Postal system’s crisis has many sources, says local postmaster; closing services will not help

In tandem with the Postal Service’s preliminary study recommending the closing of the Brevard Road mail processing center, Mark Jamison, the postmaster of Webster, N.C. — speaking for himself, and not on behalf of the Postal Service — has detailed his objections to the national effort to rethink and streamline the nation’s mail-handling service.

“We’d better wake up soon because there’s more at stake than post offices and postal services,” Jamison writes for the national blog Save the Post Office (not affiliated with the Postal Service). ” If jobs can be disposed of so ruthlessly, if communities can be disposed of so cynically, if an institution that helped build the country — and that still helps hold it together — can be disposed of so carelessly, we are all in deep trouble.”

In a post entitled, “Bad News Comes in Threes: How Congress, Industry, and Management Have Made a Mess Out of Things,” Jamison writes:

AMIDST THE SOUND AND FURY of ideological punditry and political posturing that passes for thoughtful debate about the future of the Postal Service, three things are becoming clear: Congress is unable to take responsibility and solve problems, the commercial mailing and marketing industry has developed a sense of entitlement that undermines its own interests, and senior postal management has become imprisoned by its own circular thinking.

Watching what’s gone on the past few months can’t help but leave one with a sense of hopelessness. The legislative sausage grinder turns out compromises that appease politicians who have no real understanding of postal facts, that favor the commercial mail lobby, and that give the Postmaster General the tools he needs to dismantle the Postal Service. The mail industry encourages the dismantling, pressures the Postal Service for favorable discounts, and lobbies Congress for legislation that protects its profits. Postal management tries to keep the industry and Congress happy, but neglects the interests of its employees and the average citizen. Congress, the industry, and management are all in it together …

The Postal Service has scheduled a public meeting for Monday, Nov. 21, to receive comments on its proposal to close the Asheville center and transfer that work to a similar facility in Greenville, S.C. According to an article in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The Asheville center is one of nearly 250 processing facilities the Postal Service said it would study for closure or consolidation. … About 200 people work at the center. The Postal Service would eliminate 22 of those jobs and shift the rest to Greenville. …”

Jamison says the country’s mailing and marketing industries are partly to blame for the current state of the system:

Over the last 20 years postal legislation has heaped untenable burdens upon the Postal Service and its workers. It has also created a special class of postal customer — the stakeholder. The idea of the Postal Service as an essential national infrastructure that serves the American people has been seriously undermined. This democratic vision has been replaced by the view that the Postal Service is merely another player in the mailing industry, a player whose primary purpose is to facilitate the business model and increase the profits of commercial marketers and mailers.

The Postal Service management is, by and large, hostile, out of touch and autocratic, Jamison says:

The Postal Service says that all of the community meetings related to post office suspensions and closings were held exactly as the law prescribed. What then are we to make of the many news reports and appeal petitions to the contrary? They tell of meetings scheduled at inconvenient times, discontinuance coordinators ill informed about the local community, no postal personnel taking notes of what people say, no manager present at all.

And while the Postal Service has recently announced that it was permissible to videotape and record community meetings, what are we to make of the fact back in August, a member of the community who tried to record a meeting was ordered by the postal operations manager to stop, and when he refused, the police were called and they escorted him out of the meeting.

For more of Mark Jamison’s views, see “The great postal debate of 2011 and proposed Post Office closures”.

Every postal employee can relate an incident of managerial bullying or simple cognitive dissonance.  As a postmaster, I’ve driven an empty mail tub on a ninety mile round trip in the middle of the night to satisfy some nonsensical protocol.  I watched a Plant Manager scream at his floor supervisors until they dissolved into tears.  Postal workers have all seen behavior that ranged from simply boorish to wasteful and outright abusive.

And Congressional representatives are uninformed or lying, Jamison says:

But what are we to think when we hear politicians like Congressmen Darrel Issa from California and Dennis Ross from Florida make comments about the Postal Service that are so patently false? Do they know they are lying or at least grossly distorting the facts when they completely dismiss the fact that there are financial inconsistencies in the way the Postal Service has been treated? …

But instead of making their ultimate goals clear, politicians like Issa and Ross are dissembling about the real causes of the Postal Service’s financial problems, and they are not being straightforward about the true aims of their proposed reforms. The Postal Reform Act they have put forward would gut the Postal Service and prepare it for being broken up into pieces — “decoupled, bifurcated and unbundled,” as the current parlance has it — so that it can be privatized. …

The Postal Service wallows in crisis today not because of the loss of mail volume but because of the provisions of the 2006 PAEA [Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act]. The deficits incurred by the Postal Service over the last several years are virtually equal to the amounts withdrawn by the PAEA.

