Senate committee pushes for postal reform

Feb 25, 2016

By Tonda F. Rush

General Counsel | NNA

WASHINGTON—Senators in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee continue to push toward approval of a postal reform bill, even as large mailing organizations resist further action.

Consideration of S. 2051, the Improving Postal Operations Service and Transparency Act, is tentatively set for early March. The National Newspaper Association, the Envelope Manufacturers Association, Amazon, the Greeting Card Association and a number of other organizations have agreed with the U.S. Postal Service and the major labor unions that it is time to strike a balance between postage rates and slower service. Among the pillars of the agreement is acceptance of a rate freeze that would prevent USPS from having to give back portions of an above-inflation rate increase implemented two years ago.

But some other large groups, led by MPA—the Association of Magazine Media, oppose the bill. A letter to the committee rebutted perceptions that all mailers want the legislation:

“Contrary to any misimpression that a broad swath of the mailing industry is supportive of the rate-setting provisions contained in S. 2051, the undersigned organizations stand firmly in opposition to at least one substantive proposal put forth by the Postal Service during the hearing, and contained in S. 2051—that the temporary ‘exigent’ rates of postage now in effect be made part of permanent law,” the letter said.

NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath said the opposition of large mailers was not a surprise, but that he thought it was necessary to get a bill passed in this Congress.

“The difference between our industry and the big mailers is that we are service-sensitive. A lot of them can hire trucking companies to freight their mail to local processing centers, so they don’t care as much if the service network breaks down. In the calculation of service versus rates, they go for the rates. For newspapers, however, the service is imperative. Members supported that by wide margins in a survey. We have made peace with the exigent rates, which we opposed. Now we believe that if there is no legislation, and the rates decrease in April, as a court has decreed, we will pay for it big time in months ahead. We are after service and stability,” Heath said. (See Heath’s Postal Tips on this page for more on postage rates.)

Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE, the principal sponsor of iPOST, has acknowledged the difficulty of passing a bill in the contentious Congress. In an interview with direct mail publication DM News, he quoted hockey star Wayne Gretzsky:

“He used to say, ‘I missed every shot I never took.’ Carper said. “And we’re going to take a shot and we’re going to take it again and again and again. This is worth fighting for and worth pushing for …. For years, mailers have said to the Postal Service and paper industry has said to the Postal Service, ‘You’ve got too many employees.’ Well, they don’t anymore. They said to them, ‘You’ve got too many post offices, full-time post offices.’ Well, they don’t anymore. They said, ‘You have too many processing centers.’ They don’t have them anymore. They have right-sized the centers. They’ve cut facilities and people, frankly to the bone. And it’s affecting service. We want to make sure that the service gets better.”