National News

August 23

SalemNews: First-class postage stamps at 49 cents each may be about to go the way of the carrier pigeon. By next month, the Postal Service may be given permission to increase stamp prices dramatically. Increasing use of online communications has hurt the Postal Service, cutting deeply into its revenue. But, say critics, many in the private sector have had to adapt to change, too. Why can’t the Postal Service? Before Congress stands aside and allows stamp prices to continue skyrocketing, lawmakers ought to be held accountable for tying the agency’s hands in some respects.

Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has applied for a U.S. patent for a floating warehouse that could make deliveries via drones, which would bring products from the aircraft down to shoppers’ homes. An unmanned airborne warehouse -- laden with drones -- could help retailers lower the costs of fulfilling online orders, particularly the so-called “last mile” to a customer’s house, which is usually handled by a local or national logistics company. To avoid that expense, Wal-Mart and other retailers often encourage shoppers to pick up those orders at the store, where they might grab a few additional items. The airship could fly to one town and release a flock of drones to deliver packages, after which the drones would return to the vessel and restock while it flew to the next town. Such a system would be more efficient than having the drones fly back to a central distribution hub, according to research firm CB Insights. 


August 22

FoxNews: Republican lawmakers are casting a wider net in their search for wrongdoing at federal agencies in past election cycles, after learning the Postal Service violated the law by allowing employees to do union-funded work for Hillary Clinton’s campaign while on leave. The lawmakers blasted out letters on Monday to 10 other federal government agencies questioning their unpaid leave policy for union-related political work. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., led the charge on the review of agencies’ practices after spurring an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) beginning in October 2016. House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., joined Johnson’s efforts this week by penning joint letters to the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Treasury, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration Monday. The letters concerned what's known as “union official Leave Without Pay (LWOP)” for political campaign activity.


August 21

CIOReview: As a United States Postal Inspector for over 20 years, I’ve seen the impact distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks can have on the private sector. Hackers attempt to flood compromised systems with repeated requests, overpowering networks and disabling the systems they support—crippling organizations’ abilities to carry out mission-critical operations. The risks caused by DDoS attacks have grown as the parties behind the attacks continue to evolve. This trend is especially concerning for the United States Postal Service and its business partners in the ecommerce industry. At the Postal Service, we work with a range of companies to package, transport, and track important shipments across the globe. By disrupting networks and forcing servers’ offline, DDoS attacks have the potential to prevent our ecommerce partners from processing the information needed to deliver their shipments on time. This can lead to considerable losses in revenue—as much as $5,600 for every minute of time offline, based on industry research.

Ecommercebytes: Imagine paying for a service, then later receiving a bill because the company says you didn’t pay enough. That’s the discomfiture online sellers may start experiencing due to a change at the US Postal Service. On August 14th, the USPS began a program in which it verifies shippers have paid the correct amount for postage purchased online for packages through Click-N-Ship or PC Postage label providers such as EasyPost, eBay, Endicia, PayPal, Pitney Bowes, and Stamps.com. If it finds shippers didn’t pay the correct amount, the USPS will make a “payment adjustment” facilitated through the PC Postage platform the seller used. It’s hard to argue with the motivation behind the new Automated Package Verification System (known as APV), which will also credit shippers if they overpaid for online postage.


August 20

TheHill: The United States Postal Service is an aging, but still powerful, beast. Under federal law, America’s mailboxes are the sole domain of the USPS, and many types of mail can only legally be delivered by the Postal Service. Indeed, by most any definition, the USPS is a monopoly, and if nothing else, it certainly acts like one. Intentionally or not, monopolists tend to operate outside the bounds of competitive businesses. They often attempt to charge higher prices than competitive businesses do, and monopolists tend to have trouble controlling costs or operating, well, like a normal business.The PRC regulates postal rates to prevent abuses of monopoly power. If the USPS gets its way, that could change next month when the Postal Regulatory Commission decides whether to give the Postal Service virtually unlimited power to raise rates on its own. Groups such as ours, along with the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers and the Association for Postal Commerce, have been fighting to keep the CPI cap in place. If the PRC removes it, there will be no check on the Postal Service’s monopoly power.

