National News

June 23, 2017

Post&Parcel: The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has signed a new law which will allow delivery robots to operate on sidewalks and crosswalks across the state. Wisconsin joins Virginia and Idaho in passing legislation which allow for state-wide robot delivery usage. The new Wisconsin rules on delivery robots – enacted through State Senate Bill 148 – law limit the robots to a maximum weight of 80 pounds and a top speed of 10 miles an hour.


Post&Parcel: Amazon has revealed a new service that it hopes will help to make Prime membership a more enticing prospect.  The new Amazon Prime Wardrobe – which is in beta mode at the moment – will give Prime members a free and easy, “try before you buy”, returns service. This is how the service will work: Prime members can fill their delivery box with three or more items across the clothing, shoes and accessories ranges. Once the products are delivered, the customers has seven days in which to try on the products and decide if they want them or not. If the customers have products they don’t want, they “just have to drop off [their] box at a UPS location or schedule a free pick-up”.

June 22, 2017

MailOMG:  Business mailers celebrated the historic rate cut last year as emergency postage hikes expired. But that celebration will be short lived if the Postal Service has its way with Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission. And it is increasingly looking like the USPS will prevail on both fronts and that means postage rates will jump 5-10%. A bill making its way through Congress will instantly increase postage rates by 2.15%. Meanwhile, the PRC will rule by early Fall on the current rate setting system. Its options include an “inflation plus system” — for example, inflation +1% or +2% — for annual price hikes. Were the PRC to adopt a plus system or eliminate the rate cap altogether, mailing groups would likely take their case to court, arguing that the PRC does not have the authority to change the inflation rate cap established in the postal reform act of 2006.

TownHall: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is on his way out as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. But the work he has begun on Postal Service reform will go on. The Postal Reform Act of 2017, which Rep. Chaffetz shepherded to approval in his committee in March, now has 16 cosponsors – seven Republicans and nine Democrats. The cosponsors have asked the Congressional Budget Office to score the legislation, so it can be prepared for consideration by the House Ways & Means Committee. The score did find some features of the bill would achieve “savings,” but for the most part, money-wise, it will be about the enormous costs related to the Postal Service’s massive unfunded liabilities in its pension and retiree health care funds.  Similar legislation has been introduced in each of the last two Congresses but has not moved forward. This time, it's bipartisan cosponsors say they have a better chance at passage.

June 21, 2017

Ecommercebytes: We reported last year that the USPS was testing a new system designed to make it easier for sellers to get an initial scan on packages entering the mail stream. The USPS published more information this week. "The Automated Parcel Drop (APD) is a self-service machine that allows customers to mail pre-paid and merchandise return parcels. Customers scan the package's pre-paid label barcode at the APD, deposit the package through its door and collect a paper receipt with acceptance scan date, time and tracking information." The Postal Service said the APD kiosks accept parcels with PC Postage online labels including eBay and Click-N-Ship, merchandise return labels, and self-service kiosk labels. The machines are being tested in five retail lobbies in California, Florida, New York, North Dakota and Virginia. While it seems using SCAN forms with pickup would be more efficient for volume shippers, the kiosks could be ideal for sellers who must bring packages to the PO. 

MentalFloss: At the core of the USPS are its postal carriers, the men and women who run up and down porch steps, dodge unfriendly animals, and brave inclement weather to make sure your personal correspondence arrives on time. We spoke to several to learn more about the job, from their biggest fears (aside from mean dogs) to hidden surprises in mail receptacles. 

June 20, 2017

NPR: The first day of summer doesn't begin until Wednesday but United Parcel Service already is looking ahead to the colder seasons with plans to charge retailers an extra fee for orders placed around Black Friday and Christmas. And consumers could end up carrying that extra weight if retailers decide to pass on the cost by raising shipping fees.  Between Nov. 19 and Dec. 2 this year, UPS says it will add a 27-cent charge on all ground packages sent to homes. Those dates include Black Friday, which is Nov. 24, and Cyber Monday, which is Nov. 27. Consumers then get a two-week reprieve from the additional charge, but the fee makes a comeback to usher in the final holiday rush.

NextGov: While most media coverage of "disruptive" digital transformation focuses on gains in the business sector—publishing, film and the auto industries, for example—the public sector is catching up fast. Today, it’s using digital communications to improve interactions between government and citizens, domestically between government departments, and internationally with other government bodies. For government chief information officers, digitization holds great promise. Paper suppression, unlocking information value and satisfying citizens’ appetite for digital services. Digital mail—the digitization and delivery of paper-based communications—is helping postal services retain existing customers (government, business and consumer), and attract new customers who wish to avail of its convenience and integration with other services.

