The Postal Service will be reducing service hours at 13,000 Post Offices nationwide by September 2014. In Vermont, 145 Post Offices will be impacted. Some communities around Vermont have already received survey forms and notice of a public meeting with Postal Officials. The four options for those communities are as follows:
-- They could keep the current Post Office open with reduced service hours and staffed by a postal employee.
-- Their community could be served by a rural carrier or highway contract driver.
-- A local business could contract with the Postal Service to open a privately owned "Community Post Office."
-- They could get service from a nearby Post Office.
Postmasters have been offered an incentive to retire this past summer and many of them have accepted the offer. The rest of the Postmasters in the affected Post Offices have been encouraged to apply for vacancies around Vermont and other states. Sadly, not every Postmaster of the targeted Post offices will be able move on for family reasons and may be separated from the Postal Service in 2014. As a retired Postmaster, I am concerned about this stressful situation for my fellow Postmasters and their customers.
This Postal Service action is better than the original proposal a year ago to close 3700 Post Offices and most of the 500 mail processing facilities in the country. In Vermont, the White River Junction Mail Processing plant with 245 employees as well as 15 Post Offices would have been closed down. Thanks to heavy pressure from Senator Sanders, Senator Leahy, Congressman Welsh, and Governor Shumlin and leaders in other rural states that plan was withdrawn by the Postmaster General.
For more than 40 years, the Postal Service has provided its own revenue from postage sales and fees. During those decades, Congress has used the Postal Service as a cash cow by charging the agency excessive amounts of money for employee benefits such as retirement pay and retiree health benefits. The Inspector General of the Postal Service has identified $11 billion in overpayments to the retirement fund since the 1980s. Since 2006, the USPS has had to prepay retiree health benefits for the next 75 years in only a ten year period. In other words, prepay retirement costs for employees who have not been born yet. No other entity in government or private enterprise has such an unfair burden. The Senate has passed a bipartisan bill that would spread out those payments to a reasonable schedule. No companion bill has come out of the House of Representatives.In addition to the unfair assessments, the recession and the erosion of first class mail volume have also severely reduced revenues, so operating costs still must continue to be trimmed to break even in the future.
Today, eight million Americans work in the mailing industry and those jobs require the continued support of a strong Postal Service. The United States Postal Service remains a vital service to every American, wherever they live in this vast country. It is part of the foundation of the largest economy in the world. It is my hope that the House of Representatives will step up and pass a fair bill that is compatible with the bipartisan bill that has already passed in the Senate.
Fred Dunn is the president of retirees for the Vermont Chapter of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States.