TheLancasterNews: Most people get mail every day except Sunday. But what happens when the mail comes later than we expect?  We found out a few years ago, when the U.S. postmaster general had to take away overnight first-class and periodicals mail from most of the nation. That caused a problem for a lot of consumers and businesses. Now, we may be facing a new slowdown, if something isn’t done by Congress very soon. We are at another crunch point. The U.S. Postal Service has a $57 billion deficiency on its balance sheet, most of it caused by Congress. Fixing it may require the postmaster general to close more post offices and mail-sorting plants, eliminate mail-hauling truck routes and ground the airmail.  The mail would be slowed down even further. The choices are tough, and Congress is never good at tough choices. Businesses that buy postage cannot afford big increases and will simply find alternatives if the rates are jacked up too much. Consumers cannot afford to pay more for slower mail. USPS wants to protect jobs for its workers.


August 18

FresnoBee:  Regarding the Aug. 11 piece entitled “Postal Service might default for fifth time on retiree payments,” consider the following: Imagine a group of prospective homeowners applying for a 30-year mortgage. All but one is allowed to pay off the mortgage over 30 years. The mortgage company forces the one applicant to pay it off in five years during a recession. That, in a nutshell, is what Congress forced the USPS to do with 2006 postal reform legislation by mandating that it pre-pay its 80-year future retiree health-benefit obligation in only 10 years, which no other corporation in the world is forced to do. During the prior three years, the USPS made an operational profit of $3.2 billion. At 49 cents, a first-class stamp is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Our postal service, which Benjamin Franklin created, still works pretty well.


August 17

Post&Parcel: UPS has announced that it will start training student delivery drivers to spot and identify road hazards using virtual reality (VR) headsets that simulate the experience of driving on city streets.The company will launch VR training at nine UPS Integrad training facilities in September. Students using the modules must verbally identify potential road hazards such as pedestrians, parked cars and oncoming traffic. UPS claims that the 360° view inside the headset is realistic down to the finest details. The VR training modules replace the touchscreen devices UPS Integrad facilities currently use to teach lessons on road hazards.

TechCrunch: According to a report from ABC News the Postal Service last week reported a loss of $2.1 billion for the quarter, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the year ago period. The response to this continuing and precipitous decline has been to appeal to government to raise rates, which may only serve to drive customers further out of reach for the ailing mail delivery service. What it could do, instead, is look to innovation as a way to boost its flagging bottom line… and one place it could find inspiration is in the national postal service operating thousands of miles to the south, in Australia. For the past few years, the Australian postal service has made a concerted effort to digitize and modernize its operations and the services it provides. In 2015, the Australia Post announced an initial AUS$20 million initiative to invest in eCommerce businesses and begin working with a university accelerator program in Melbourne to help those businesses thrive. Beyond the investment fund, the Australia Post is also working to establish itself as the gateway to Australia’s experiments with digital identification. Finally, the Postal service in Australia also encourages entrepreneurship with a startup competition of its own.