PostalNews: Mike Causey suggests that Donald Trump’s attacks on federal employees’ pay and benefits may galvanize employee organizations into taking united action:The good news about the retirement plan bad news is that it has given federal unions, management groups, retiree organizations and others their biggest issue — and reason to work together — in decades. Assaulting the retirement plan, breaking promises as workers and retirees see it, is the perfect banner to rally around. The 30-member Federal-Postal Coalition says active and retired federal and postal workers could lose $139 million in take-home pay (because of higher retirement plan contributions) and reduced or frozen annuities if the diet-and-zero-COLA plans become law. They’ve also gotten a written pledge from over 100 House members to block the proposed cuts.

June 19, 2017

Post&Parcel: The usage of Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) among Amazon Marketplace sellers is continuing to grow, according to new research. In a notice posted on its website last week, Marketplace Pulse said: “Since the last time we looked at FBA usage among marketplace sellers in January, it has grown in all countries.” Marketplace Pulse added: “Based on our research we didn’t see much growth among top sellers in the US – it only went up by one point to 58 percent. This can be explained by already high FBA penetration, and the stability of the market. “However all European markets have grown considerably, by 3 to 5 percentage points. We think there is a lot of interest from foreign sellers to sell there, both from China and from the US, so they are pushing the FBA usage.

June 18, 2017

PostalEmployee:   On June 14, the APWU and the Postal Service reached an agreement resolving a Step 4 National Dispute that career Clerk Craft employees assigned to a POStPlan office are entitled to a uniform allowance. The parties agreed that career Clerk Craft employees who staff POStPlan offices will be considered eligible to participate in the uniform allowance program per existing provisions for career employees in the Clerk Craft, which require: 1. The official assignment at a retail counter is for a minimum of 4 hours daily for 5 days a week on a continuing basis, or; 2. For a minimum of 30 hours a week. The dispute arose because the Postal Service essentially excluded career Clerk Craft employees from a uniform allowance solely because they worked in POStPlan offices.

June 17, 2017

MultiBrief:  One of the largest problems stumping efficiency and profitability experts is arguably the most difficult: getting goods through the gauntlet of the "last mile" — the final leg of a product's transportation journey before it lands with the customer.  While striving for competitive pricing, 3PLs know this dilemma all too well. That means that low-cost options are limited to even large e-commerce players, particularly in the case of rural deliveries. While traditional delivery providers such as UPS, FedEx and USPS are trying to innovate to keep pace with demand, a new collection of unusual solutions has cropped up, giving customers more choices at the hands of the gig economy. The last mile is getting smaller, and it's shrinking due to a joint effort from the gig economy, consumer demand and technological innovation. While automated or drone delivery may still be a few years off, it's safe to say that large retailers have managed a network of solutions that's about as close to a win-win as home delivery can hope to achieve.

PostalNews:  From the American Postal Workers Union: Throughout the country, the Postal Service has launched an all-out assault on our jobs and is blatantly violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in their staffing of post offices.  The USPS is reducing service to the community and disrupting the lives of postal workers by reducing duty assignments (reversions and abolishments) and issuing excessing notices potentially affecting hundreds of post offices and thousands of employees. The APWU and the USPS agreed in Article 37.3.A.1 of the CBA that, “Every effort will be made to create desirable duty assignments from all available work hours for career employees to bid.” This includes hours worked by PSEs. This provision was part of an overall agreement for more APWU jobs. “We are gearing up for a large fight,” said President Dimondstein. “I know that if we stick together and stay united, then – just like the Stop Staples and contract campaigns – we will be victorious.”

June 16, 2017

TheStreet: The United States Postal Service denied J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) CEO Marvin Ellison's assertion made earlier this week, which was first reported by TheStreet, that it would be the one to hold back future e-commerce growth. A USPS spokesman said in an email to TheStreet that the agency's "unrivaled network and infrastructure" will "enable" and "facilitate" e-commerce's "future growth," pointing out that its workers delivered 154 billion pieces of mail to the U.S. in 2016. "The Postal Service continually adapts to a dynamic marketplace," the spokesman said on Friday. "We operate an extensive and integrated retail, transportation, processing and delivery network to serve residential and commercial customers."

