If you ask a Congressman or someone who delivers the mail for a living why the United States Postal Service is hemorrhaging money, they’ll likely blame our country’s increasing reliance on e-mail. This rationale is both true and misleading. What e-mail has actually cost the Postal Service is the luxury to be inefficient. For years the Post Office has paid its employees too much money, opened way more facilities than necessary and generally operated incompetently because it didn’t have shareholders to answer to. Now the service is actually in jeopardy of defaulting. If nothing is done, the United States Postal Service will run out of money to pay its employees within six months.
Did you know a large percentage of postal workers actually can’t be laid off? The unions pushed for such clauses in collective bargaining and the Post Office actually somehow to them. Labor accounts for eighty percent of the USPS’ bills as opposed to thirty-two percent of FedEx’s. Postmaster General Patrick Donahue has asked Congress void the binding union agreements so he can give walking papers to two hundred and twenty thousand employees, but not surprisingly, most politicians have balked at this recommendation, as has the union.
I can see why. No one wants to layoff workers, especially if the firings involve breaking contracts already agreed to. Unfortunately, there really doesn’t seem to be any alternative. Some members of Congress are pushing a plan to use nearly sixty billion dollars the service supposedly overpaid to pension funds, but even if it did shell out more than necessary, according to The New York Times there is some debate, that’s still only a short-term solution. It would do nothing to address the deficit the USPS will continue to run for the foreseeable future.
The United States Postal Service requires an immediate alteration in not only its budget but also its basic policies. It needs to be run like a real business, not a taxpayer sponsored non-profit. If you want to know what that entails, look no further than the following story.
On Saturday morning, I realized Monday was a federal holiday and mail would not be delivered. My rent is due on the fifth of every month; so, rather than drop my check into the mailbox, I looked up exactly where the P.O. Box I send it to was located. I drove to that specific Post Office, waited in line, bought a stamp and asked the man behind the counter if he could please make sure it was dropped into the box later in the day. He said, “No, we don’t deliver mail on the same day.” Shocked, I explained my situation and told him the P.O. Box was located in the store about twenty feet from where we were standing. Again, he iterated it was company policy not to deliver mail on the same day. I volunteered to pay to have the check expedited, and he still refused. Point blank, I asked him how much money I would need to pay to make sure it got into the box, and he told me no amount of money could make that happen.
Benjamin Franklin, our nation’s first Postmaster General, would roll over in his fucking grave if he heard that story. Can you ever imagine even the laziest of FedEx employees telling a customer no amount of money could prompt him to do a simple task? No, you can’t because that would never happen. The grace period is over. The United States Postal Service can continue blaming e-mail all it wants, but until it fires at least one hundred thousand employees, closes hundreds of facilities and stops letting its employees behave like entitled, incompetent pricks, it’s going to have trouble paying its bills.