A public meeting on a proposal to close the Asheville mail-handling center will be held Monday, Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in Ferguson Auditorium at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, 340 Victoria Road. The Postal Service will accept written comments through Dec. 6. Send them to: Manager of Consumer and Industry Contact, 2901 Scott Futrell Drive, Charlotte, NC 28228-9976.

About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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8 thoughts on “Postal system’s crisis has many sources, says local postmaster; closing services will not help

  1. ashevillain7

    The biggest thing affecting the USPS is that there are services out there that perform the same function better, faster, and cheaper (a rare trinity)! At the top of the “better” category is not losing/damaging shipments.

    Also, USPS is useless with regards to international shipments. No tracking, no indemnity on all but the largest packages, and worst of all, they accept no responsibility for a job mishandled.

    • Larry Adams

      @ashevillain7 – You do realize that for international shipments, the Universal Postal Union sets the rules, not the USPS or US Congress. If UPS rules don’t allow tracking, and for most services they don’, USPS can’t provide tracking. Indemnity IS available on almost all packages, but not on letters, except for Registered Mail, and even that is limited.

      And can you SHOW me (provide me the companies) that can perform the same services as USPS BETTER, FASTER, AND CHEAPER… there aren’t any. FEDEX and UPS are many times more expensive than USPS, and there are no other national carriers currently operating. DHL tried to undercut FEDEX and UPS, although DHL was still way more expensive than USPS, and they lost their shirt, metaphorically speaking. The parent company of DHL finally decided to cut their losses and pulled out of the market three years ago.

      There are some REGIONAL carriers, covering maybe three to five states, but they are still vastly more expensive than USPS for similar service. None of the commercial carriers will touch your letter for 44

    • Fact Checker

      By US Postal Service, a 2-lb package, mailed from Asheville by Priority Mail Flat Rate Box, on Thursday, Nov 17, 2011, would reach Cambridge, MA, on Saturday, November 19, for $14.95.

      The same 2-lb package, sent from Asheville by FedEx from Asheville to Cambridge, Ma, would arrive on Saturday, November 19, for $40.24: base rate of $17.55, fuel surchase of $4.94, residential surcharge of $2.75, Saturday delivery charge of $15.

      Information easily available on the Web.

      What’s this about “the same function better, faster, and cheaper?”

  2. helenrosey27

    Occupy asheville will me at the meeting on Monday! You have our support!

  3. Nelda Holder

    I believe USPS does “last mile delivery” or some such term for FEDEX or UPS or both under certain circumstances. In other words, those companies rely on the universal service USPS delivers nationally.

  4. D. Dial

    “Also, USPS is useless with regards to international shipments. No tracking, no indemnity on all but the largest packages, and worst of all, they accept no responsibility for a job mishandled.
    By ashevillain7”

    Personally I’ve had no issues with international shipping. International Priority works great for me.

  5. Khyber Pass

    Somehow I knew it would eventually get to the privatizing part. When are Americans going to tell the Republicans that it’s time to stop privatizing every part of govt? Put Daniel Issa in the mix and we know this is part of the grand plan of those who believe that God wants them to do this. Jeff Sharlett has documented their beliefs and history in The Family. They are taking us over one institution at a time.
    Divide us and they conquer us. When being in touch by mail with our friends, print news sources, and fellow Americans is put out of reach by the costs of private mail delivery and the tendency of those who rule us to pry into our lives/documents/ business, then this country will be a dictatorship in no time.
    The same thing is happening in England, but that’s a small country, a lot different than the size and scope of the US.

    We NEED a dependable mail service. I bless my mailman every time he stops at my box in all weather. He brings the DVDs, local papers, the bills i refuse to pay on online, (because of tracking concerns), the Medicare updates, the ebay purchases, the letters from friends and family world-wide, the birthday cards, and so on and so forth.

    Yesterday I used reliable priority mail to send a package to France. If the USPS is taken over by political supporters of the guys pushing this, it’s a sure bet I won’t be able to afford to send a birthday box to France.

    Maybe it’s time to Occupy the Post Office????

  6. tomtom

    WhatТs this about Уthe same function better, faster, and cheaper?Ф

    usps is by far the cheapest and equally as good

    priority mail is one service the usps offers
    try the same comparison using a 12 ounce pkg or 6 oz shipped via usps first class
    how bout a box of books weighing 2 lbs
    you can ship it priority but you can also ship it media mail for around 3$, takes a little longer but ups/fedex has no other option.

    as far as international mail ive been shipping overseas for years and had very little problems with the usps, quite happy with their service

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