Financial Times: Amazon has agreed to buy upmarket grocer Whole Foods for $13.7bn, the largest deal so far for Jeff Bezos’s company as it seeks to exploit its online scale to disrupt food retail. Whole Foods, the biggest premium US grocer, will radically accelerate Amazon’s ambitions to take a foothold in the $800bn US food and grocery sector, where the Seattle-based group has been trying to make inroads with grocery deliveries. Having already upended sectors from bookstores to cloud computing and film, the arrival of Amazon in bricks-and-mortar grocery sent rivals’ shares sharply lower on Friday in both the US and Europe. The online retailer has been running its own grocery delivery programme, AmazonFresh, since 2007 and has been experimenting with grocery pick-up kiosks in Seattle.

Post&Parcel: Amazon has extended the geographical coverage of its Prime Now delivery service to Denver, Colorado.With Prime Now, Amazon Prime members can book a one-hour delivery for $7.99,  or opt for a  free two-hour delivery. Prime Now and delivery from Sprouts Farmers Market is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Prime Now is currently available in more than 30 cities across the US, and Amazon has also launched the service in other international markets.

USToday: Lance Armstrong and the federal government are having at least one more fight in court before Armstrong goes to trial for his sins in cycling -- this time a dispute over when his trial should start. Later this year or a year from now? U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper will make the call once again in the government's $100 million civil fraud lawsuit against the former cyclist. Armstrong has been banned for cycling for life and was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France victories from 1999-2005. After denying doping for more than a decade, he finally confessed to it in January 2013. His attorneys have not disputed his doping in the USPS case but say USPS suffered no damages and instead received far more in value from the sponsorship than the $32.3 million it paid for it. The government has said the sponsorship is worth zero because the USPS bargained for a clean cycling team but didn’t get one.

GovExec: Did you know that more than 25 percent of total spending under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program goes to prescription drugs? Rising drug prices and increasing drug utilization continue to drive up FEHBP premiums. Every year, the Office of Personnel Management sends a call letterto all FEHBP carriers. This year’s edition encourages the carriers to thoroughly evaluate options to improve affordability, reduce costs, boost the quality of care, and protect the health of their enrollees.The first item that OPM is setting as a theme for the upcoming health insurance open season is a focus on prescription drugs. 

June 15, 2017

PIWorld: Idealliance and Printing Industries Alliance have announced that Karen E. Krigsman of J.Crew Group, Inc., Traci L. Lucien of AARP, and Joe Schick, recently retired from Quad/Graphics, will be honored with 2017 Luminaire Awards. The awards, which recognize exceptional professionals for their positive contribution and service within the media and visual communications industries, will be presented at the annual Franklin Luminaire Awards event on Oct. 18 at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City. 

USPSLink: The Postal Service is a national leader in employing veterans, according to a new survey by U.S. Veterans Magazine. The publication polls government agencies, educational institutions and hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies for the annual survey. For the second consecutive year, USPS ranked among top veteran-friendly companies. The Postal Service also ranked among the top government agencies for hiring veterans. ‘The Postal Service is proud to be a national leader in employing veterans,’ said PMG Megan J. Brennan. ‘Throughout our organization, veterans perform roles critical to the future of the Postal Service. We know that when we hire veterans, they have been trained to be highly organized, responsible and to deliver results.’ Approximately 113,000 Postal Service employees, or about 18 percent of the USPS workforce, are veterans. The Postal Service has increased the number of veterans hired each year through partnerships with several veteran-friendly organizations and by participating in job fairs that target veterans. U.S. Veterans Magazine, a quarterly publication, serves military readers across the nation.

The Cleveland American: The Westport Community Center was filled to capacity last Monday, June 14, at the Keystone Peninsula Property Owners Association’s monthly meeting. Guest speaker for the evening was Cleveland Postmistress, Tena Moody, who spoke about the up-coming change-over from ‘route and box’ address numbers to ‘street and house number’ addresses… She said six day delivery will soon be a thing of the past, and the postal service will be reduced to a five-day week. Small town post offices may be forced to close, she noted. She said the 74020 zip code will be the same, but the next four numbers will be new plus two more numbers will be added.  These new addresses will change in the future by the federal government if they do not work well for the emergency vehicles, and then all street names will eventually go away to numeric, she explained.

