Sunday, May 26, 2013

Meeting Talking Points

The Milwaukee Plant
The Milwaukee Processing and Distribution Center is in a leased building.  We're told the lease will expire in 2015--and that the plant itself is not well suited to mail processing.  It's a 4-story building.  It shakes alarmingly when a train goes by.  Chunks of concrete fall off the bottom of the ramp the semi trucks take to the third-floor loading dock--onto the employee parking area below.  The plant is prime downtown Milwaukee real estate; the owner receives little money from USPS.  It seems likely that the building will be unavailable after the lease expires in 2015.  The building was not designed for heavy equipment.  Putting more equipment, more employees, and more mail--and the mail staying there longer--will stress the load-bearing structure of the plant.  Postal leadership may be setting up a Bangladesh-style disaster right here in Wisconsin.

The USPS is not a business. It is a government-owned and -run public service. We rely on first-class service, including one-day service within a few hours’ drive, to keep us connected, knit the country together in ways not possible without it. We are a poorer country with each postal facility closed or service reduced.

"39 U.S.C 101(a) The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the nation together. . . .  It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services in all communities."

"(d) Postal rates shall be established to apportion the costs of all postal operations to all users of the mail on a fair and equitable basis."

Current law requires that prompt, reliable, efficient postal service be maintained to all areas, and that the cost of doing so be apportioned to the users.  Abandoning service and failing to charge mailers the cost of maintaining the postal infrastructure is in violation of current law.

Delays in Service
Moving operations to Milwaukee will add 1 to 2 business days' delay to all mail. The move will permanently destroy USPS’s ability to provide first-class service. There will be no more 1-day service. Even from Madison to Madison. The best will be 2- to 3-day service. What of the cost to the public of the loss of this needed service?

Delays in Service/Community Economic Impact
When businesses ship items such as live poultry and fish, they will more likely arrive as dead poultry and fish. These and other mail-order businesses will lose viability, as customers abandon mail-order for faster options. And the customers who must themselves drive to the supplier rather than relying on mail service bear a combined cost to themselves in transportation and time far in excess of any possible savings to USPS by hauling southwest Wisconsin’s mail to Milwaukee, and back, rather than sorting in Madison.

Netflix customers will increasingly abandon postal delivery in favor of electronic delivery.  With the Madison plant in operation, when I send a Netflick or other letter from Madison to Madison on a Monday, it arrives there on Tuesday.  But that same mailpiece, if mailed after hours on Friday, goes to Milwaukee for processing: and doesn't arrive at its destination in Madison sometimes until Wednesday.  Time-sensitive mail will abandon USPS in the absence of next-day local delivery.  This will further erode revenue and volume.

USPS proposes to "save" $4 million by getting rid of some 54 Madison workers.  But the loss to the community will be many times the "savings" to USPS.  Those workers and their families will no longer have that money to spend on rent, food, entertainment, transportation, medical care, education, anything they spend money on.  The loss of 54 jobs in Madison will force loss of revenue to all the local businesses where these workers spent money.  Some of these businesses will lose workers too.  There's a multiplier effect--the community will lose many times the "savings" USPS gropes for.  And service will suffer.

Collection Time Changes
Eliminating the last one or more mail pickups of the day is just another way of delaying a portion of the day’s mail, above and beyond the 1- to 2-day delay suffered by mail posted earlier in the day.

Customer Service Problems
Lost and misplaced mail would be more common with all Madison and Milwaukee mail stuffed into the Milwaukee plant. All mail spending at least 1 or 2 more days in processing means carts of mail clogging the processing and distribution center, with clerks and mail handlers having to hunt among the scrum for—hopefully all?—the mail needed.

Increased Costs
Moving all mail collected in southwestern Wisconsin, from Jefferson to the Mississippi River and from northern Adams county to the Illinois line, to Milwaukee for processing—then moving all mail going to the area back to Madison, would add greatly to transportation costs—and fuel prices keep rising.

Lack of Credibility
The USPS’s claim that the consolidation plan would save $146,462 per year on transportation—while moving all mail coming into Madison to Milwaukee every day, then moving our mail back a day or two later—is an obvious falsehood. Mail handler work will increase too in both Madison and Milwaukee, as all mail would have to be moved on and off trucks on both ends.

The USPS’s claim of saving $4,085,986 per year on mail processing employees, with net 30 fewer craft employees, $136,200 per employee if none were maintenance employees, plus $551,334 in maintenance savings—alongside the claimed $387,822 yearly savings on 6 fewer managers or supervisors, $64,600 per head, clearly shows USPS is being dishonest in its claimed savings. Recall that if jobs are to be eliminated, it must be the new, part-time, low-wage, noncareer positions, which earn on the order of $15,000 per year. And a couple fewer technicians would not save half a million dollars.

Lack of Trust
To propose to permanently destroy first-class service for fictitious “savings” of $5 million per year, when expenses exceed revenue on the order of $10 billion per year, shows USPS’s destruction of service to be gratuitous—the USPS does not even purport that more than negligible savings could be achieved. And the savings are illusory. Transportation costs would increase and would continue to increase. And the quoted “savings” numbers are self-evidently false.

