. Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and other large media mailers also support consolidation and cannot be expected to tell the story from the general public’s viewpoint.

Use Your Voice
The Postal Rate Commission is holding a pre-hearing on March 24th in a case that will determine if the Postal Service plans for a reduction violates the Postal Reorganization Act, which requires that the Postal Service provide prompt service to the public.

Individuals can submit their views on the matter in letters to the Commission (901 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20268), through the use of the “Contact Us” form on the Commission web site and by calling the Commission at 202-789-6800 for by faxing to 202-789-6866. The docket number is N2006-1 and all the documents can be viewed and/or downloaded at the Postal Rate Commission web site at

Informational Picket
The Olympia Local of the American Postal Workers Union will be holding an informational picket on Wednesday, March 22, 2006 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Olympia Downtown Post Office located at 900 Jefferson Street in Olympia, Washington. The informational picket is to protest the Postal Service plans to close and consolidate mail processing facilities across the country and reduce mail service as a result. The community is invited to join us in our efforts. Please note that the date is a change from the original date reported. The date was changed so that union members could pay their respects to Art Anderson, a union brother and good friend whose funeral is on Tuesday.

Concerned citizens and organizations should also contact their government representatives to advocate on their behalf. If enough people are vocal, the consolidation plans and reduction in service can be stopped and the Postal Service returned to its role as a public service.

More Information Online
More information on the consolidations happening across the country can be found at, and at Specific information to the Olympia consolidation can be found at and at respectively. Big mailer comments on deaveraging, worksharing, consolidation and other postal issues can be viewed at

For more information contact: Clint Burelson - or 360-970-2965

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