Politico:  According to Postmaster General Megan Brennan, The R Street Institute’s trip down memory lane about the U.S. Postal Service (“The lost genius of the Post Office”) gets a few things correct, but on balance is woefully ill-informed and misguided. What the piece’s author, Kevin Kosar, got right is that the Postal Service has a long and proud history of innovating in our core business. However, he was flat out wrong when he wrote, “The Postal Service—once one of the most impressive and fast-moving information networks ever devised—may end up as a lesson in how not to meet the future.” To the contrary, we have and we will continue to innovate aggressively to maximize value for our customers now and into the future.  We continue to power America’s e-commerce growth by constantly enhancing our shipping products and solutions — through new Priority Mail features, Sunday delivery, and digital integrations. We were the first — and continue to be the only — major provider of Sunday delivery for e-commerce packages; today we make more e-commerce deliveries than any other company and we are committed to playing an ever larger role in America’s e-commerce economy.

June 14, 2017

CyclingNews: Armstrong was the target of a federal False Claims Act lawsuit brought by former teammate Floyd Landis in 2010 under the assertion that the former cycling star's doping constituted fraud against the government. Should he lose, Armstrong could owe up to $100 million, and Landis would be due a cut of the damages. The government asserts that the US Postal Service's sponsorship had no value because Armstrong and some of his teammates doped, then lied about it to keep the money coming in. Armstrong's attorneys have long argued that the US Postal Service got far more in marketing value from its sponsorship than the $32.2 million it paid the team from 2000-2004. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) decreased 0.1 percent  in May on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.9 percent.

Post&Parcel: UPS today (June 13) revealed plans for a new US$260m package processing facility in Plainfield, Indiana. In addition to improvements to existing buildings, UPS expects to add more than 575 new full-time equivalent positions over the next five years. A portion of the 893,000ft2 hub will open this fall for trailer processing with a delivery operation in time for the holiday season. The Plainfield facility will be completed by late 2019. Advanced package scanning and sortation equipment will provide UPS with greater flexibility when transferring large volumes of parcels to other facilities. Customers will also benefit from speed and processing accuracy and once completed. The hub will have a customer center and may contain additional infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles.

June 11, 2017

SupplyChainDive:  Last-mile delivery is often referred to as the final frontier of logistics, and investors have apparently decided it's time to breach the market. Yet, parcel delivery companies (think UPS or FedEx), corner stores and restaurants (7-Eleven, Domino's) have long sought to address the cost-challenge of delivering products to residences on demand, so what changed?  For one, technology — mainly the proliferation of smartphones and apps — has allowed greater access between consumers and service providers. As stakeholders research the optimal balance between price and delivery speed, results have shown consumers are increasingly willing to pay for speed and convenience.  Meanwhile, retailers themselves are investing into various options to help consumers fulfill the last mile themselves.

SLTribAs a former governor and the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, my number one priority will always be the safety and security of our nation, so it is with alarm that I have watched the rise of the opioid epidemic across the nation. And as this crisis has evolved, it's turned a little-known security loophole in the global postal system into a serious national security threat, one that has created a pipeline for these deadly opioids directly into our communities. Every day, nearly one million packages arrive in the United States without critical security data that would assist law enforcement in screening and stopping dangerous packages, including harmful, synthetic drugs. I'm working with Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP), a bipartisan coalition of families, health care advocates, security experts, businesses and nonprofits who all agree that we need to close this postal loophole. There is not a single solution to combating the opioid epidemic, but no approach is satisfactory without taking a serious effort to disrupt the supply chain of these drugs.

FiscalTimes: The government would save billions of dollars in health care costs for federal employees and retirees under a U.S. postal service reform act pending on Capitol Hill, although much of the long-term “savings” claimed by advocates may be achieved by massive cost-shifting. The idea apparently is to remove postal workers and retirees — who generally have greater health care costs than other workers because of the physical demands of their jobs — from the larger pool of federal workers to gradually reduce the overall cost of health insurance for the workforce. Active postal workers would receive their health insurance coverage under a new program established by the U.S. Postal Service while postal retirees would be required for the first time to enroll in Medicare for their health care and subsidized prescription drugs. Medicare would pick up most of the costs while the new postal insurance program would cover co-payments and other deductibles. Without predicting the savings that FEHB enrollees could claim under this new approach, the CBO estimated that the government’s portion of premium costs would decline by $1.9 billion for current employees and $1.4 billion for federal retirees over the coming decade — or a total of $3.3 billion.