August 16

NonProfitMailers: Nonprofit mailers are not happy – and here are three reason why. 1. USPS is not responding to adversity like a business. On August 7, the National Association of Letter Carriers announced that they had ratified a labor agreement with the U.S. Postal Service. Read the announcement by the NALC here. And the vote wasn’t close: 78,935 to accept the agreement versus 4,732 to reject it, a margin of 16 to 1. It seems letter carriers know a great thing when they see it​!​ 2.  USPS is inaccurately raising the fear of bankruptcy. On August 10, USPS released its latest quarterly financial results. ​I​t used the opportunity to continue to push for Congressional and PRC help to raise prices more than inflation. It used the fear of bankruptcy as its main argument, even though federal government agencies cannot declare bankruptcy. And the Postal Service has stable revenue, over $10 billion operating cash in the bank, and over $340 billion set aside for retiree benefits. The Alliance recently documented that USPS pre-funding of pensions and retiree healthcare is in better shape than all other sectors: federal, military, Fortune 500, and states. 3.  USPS is proposing technical adjustments that arbitrarily raise rates. We reported in an Alliance Alert on August 1 that USPS is proposing additional rate increases to nonprofit Marketing Mail (formerly Standard Mail), to be offset by lower commercial rates. Read the Alliance Alert here. The nonprofit increases would be over and above all other increases. USPS is seeking to change a methodology that has been in place for the ten years since the 2006 PAEA law eliminated sub-classes of mail. It wants to conjure up pseudo-sub-classes, or synthetic sub-classes, or fake sub-classes – choose your cliché – to engineer a transfer of money from nonprofits to commercial mailers.

Forbes:  Last week the U.S. Postal Service released is latest quarterly financial report, which detailed an immense loss of $2.1 billion. While the Postal Service’s downward financial spiral has clearly continued in unsurprising fashion, the report also reveals some emerging trends that are also worthy of further discussion and scrutiny. Most notably, the Postal Service’s favored fiscal terminology – controllable income – has proven to be an increasingly dubious indicator of its fiscal health. That figure, which the Postal Service used to explain away its ongoing defaults on retiree benefits payments and isolate these defaults as a congressionally-imposed obstacle, has plunged.  The $587 million controllable loss, which only captures losses resulting from its direct product offerings, is now a clear-cut indicator that the Postal Service’s operations are failing to achieve profitability in every sense possible. While the postal agency has many low-profit and unprofitable services, notably for some deregulated services, its regulated core First-Class mail services bring in twice the revenue compared to its delivery costs. Despite First-Class mail being a profit engine, the Postal Service points to its volume declines, partly driven by the widespread adoption of digital technologies, as a reason to raise prices on its regulated services.


August 15

WorkdayMinnesota: A two-cent cut in the price of a first-class stamp, which cut Postal Service revenue by $500 million in the last three months and $1.5 billion in the first nine months of its current fiscal year, put USPS back in the red so far this fiscal year, a top postal union leader says. Had the cut not slid through, due to inaction by postal management last year, the service would have earned almost $1.4 billion through the first three quarters of the year, rather than losing $55 million in that time, adds National Association of Letter Carriers(link is external) President Fredric Rolando. Still, he notes, the agency’s report “shows the underlying business strength of the U.S. Postal Service” because the loss was so small despite the revenue drain from the price cut. Rolando again also called for enactment of legislation permanently solving USPS’ financial problems by killing the $5.5 billion USPS yearly prepayment of future retirees’ health care costs – an unique prepayment the GOP-run Congress imposed a decade ago. Other postal unions had no immediate official comment on the USPS’ financial report, but the situation out in the field was another matter. That’s because the USPS continues to consolidate and close mail distribution centers, costing jobs and drawing protests, this time led by the Postal Workers and the Mail Handlers/Laborers.


August 14

Linns: The latest quarterly financial report from the United States Postal Service describes “essentially flat” revenues, but there are some numbers in the new report that seriously worry top postal officials. Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan and chief financial officer Joseph Corbett acknowledged that first-class mail volumes and revenues have taken a deeper than expected drop in the nine months ended June 30. Advertising mail also has taken a hit, they said. Double-digit increases in package mail volume have continued, but the executives noted that it’s more costly to move than letter mail and doesn’t contribute as much to the Postal Service’s overall expenses as first-class and marketing mail. When all USPS costs mandated by Congress are included, the USPS said its net loss for the nine months was $1.3 billion this year, compared to a loss of $3.3 billion for the same period of 2016.

