ABM Postal Counsel: USPS has done all it can do without action from Congress

Jack widener
Jack Widener

Feb. 6, 2013 - The announcement that the United States Postal Service will eliminate Saturday mail delivery to street addresses (a move the USPS claims will save $2 billion per year), won’t affect b-to-b publishers as dramatically as consumer magazine publishers. However, the move will do little to improve the economic viability of the USPS.
“ABM supports the efforts of the USPS to reduce costs, and as we have stated, we support the elimination of Saturday delivery along with other measures to reduce costs and put the Postal Service in a better financial position,” said Jack Widener, ABM's postal counsel. “But in this case that has not occurred and we are disappointed in that regard. Lack of action by Congress along with Postal labor union positions have forced the Postal service to make the decision to eliminate Saturday a first step. To put it simply, we believe cutting costs that reduce service to your customers should only be taken as part of the implementation of an overall plan for reducing costs. Congress must take action on the other needed changes.”
The Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service says Congress should focus on three core elements of stabilization including reamortization of payments for prefunding retiree health benefits; return to USPS of its overpayments to the federal Employees Retirement System; and assuring USPS the authority to streamline its service.
The proposed elimination of Saturday service comes on the heels of the 112th Congress failing to act on postal legislation, which prompted the USPS Board of Governors to order postal management to accelerate the restructuring of Postal Service operations to further reduce costs. In fiscal 2012 (ended Sept. 30, 2012), USPS reported a net loss of $15.9 billion. Mandatory payments for prefunding of retiree health benefits accounted for 17 percent of operating expenses, totaling $11.1 billion. But even without the required payments, the Postal service would have lost $4.8 billion due to declining revenues, decreasing volumes and additional operating expenses. 

It is unclear if Congress will pass a bill before August, according to Tom Carpenter, ABM chief lobbyist and vice president at public policy firm Wexler & Walker. “The House and Senate made significant progress towards a deal at the end of the last Congress, and there is a hearing in the Senate next week, but a lot will depend on the reaction to this delivery change from the public and the business community and whether USPS’s financial position deteriorates faster than expected this year,” Carpenter added.
The elimination of Saturday service will further accelerate the adoption of digital as the vehicle for b-to-b dailies and weeklies, with print relegated to monthlies, quarterlies and special issues.
Tom Taylor, publisher of High Plains Journal, notes that many publishers aren’t happy about current USPS delivery and the news just gives more urgency to publish digital editions. 
Last fall, High Plains Journal launched a digital edition with an earlier delivery date than its print counterpart. “Our subscriber base is primarily rural, and we understand that getting our product directly to the doors of our subscribers on Saturday has become more of a challenge,” said Taylor at the time of the launch. “Delivering our product digitally eliminates those postal issues that are out of our control.”

By Matt Kinsman