June 9, 2017

Linns: The United States Postal Service is hinting about doing away with stamps. At least that’s the suggestion being made on a YouTube video that touts a proposed experimental postal project that would place a small electronic box on the top of those familiar blue mail collection boxes. Officials acknowledged that the Postal Service is planning to test the “Smart Blue Box” concept, created by MRM/McCann, a New York advertising agency, but offered no details about when and where the project might begin. According to the video, the solar-powered device would allow a customer to ask whether mail has been collected from that box.It contains a scale that would allow a small parcel to be weighed for mailing and apparently a device that would produce a mailing label with postage to be affixed to a parcel. No stamps would be used.

FiscalTimes:  The government would save billions of dollars in health care costs for federal employees and retirees under a U.S. postal service reform act pending on Capitol Hill, although much of the long-term “savings” claimed by advocates may be achieved by massive cost-shifting. At a time when Congress and the Trump Administration are looking for ways to restructure government to reduce overall costs, the legislation would use a complicated bookkeeping maneuver to shift postal workers out of the government-wide Federal Employees Health Benefits plan into a separate new Postal Service Health Benefits program. The idea apparently is to remove postal workers and retirees — who generally have greater health care costs than other workers because of the physical demands of their jobs — from the larger pool of federal workers to gradually reduce the overall cost of health insurance for the workforce.

PostalNews:  The APWU scores another victory today, defending postal employees in the union’s bargaining unit. Arbitrator Goldberg issued an award in a national-level case over what remedy was due for the Postal Service’s failure to staff ‘POStPlan’ offices following an original award on September 5, 2014 and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) negotiated afterward.The APWU and the Postal Service agreed that after December 22, 2014, the ‘POStPlan’ Remotely-Managed Post Offices (RMPOs) open 4 or 6 hours a day would be staffed with bargaining unit clerks, as well as replace Postal Support Employees (PSEs) in Level 18 offices with career employees. Long after the agreement, Postmaster Reliefs (PMRs) were still working in 4 or 6 hour RMPOs across the country and Level 18 offices reported still using PSEs instead of career employees.The Postal Service admitted to their widespread violations of the ‘POStPlan’ MOU. Arbitrator Goldberg held that the USPS owed the bargaining unit for all the hours improperly worked by PMRs and PSEs.

DailyMail: Walmart has recently unveiled its latest attempt to surpass Amazon in the battle of the retail giants. The Arkansas-based firm is testing an automated kiosk in Oklahoma City where shoppers can pick up grocery orders placed online. After placing and paying for their order online, customers receive a pickup code that allows them to retrieve their groceries inside of the kiosk. A Walmart spokesperson told Money that the machine can fulfill ‘hundreds of orders’ in a day and although Amazon Fresh delivers its orders to the customer’s home, Walmart's kiosk allows them to pick them up the same day. Its service offers more than 30,000 times that can be ordered for free, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week – there is however, a $30 minimum.

June 8, 2017

MailOMGThe USPS is restricting use of International First-Class Mail, IPA, and ISAL to documents only (and no flats), in its efforts to conform postal regulations with newly passed Universal Postal Union (UPU) requirements it helped write. It filed notice of the changes that take effect January 1, 2018. Mailers have until July 17 to comment. The impact will be huge, especially on publishers whose products could be considered “goods” and not documents and thus cost more to mail. Clarification is needed on whether published products are considered merchandise. It also will hit mail consolidators, who count on ISAL and IPA to move all kinds of matter and not just documents. The proposed changes have some consolidators looking at non-postal alternatives.

Politico: The Republican Steering Committee on Thursday backed Rep. Trey Gowdy to become the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.Gowdy would replace outgoing Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who will resign at the end of June. Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) had also put his name in for consideration to replace Chaffetz.

PIWorld:  Idealliance, the association for the Visual Communications and Media Industry, reports that results of its Second Annual Mail Industry Survey have underscored the importance participants throughout the mail supply chain place on effective communication with the U.S. Postal Service. More than 200 individuals from across the mail supply chain participated in this year’s survey, with two-fifths (43.3%) identifying their company’s primary function as mailing service providers, including lettershops and presort houses. Other respondents included print providers (13.4%), mail owners (11.0%), software providers (9.1%), marketing services/creative and design services (6.1%), and logistics (4.9%). In addition, 7.9% defined their companies as some combination of print, mail service, and marketing service provider.