FederalNewsRadio: With two months (August and September) to go in the cost-of-living countdown, federal, military and Social Security retirees are eagerly awaiting their 2018 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Last month, the COLA — based on the nationwide rise in living costs measured by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics — stood at 1.6 percent, but the Consumer Price Index for the month of July dipped slightly, dropping the estimate to 1.52 percent. The actual amount of the 2018 COLA will be based on the average of the indices of July, August, and September, in comparison with the previous year’s third quarter average. The final number won’t be known until mid-October. Under law, retirees under the FERS program do not get any cost-of-living adjustment until they reach age 62. CSRS retirees qualify for full COLAs regardless of age. Once FERS retirees reach age 62, they get full COLAs up to 2 percent and so-call diet COLAs (less than the full inflation rate) for increases over 2 percent.


August 12

NextGov: Apple’s update of the technological capability of the iPhone with the coming iOS release will allow the U.S. Postal Service to expand the opportunities and capabilities that can be provided to mailers. There are three main additional capabilities that may help elevate the impact of Postal Service products: the iPhone camera can read QR codes; the ARKit allows for augmented reality creation, and the iPhone’s near field communications capability has expanded beyond Apple Pay. All three features can make it easier for customers to both create and interact with mail piece features. The iOS 11 update, expected to be released in fall 2017, presents new opportunities for mailers to collaborate with the Postal Service and more easily connect to mail recipients. The Postal Service currently offers promotions for different types of technology applications with mail pieces, including those that engage the senses or promote online shopping. The Postal Service encourages mailers to add these features to their mail pieces to digitally engage customers with a brand, and this relationship will continue as new technology emerges.


August 11

BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.1 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.7 percent.

PBS: The U.S. Postal Service is warning that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health benefits for the fifth straight year. It is citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery.The post office says it expects cash balances to run low by October. Postmaster General Megan Brennan stressed an urgent need for federal regulators to grant the Postal Service wide freedom to increase stamp prices to cover costs. She points to continuing red ink due to declining first-class mail volume and the expensive mandates for retiree benefits.

Post&Parcel: California-based startup company Chanje has announced that it will introduce a commercial all-electric truck available at “mass scale” in the US market this year. In a statement issued today (10 August), Chanje said that its new vehicle will be “the only one of its kind designed from the ground up as an EV and purpose-built to be a long-life truck”. Chanje said that it is focusing on the “medium-duty vehicle segment work” (which includes parcel delivery trucks) and it is looking to work with “large fleet customers to provide renewable energy and charging capabilities as a turnkey service”.

AssociatedPress: The U.S. Postal Service warned Thursday that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health and pension benefits for the fifth straight year, citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery. The service said it expected cash balances to run low by October and to avoid bankruptcy would likely not make all of its payments as required under federal law. Postmaster General Megan Brennan stressed an urgent need for federal regulators to grant the Postal Service wide freedom to increase stamp prices to help cover costs, citing continuing red ink due to declining first-class mail volume and the expensive mandates for retiree benefits.

Reuters: The US Postal Service has seen record losses as traditional mail is replaced by electronic means. Without enough money to pay for years of employee benefits, the agency is calling for legislation to enable them to raise their prices. On Thursday, the USPS reported losses of $2.1 billion in the third fiscal quarter of 2017, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the same quarter last year.  Over the past 10 years, the USPS has incurred a net loss of $63.3 billion and they project future losses without legislative and regulatory changes. The agency also warned that it will likely have to default on $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health benefits and pensions, according to the Associated Press. If their debt is not addressed soon, the American taxpayer will likely have to cover the costs when future employees retire and cash in on their benefits, to which they are legally entitled. In order to keep the agency running, US Postmaster General Megan Brennan suggested a new pricing system that would allow them to cover its costs.


