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Quality, Prompt, Effective and Affordable Delivery Is a Must
By Bob Levi
NAPS Director of Legislative & Political Affairs
Most of us have a vague childhood memory of being able to distinguish our mother’s voice from a cacophony of adult voices at almost any parent-attended school event. Despite all the parental noise, our mom’s voice called to us and we responded because it was so much a part of existence.
There presently is underlying discord in the rhetoric and policies intended to sustain and improve our national postal system. The characteristics of a universal Postal Service, the definition of prompt and efficient mail delivery and the essence of essential postal products and services are being called out and thrust into a dangerous mosh pit.
How do we, as NAPS members, or, for that matter, the entire postal community, filter out the harmful clatter and hear the clarion call of our Postal Service? How do we fight for the nation’s most-trusted national treasure? How do we rise to the occasion as postal patriots?
Obviously, we must be able to separate out and amplify the authentic postal mission. We know what it is! It’s imprinted on our soul, just as our mother’s voice. All of us who bleed “postal blue” fully understand that, to be the most trusted and valued public service, the Postal Service must provide high-quality, prompt, predictable, effective, affordable and universal mail service. Those who advocate for anything less are turning a deaf ear not just to our customers, but to our postal heritage.
As this issue of The Postal Supervisor magazine went to press, the House of Representatives had yet to vote on H.R. 3076, the “Postal Reform Act of 2021,” or H.R. 3077, the “Postal Improvement Act.” The Oversight and Reform Committee did its job, approving the bills in mid-May. It is imperative that NAPS members call on their House members to bring the bills to a floor vote so the Senate can consider the measures.
In combination, the two bills would help place the Postal Service in a better financial and operational position and address a number of NAPS’ legislative priorities. That includes improving the consultative process and assuring due-process rights to all EAS-level employees. (H.R. 1623, the “Postal Supervisors and Managers Fairness Act,” and H.R. 1624, the “Postal Employee Appeal Rights Amendment Act,” were folded into H.R. 3077 by a committee vote.)
In early September, the Oversight and Reform Committee approved its contribution to the major budget reconciliation bill, which includes a section to provide the Postal Service with $7 billion to electrify and modernize its outmoded postal delivery fleet. As you may recall, last year, Congress provided the Postal Service with about $10 billion in pandemic-related financial assistance.
Besides the obvious, which is that Congress authorized federal funds for the Postal Service, is that Congress is beginning to “tangibly” dispel the misguided notion that the agency is just an independent governmental appendage that may operate autonomously. Rather, the Postal Service is an essential part of our national infrastructure meriting congressional support and warranting regulatory attention.
The agency Congress established to monitor postal activities, the five-member Postal Regulatory Commission, already has expressed deep concern over the Postmaster General’s now-implemented slowdown of First-Class Mail delivery. The linchpin of the controversial plan pivots First-Class Mail transport from air to ground and adjusts service standards for all First-Class Mail, even those pieces that continue to travel by air, to reflect the slowdown.
It’s as though the management company of a 10-story building is rerouting longtime residents from the elevator to the stairs. The company wants the residents to believe that walking up flights of stairs is more reliable than using an elevator. Residents, as postal customers, will come to their own conclusions.
Nevertheless, at the Aug. 6 open meeting of the Postal Board of Governors, two newly confirmed members expressed strong disagreement with the service slowdown in the previously approved USPS 10-year plan. Such public board discord is extraordinary.
President Joe Biden’s perspective on this controversy, the board decision-making and postal operations will come into clear view very shortly. Current Board Chairman Ron Bloom, a Democrat, must vacate his position on Dec. 8, unless Biden renominates him and the Senate confirms his nomination by that date.
Bloom has been supportive of most aspects of the 10-year plan. The President may nominate someone to replace Bloom, who, once confirmed, would become a member of the board. If no one is nominated, the board would be left with eight governors—four Democrats and four Republicans.
In addition to Bloom’s uncertainty, the term of John Barger, a Republican, also expires on Dec. 8. While Barger would not have to vacate the board because he has yet to serve during a “holdover” year, Biden may nominate a replacement for Barger or renominate him. If Biden nominates a replacement, Barger would serve until the Senate confirms his replacement, assuming such a replacement is confirmed before Dec. 8, 2022.
The decision to renominate or not renominate Bloom likely will be the most consequential postal decision Biden will make this year. No matter the decision, he should filter out the clatter and rattle of those who misstate the nature of our postal system. Rather, Biden should elevate the pure, unadulterated call of postal patriots and make his decision on that basis.