Politico: In 1897, a year when mail was still largely delivered by horse and wagon, construction began on an innovative scheme beneath the streets of Philadelphia. Using an intricate network of compressors and metal pipes, the new system could shoot a capsule holding a few hundred letters across a city in several minutes, far faster than a postman could get it there—a speed that matched the increasing velocity of American commerce. The investor in this new technology wasn’t some kind of delivery startup, the FedEx or UPS of its day. It was the U.S. Post Office. 

June 7, 2017

GovExec: All federal employees could see a better rate on their health insurance premiums under a bill to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. CBO did not estimate the savings FEHB enrollees would themselves receive, but it did predict the government’s portion of premium costs would decrease by $1.4 billion for federal retirees and $1.9 billion for current employees over 10 years. USPS would save $2.2 billion for current postal workers and $2.5 billion over 10 years under the postal-specific health care program.

June 6, 2017

Post&Parcel:  UPS has revealed plans for a new US$180m package processing hub in Goodyear, Arizona, a rapidly growing commercial and residential community. The phased hub construction will expand an existing 618,000ft² structure. A portion of the building is expected to begin operating later this year in time for the holiday season, providing additional processing and efficient automated sorting capacity for lightweight small packages typical of e-commerce. With its planned total completion expected in late 2019, the new facility will have more than 970,000ft² of advanced operational technologies and sortation equipment and bring more than 1,500 jobs to the Goodyear area.

June 5, 2017

Benzinga:  An under-the-radar Postal Service reform bill would save the country $6.2 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill would allow the USPS to raise prices on certain mail categories and phase out direct-to-business mail delivery. In addition, it would establish a new health benefits program for USPS employees. While budget-minded Americans and USPS employees are eagerly-anticipating the changes, the changes may take a while to go into effect, Height Securities analyst Edwin Groshans said. The reason the bill hasn’t gotten much media coverage is because it’s not a top priority at the moment in Washington.“The impending retirement of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R–UT), the bill’s lead sponsor, and other legislative priorities that Congress must tackle (healthcare reform, tax reform, infrastructure, debt ceiling to name a few), presents an uphill battle for postal reform to make its way onto the crowded legislative agenda in the near future,” Groshan’s wrote this week. He predicts the postal reform bill won’t be approved before the end of 2017.

Federal Times:  The magnitude of the U.S. Postal Service’s unfunded liabilities for its retiree pensions and health benefits imperils the agency and its workforce. Now a Congressional proposal seeks to brighten the agency’s future finances – by shifting these liabilities onto federal taxpayers through the Medicare system. Postal legislation passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March would make major changes to the current system and effectively transfer large shares of the gaping liabilities to U.S. taxpayers. The proposed changes are aligned with the recommendations of Postal Service leadership, which sees them as their best bet to improve their agency’s desperate financial outlook.  Postal Service management affirmed the intent of its legislative strategy by describing the legislation as improving “the affordability of our retiree health benefits system by virtually eliminating the unfunded [retirement health benefits] obligations,” in the agency’s latest quarterly 10-Q report. A recent article by the Postal Service elaborated further, declaring that if its retiree health plans were “fully integrated with Medicare,” it would be relieved of its prepayment requirements under current law, allowing it to reallocate these funds in hopes of restoring financial stability. Postal Service leadership has aggressively encouraged Congress to adopt the changes to retiree benefits as a solution, not only for what the OIG estimates as $63 billion in unfunded retirement liabilities, but tens of billions in mounting operating deficits as well. 

MailersHubAn email arrived in the Mailers Hub inbox, conveying an op-ed piece released by three DC-based associations: the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, DMA – the Association of Magazine Media, and PostCom (The Association for Postal Commerce). While the associations’ comments on the Postal Service’s recently-concluded labor agreement with the city carriers’ union take an approach that’s different from that of the preceding commentary, their criticisms are valid; we agree with the points they make and support their perspective. The writers especially skewer the USPS – and justifiably so – for belying its claims of tight cost management; the agency can’t tout efficiency and tight budgets while concurrently agreeing to more raises, continued COLAs, more career workers, and – above all – the guarantee of no layoffs. And doing so, as the writers note, is not demonstrative of what an agency should be doing if it wants greater latitude in ratesetting; the writers’ concerns that overly-generous contract terms will translate into higher rates are not far-fetched. Of course, whether our commentary or that of the associations will change the negotiating behavior of either the unions or the Postal Service remains to be seen, but we’re not betting on it.