August 10

Post&Parcel:  Curbside has teamed up with Yelp so US shoppers can buy goods through the Yelp app for pick up from participating local stores or restaurants within an hour. Curbside works with a range of retailers across the US – including the CVS Pharmacy chain, which will be participating in the Yelp/Curbside service. Shoppers order products online and then the goods are packaged ready for collection.

FinancialTimes: Come 10.30am workers at HSBC’s suburban Hong Kong offices are to be found processing a freshly-delivered document deluge: prying out staples, tallying copies and endlessly slotting them into files. A single contract could run to 100 pages. Everything has to be in triplicate and a shipment of, say, 500 shirts in various colours and sizes — each taking its own page — quickly stacks up. HSBC now aims to revolutionise the $2tn world of documented trade finance, placing blockchain and artificial intelligence at the heart of global trade flows. It is adopting an IBM technology that can extract information from non-standardised papers and feed it straight into bank processing systems.


August 9

NYTimes: It may be time to stock up on Forever stamps.Regulators appear likely to accept the financially beleaguered Postal Service's request for more freedom to raise the price of mailing letters. It would be the biggest change in the Postal Service's pricing system in nearly a half-century, allowing stamp prices to rise beyond the rate of inflation. After a 10-year review, the Postal Regulatory Commission could make its decision next month. It might limit how high prices could go, but the cost of a first-class stamp, now 49 cents, could jump. It's not known how much. Financial analysts praise the plan, but it has raised the ire of the mail-order industry, which could pay millions more for sending items like prescription drugs and magazines and pass the costs onto consumers. Congress' failure to address the Postal Service's underlying financial woes, such as onerous requirements to pre-fund retiree health benefits, has left the commission more likely to embrace the request for more pricing freedom. The Postal Service has ruled out closing post offices and ending Saturday delivery to reduce costs.

TheHill: Medicare's breaking point is nigh, with the program's trustees projecting that solvency will only last until 2029. At a time when program expenses need to be minimized in a delicate balancing act, more costs may be offloaded onto Medicare by the United States Postal Service (USPS) through reckless congressional actions. In introducing the Postal Reform Act of 2017, lawmakers hope to use Medicare funds to bail out the retirement funds awash in red ink at the USPS. But adding billions of dollars to an already-beleaguered program is simply the wrong solution to a longstanding problem. Certain changes, such as ending Saturday delivery, are actively being considered and would help reverse fiscal damage. But reform cannot end there. Nixing weekend delivery is projected to bring in $3 billion a year. The USPS could save another $1.9 billion by purchasing a mixed fleet of off-the-shelf vehicles, instead of purchasing “Next Generation Delivery Vehicles” (NGDV) with little resale value or technological potential.

ThinkProgress: Since Election Day, unions have lived on borrowed time. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has exclusive authority over many key questions of labor law, is still controlled by Democrats. But this period of interregnum is about to end. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) began the process of confirming the first of Trump’s two nominees to the NLRB on Monday. When both nominees sit on the Board, a swift rollback of union rights is likely. As soon as this week, the Senate is likely to vote on Marvin Kaplan, the first of these two nominees. A former GOP Hill staffer, Kaplan drafted legislation—strongly supported by business lobby groups—which would have made it easier for employers to fight unionization campaigns. Trump’s other nominee, William Emanuel, is a veteran management-side lawyer who touts his “particular expertise with laws concerning union access to the private property of employers.” He’s also filed briefs in three cases claiming that employers can force workers to waive their right to bring class actions and similar lawsuits.

DFWCBS: Buffeted by threats from Amazon drones to deliveries by golf cart, the U.S. Postal Service is counting on a different strategy to stay competitive. It is seeking more freedom to raise prices for mailing letters. After a 10-year review, the Postal Regulatory Commission appears likely to grant the Postal Service power to increase the cost of stamps beyond the rate of inflation. It would be the biggest change in its pricing system in nearly a half-century. A decision is expected next month.