Bulk Rates
The USPS chooses self-destruction, and destruction of the largest middle-class workforce in the nation, in preference to charging mailers a fraction more to cover the cost of maintaining the postal infrastructure. The USPS’s excessive “work-sharing” discounts paid to build, equip and operate a private presort network, and shunted mail sorting and distribution to it. This slashes revenue and leaves USPS plants underused—without decreasing the costs USPS must pay to build, equip, and staff its own network. It costs about as much to run a half-full truck as a full one. Processing plants and equipment must be acquired, maintained and operated whether the processing runs are long or short. USPS’s network must persist if there is to be postal service. Paying private companies to do USPS’s work simply gives away the store.

Public Release of the Area Mail Processing Study Data
The USPS provides no information supporting its self-evidently false estimates of savings.

The Process Used for Public Discussion of the Area Mail Processing Study
The meeting was announced with a minimum of notice—although the meeting facilities must have been arranged well in advance. The USPS has, over several years, made a series of partial demolitions of its infrastructure: closing a few thousand post offices here, a hundred or so processing plants there. Each destruction of service is presented as a necessary response to what is in fact a manufactured crisis. When the Rockford plant was slated for closure, the USPS told us its mail would come to Madison, and that Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay would be the remaining plants in Wisconsin in the shattered network. Under the proposed consolidation, Madison would lose half its mail processing—and Madison and southwest Wisconsin would lose first-class service. What next? Does USPS subscribe to Pitney-Bowes’ vision of purely private mail processing and distribution? The USPS’s actions are taking us down the road to privatization at a stunning speed, quickly and quietly proceeding in the dark with its plans to destroy service—to minimize public awareness of what is being done, to withhold information relied on in reaching decisions, to conceal the facts and hide the truth—and never to reveal that decisions are made solely in the service of mass mailers, to the detriment of the American people.

Lack of Public Input
The USPS seeks to minimize public input by giving short notice, by withholding any information relied on in reaching its business case estimates—and by, in every one of the hundreds of such meetings that have happened all over the country, presenting only vague statements by officials unable or unwilling to provide substantive answers. And by blithely ignoring all public input, proceeding with service destruction in violation of law and the public trust—all to ensure that the owners of Val-Pak Coupons and similar profiteers keep pocketing billions of dollars as excess profits that should have preserved the public infrastructure.

The USPS could easily increase revenue, reduce costs, and provide better service to the American people. The Internet could be the biggest boon to the post since paper. USPS should offer a service whereby a customer e-mails a document to USPS, which then prints it at, and delivers it from, the destination postal facility. It has the impact of hard-copy communication with 1-day service everywhere—if USPS stops closing its processing-and-distribution centers. This would be a very popular service, and profitable if priced at full rates. It would avoid hauling paper across the country. Customers could sign, handwrite, draw, on a touchpad, as well as sending any document that can be sent to a printer.

The USPS leadership must preserve and improve the postal service for the American people. Not dismantle and destroy it for plunderers and profiteers.

Community Economic Impact
Residents of Madison and southwest Wisconsin are being made to suffer the loss of service, and to pay the sky-high rates charged by express mail companies when we need prompt service. USPS claims to “save” an amount less than a rounding error in its budget—yet savings, if any were to materialize, come at the expense of the people disserved.

Job Loss
USPS’s plan to put 54 Madisonians out of work, in order to destroy first-class service in Madison and southwest Wisconsin, will be a hardship for the workers, their families, for the businesses where they spend money, for the city of Madison, and for southwest Wisconsin. Contracting out transportation, rather than using local union workers, places the same financial burden on all of us. Charge your mass-mailing, discount-grubbing, profiteering customers enough to bring revenue back from $65 billion to $75 billion. Do not take the money from your employees and their communities. The hardship to the employees, families, and communities is real. The savings to USPS is illusory. The postal network must stay, and closing excessive discounts and raising rates is the only way to pay for it.

Road Impact
Hauling all southwest Wisconsin’s mail to Milwaukee and back for mail processing not only destroys service. The extra trucks needed, all converging at 3902 Milwaukee Street, Madison, all headed for 345 W. St. Paul Avenue, Milwaukee, have the potential to create traffic jams at both ends, with trucks backed up onto the highway waiting to get to and from the loading docks. This would be worse in winter or bad weather. The extra trucking would use more fuel, put more soot, poisons, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, cause additional damage to the roads, more road construction, more road congestion, more accidents.

Loss of Postmark
The loss of the Madison postmark for the daily hundreds of thousands of mailpieces collected in Madison signifies a loss of stature of the community. It sends a message that Madison is merely a satellite of Milwaukee. Madison is the state capital and a major Wisconsin city. And no, the opportunity to stand in line at the counter at the post office to get a letter stamped does not restore it.

Hazards in the Mail
In the event of destructive, poisonous, or hazardous material in the mail, the commingling of all mail from southwest Wisconsin into Milwaukee will maximize destructive impact and impede investigation into its source.

USPS officials have made it abundantly clear in the hundreds of previous such meetings that the people’s voice is irrelevant. That local politicians have no opportunity to persuade the government’s postal service to preserve service to their constituents. That USPS officials have their minds made up going into the meeting, an entirely pro forma affair. That control of postal decision-making has been taken over by the big mailers. They are the players who stand personally to gain billions of dollars by preserving their excessive, service-breaking discounts. Theirs is the only voice USPS officials respond to. USPS’s table has seats only for them. It is essential, while there is still some shred of government-owned and –operated postal service left, that we residential customers form our own research-and-lobbying group, to expose the dark secrets USPS management wants kept hidden, and pressure the responsible public servants to be responsible public servants—rather than the irresponsible servants of plunderers and pirates.

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