GovExecOfficials at the 401(k)-style retirement savings plan for federal employees fear that President Trump’s proposal to increase employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System will lead feds to reduce voluntary saving for retirement. If approved by Congress, Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget would require federal workers to contribute an additional 1 percent more to FERS each year over a period of six years. The measure is one of several changes to federal employee retirement programs proposed by the Trump administration. During the monthly meeting of the Thrift Savings Plan board earlier this week, external affairs director Kim Weaver said the increase in required contributions could cut into the disposable income workers could invest in their retirement through the TSP. On another matter of concern to federal retirees, Weaver said she has received assurances from the Office of Management and Budget that the Trump budget proposal would not alter the interest rate of the TSP’s government securities (G) fund, which is currently statutorily set at 2.25 percent per year.

June 4, 2017

PostalNewsThe National Office has been in contact with Postal Headquarters to discuss the deluge of bid reversions and abolishments that are being implemented across the country as a result of the Function 1 Scheduler. Postal Management has argued that these reversions/ abolishments are necessary because of the continuing decline in mail volumes. The most recent figures (for the period from October 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017 indicate a decline of over 6 billion pieces in total mail volume from the same period last year. In an extreme over reaction to these mail volume figures, USPS Headquarters has directed all Postal Areas to assess their current workforce complements and make the necessary adjustments to reflect the decline in mail volume. Not surprisingly, the Area Managers are now over reacting to Postal Headquarters’ initial over reaction.

PostalNewsYesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published its report on Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 756). It is standard practice for the CBO to “score” pending legislation introduced into Congress in order to report its impact on the federal budget. They estimate that H.R. 756 would result in a savings of $6.2 billion over the next ten years. These savings are technically “off-budget” because the USPS’ cash flow is recorded in the federal budget (in the Postal Service Fund) is classified as “off-budget.” The cash flow for the Postal Service Retirement Health Benefit Fund (PSRHBF) is classified as “on-budget.” The net “on-budget” cost of the legislation is only $0.2 billion. The bill is now off to two House of Representatives’ committees: Ways & Means, chaired by Kevin Brady (R–TX-8) with ranking member Richard Neal (D-MA-1) and Energy & Commerce, chaired by Fred Upton (R-MI-6) with ranking member Bobby Rush (D-IL-2). In both committees the bill must be approved in order to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. Then the legislation will move to the Senate for a similar process.

June 3, 2017

DeadTreeThree mailers' organizations blasted a labor deal with the National Association of Letter Carriers today as proof that the “spendthrift monopolist” U.S. Postal Service “cannot be counted on to control its costs or prices.” “Rather than bringing compensation more in line with the private sector – as required by postal law – the tentative agreement with NALC worsens the problem,” said a joint statement from Postcom—The Association for Postal Commerce, MPA—The Association of Magazine Media, and the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers. In defending the current inflation-based price cap on most postal rates, the statement said, the coalition has presented expert testimony showing "that postal workers are paid nearly twice what the private sector pays for similar work." “The NALC contract confirms that the Postal Service cannot be trusted to make the tough decisions needed to control its own costs.”

BerkeleyDailyPlanetThe conservative leaning Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, in his farewell press conference claimed that postal banking was a bad idea because "We don't know anything about banking". Is historical memory that short? For 55 years, from 1911 to 1966, United States Postal Service (USPS) provided traditional banking services. Ironically, postal banking was initiated and strongly advocated by a conservative Republican, President Taft. But without any public discussion, postal banking was abolished by President Johnson, a Democrat who was liberal on domestic issues. What the public needs is not predatory banking institutions. It needs postal banking, which proved its worthiness in the 55 years of its existence. Moreover, the 32,000 local branches makes the post office accessible to almost everyone, regardless of income bracket. As the Washington Post noted, "customers could walk down the street to the post office with their money and deposit it in a savings account there". Poor Americans could cash their checks for a small fee and obtain loans on good terms at low interest rates. In fact, postal banking is able to charge for its services relatively low rates and with far more integrity than private banks and payday lenders. 

LinnsForty-eight years after President Richard M. Nixon pleaded with postal unions to support his plan for an independent postal service, another Republican president appears to be saying those unions might have achieved too many benefits with their collective-bargaining rights. That seems to be what Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2018 is saying. The president wants to roll back some of the gains the postal unions have made in the almost five decades since Nixon gave them bargaining rights in return for their support of his plan for a new United States Postal Service. The Trump budget for fiscal year 2018 says it offers the USPS $46 billion in “savings” by reducing mail deliveries and hitting postal workers’ benefits. Not surprisingly, the postal unions are in full battle mode with the president. Three large mailing organizations have attacked the Postal Service’s new wage agreement with the National Association of Letter Carriers, saying the pact shows that the USPS “cannot be trusted … to control its own costs.” In a June 1 essay, titled “USPS — Spendthrift Monopolist,” the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, the Association of Magazine Media, and the Association for Postal Commerce argued that a price cap is essential to force the Postal Service to control its spending.