GovExec: More than 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees will soon receive a pay raise but face a slight decrease in health benefits under a new labor contract formally agreed to this week. The National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents 213,000 city mailmen and women across the country, ratified an agreement it had struck with USPS management to avoid binding arbitration. The agreement will take effect retroactively to May 21, 2016, and continue through Sept. 20, 2019. All city letter carriers will receive a 1.2 percent pay raise retroactive to Nov. 26, 2016, and a 1.3 percent increase effective Nov. 25 of this year. Employees on the second level of the two-grade pay scale will receive a 2.1 percent raise in 2018. On top of those general wage increases, employees will also receive a series of seven cost-of-living adjustments throughout the life of the contract.


August 8

CNBC: Starting Aug. 31, those third-party merchants have to adapt to a significant and costly change. According to an email that Amazon sent to sellers of books, CDs and DVDs, distributors to the lower 48 states will have to deliver items within a window of four to eight days, down from four to 14 days. The company is putting in place a number of policies that force sellers to provide the same speed and quality of service that customers have come to expect from Amazon. But marketplace merchants, who sell out of their garage or warehouse rather than using Amazon's fulfillment centers, have to build shipping costs into their business model, and they typically operate on very thin margins. The USPS has a special rate for media items and says on its website that delivery times range from two to eight days. But sellers told CNBC that coast-to-coast shipments often take a few days longer than that. The risk to missing Amazon's guaranteed delivery window is that a seller gets bad reviews, which means losing visibility on listings and can eventually lead to suspension.


August 7

FedWeek: The Postal Service carried out its pay for performance program for about 49,000 non-bargaining employees in supervisory, technical, administrative and managerial positions in accordance with its policies and procedures, an IG audit has found. However, it added that “guidance documents could be more accurate and updated more timely,” raising “the risk of inconsistent application of process, noncompliance, or lack of employee accountability.” Based on a closer examination of about a third of the sub-organizations, auditors said that if employees had been evaluated based on individual contributions for their assigned location, ratings of 30 percent would have been higher and ratings of 8 percent would have been lower. Successfully operating pay for performance programs so that they are fair yet draw meaningful distinctions among employees has been a long-running challenge for federal agencies.


August 5

WashingtonPost: The boom in Internet retailing has provided a rare bit of good news to the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, which is delivering packages at a historic pace — and reaping revenue that helps offset billions of dollars of losses elsewhere in the agency’s budget. But the Postal Service isn’t the only one making money when a mail carrier brings a new pair of shoes or a school backpack to your door.  Private companies compete fiercely to sell postage, prepare labels and help retailers find the best deals for shipping their products. But the Postal Service’s dire finances underscore the importance of maximizing the agency’s revenue. And it is this point that has generated sharp controversy within the industry, with officials at several companies complaining that the Postal Service has tipped the scales against them while wasting money in the process.


August 4

Post&Parcel: UPS is expanding its alcohol shipping delivery offering, meaning wine connoisseurs can have their favorite cases of wine shipped directly from the vineyards to their home using one of the UPS Express shipping services. UPS will now ship wine, beer and liquor to consumers and businesses in 11 countries throughout Asia Pacific including: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. In Malaysia, only businesses can import wine and beer. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, 43% of all wine is consumed in a different country to that in which it is produced, and the global wine market is expected to reach $380 billion by 2022.

WashingtonPost: The Food and Drug Administration is strengthening efforts to detect opioids illegally entering the country through the mail, reflecting heightened concerns about the flood of synthetic fentanyl and similar drugs being shipped from China and elsewhere. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in internal remarks to a group of senior managers Thursday, said he was deploying about three dozen employees to international mail facilities run by the U.S. Postal Service to help detect and analyze suspicious packages, as well as to the FDA’s cybercrime and forensic-chemistry units. Public health leaders and policymakers worried about the nation’s opioid epidemic are increasingly focusing on the international mail problem. Just last week, the White House opioid commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), called on the Trump administration to boost funding, staffing and technology to try to “staunch the flow of deadly synthetic opioids” arriving through the mail.