June 2, 2017

CBSDFWWalmart says it’s testing a delivery service using its own store employees, who will deliver packages ordered online while they are driving home from their work shifts. The “associate delivery” program would use Walmart’s 4,700 U.S. stores and roughly 1.2 million employees to speed delivery and cut costs. The world’s largest retailer says workers can choose to participate and would be paid. The service is being tested at two stores in New Jersey and one in Arkansas. It’s the company’s latest effort to compete with online giant Amazon.

Post&Parcel: UPS is planning a new hub in Goodyear, Arizona, which it says will ramp up processing capacity for e-commerce. In a statement issued on its website yesterday (1 June), UPS said: “E-commerce already has changed the local landscape as UPS expands its capability for Saturday ground delivery and pickup service that began last month in Mesa and starts this Saturday, June 3, in Phoenix. These Saturday services will continue to expand as the new Goodyear facility is completed.”

GovExecUnfortunately, the budget President Trump recently sent to Congress shows how much disdain he has for federal employees and the taxpayers they help and support every day. President Trump would eliminate annual cost-of-living adjustments for people in the Federal Employee Retirement System—including for current retirees—and reduce them by half a percentage point for people in the old Civil Service Retirement System—including for current retirees. According to certified financial planner Art Stein, a FERS annuity would lose one-third of its value over 20 years if inflation averages between 2 percent and 3 percent annually (and nearly one-half of its value if inflation averages 4 percent). According to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, the average FERS annuitant would lose approximately $100,000 over 20 years and the average CSRS annuitant would lose $60,000 over 20 years under the Trump budget.

June 1, 2017

OfficialMailGuideThe Postal Service is now allowing specific quantities of lithium batteries — when installed in the equipment they are intended to operate — to be sent to many international destinations, including Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO) and Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) locations when permitted by the destination or host country. The postal operators of Germany and Italy are not accepting packages containing lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries to German or Italian addresses. Postal employees will decline electronic items containing lithium batteries to addresses in those two countries. This does not apply to shipments to and from German or Italian APO, FPO or DPO locations. Domestic shipments of packages containing lithium batteries, and electronic devices containing lithium batteries aren’t affected.

Post&Parcel:  US retainer Walmart has submitted a patent for a delivery system which uses drones, automated lockers and blockchain technology. Walmart filed the patent on 23 November last year, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (UPTO) published it on 25 May. With the delivery model described in the patent, the drone – or the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – will drop off the parcel/payload into an automated locker / delivery box, which will open in response to a message validating the identity of the UAV. The key advantages of using this sort of automated delivery box, rather than having the drones drop parcels on someone’s front lawn, is that is both safer and more secure. The patent also includes references to using blockchain technology for extra security and to track shipments that are fragile or temperature sensitive.

SDCExec: President Donald Trump's proposed budget would let the U.S. Postal Service cut back on delivery days, a move that helps the unprofitable agency save money while putting it at odds with longstanding congressional demands.The USPS currently delivers mail six days a week across the country, while also offering package delivery on Sunday for internet giant and others. The White House budget released last week would let the quasigovernmental agency scale back delivery frequency "where there is a business case for doing so." It is one of several solutions proposed to address the financial struggles at the USPS.

LinkedIn: Informed Delivery just rolled out in April nationally, and has fewer than two million households signed up so far – but Megan Brennan, the Postmaster General, said that consumers were signing up for the service at a pace of 10,000 households a day. As the Postal Service begins to actively advertise the program, expect that pace to grow.  In a couple of years, 10%- 20% of US household could be signed up for Informed Delivery – maybe more, particularly if it becomes a native app on new smart phones, a very real possibility.   There's a lot more to Informed Delivery than black and white pictures of your mail. Mailers can add full color clickable "ride-alongs" - viewable, clickable images to prospects receiving your mail piece today. Getting these images into the system is still a largely manual process, and cannot yet be personalized at a piece level, but the Postal Service promises that that is coming. In the not-too-distant future a unique web address can be assigned for each mail piece, so you can embed a PURL in your Informed Delivery ride-along.