Post&Parcel: FedEx has announced that it will not be applying a 2017 holiday season surcharge for residential shipments – except for packages that are “oversized, unauthorized, or require additional handling”. In a statement issued today (3 August), FedEx said: “The volume of oversized packages moving through the FedEx Ground network during the Holiday season has increased by approximately 240 percent over the past 10 years and is now about 10 percent of all volume handled by FedEx Ground. FedEx has engineered its networks to add sortation and delivery capabilities to accommodate the continued rise in demand for larger, heavier packages, including entire facilities temporarily dedicated to oversized packages. The Holiday season surcharge will be effective Nov. 20, 2017, through Dec. 24, 2017.  FedEx Express and FedEx Ground in the U.S. and Canada will increase the surcharge during this period for additional handling by $3 per package, for oversize goods by $25 per package, and for unauthorized shipments by $300 per package.”

GovExec: The U.S. Postal Service is failing to reward its top performers under a pay system designed to recognize excellence, according to a new report, instead relying on group metrics that collectively punish employees for the work of their colleagues. Using the Capital Metro Area as a sample, the USPS inspector general found 30 percent of employees who would have been eligible on their own were denied a pay raise under the agency’s pay-for-performance system due to their teams’ scores. Only the Postal Service’s 48,000 non-bargaining unit Executive and Administrative Schedule employees, who serve in supervisory, technical, administrative and managerial positions, receive performance-based pay. The auditors recommended USPS management improve its communication of the criteria for pay raises to “reduce the risk of negative perception” and disengagement. They also said the Postal Service should reward individual stations, branches and plant departments.


August 2

PostalNews: While Josh Sandbulte gets some things right about the Postal Service in his self-serving opinion piece “Why the Post Office Gives Amazon Special Delivery” (July 14): he provides an inaccurate and unfair account of the package delivery side of our business. By law our competitive package products, including those that we deliver for Amazon, must cover their costs. Our regulator, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), looks carefully at this question every year and has determined that they do. The PRC has also noted that competitive products help fund the infrastructure of the Postal Service. It is that infrastructure that enables us to fulfill our universal service obligation to deliver to each and every address in the United States at an affordable rate. Despite our achievements in improving operational efficiency and growing revenue, we cannot overcome systemic financial imbalances caused by legal and other constraints.


August 1

linns: The cheapest place to purchase United States postage is not always your local post office. It could be a personal-computer (PC) postage firm that has signed up for a little-known U.S. Postal Service program that offers sharply discounted postage rates under a promise to help the USPS generate greater mail volume.Some are offering these postage discounts to small mailers and postal customers who can’t generate enough volume to secure the deep discounts on their own. One researcher claims the discounts can be as much as 31 percent below the Postal Service’s published postal rates. The discounted prices were to be “somewhere between the Postal Service’s published retail prices and Commercial Plus Pricing.” CPP represents sharply discounted rates the USPS had offered to large mailers.

Frieghtwaves: Back in 2013, the New York Times reported that the United States Postal Service (USPS) would start making Sunday deliveries for online retail giant Amazon. It initially served as an effort by USPS to stop the financial bleeding of the agency that was happening as Americans sent fewer and fewer letters. With a reported annual loss totaling about $16 billion, deals with profitable companies like the one Jeff Bezos leads looked like a step in the right direction as far as USPS’ efforts to eliminate losses. But according to a report published by Josh Sandbulte in the Wall Street Journal, USPS has been picking up the tab for Amazon. The WSJ contributor, whose expertise is in the shipping industry, detailed how Congress prevents USPS, through the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, from changing the parcel price. This law is designed to avoid “unfair competition” with FedEx and UPS. The report implies that Amazon gets the better end of the deal through the $1.46 subsidy. It is as if the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act served as a loophole for Amazon to exploit.