NNA advises president’s postal task force on rates, service

Jun 14, 2018

WASHINGTON—In May, the National Newspaper Association held an initial meeting with the President’s Task Force on the U.S. Postal System, which is required to issue a report by mid-July on how to restructure the U.S. Postal Service. President Donald J. Trump set out the task force’s duties in an executive order earlier this year.

The task force comprises senior level executives from the Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget and other agencies. It has begun its research by interviewing key stakeholders, including postal management, labor unions and some mailer groups.

Tonda Rush, NNA public policy director and general counsel, represented NNA, in a meeting with other mailer organizations.

“The conversation about how to fix the Postal Service is nothing new,” she said. “We have been working on this problem for the past 20 years, at least. But I was struck about how detailed and penetrating their questions were. The focus was much less on privatization than I expected, and more on specifics about how to fund universal service when mail volumes are falling. How would the mailers propose to do that in a way that does not damage the future of the very thing we are trying to protect?

“Our group, which is a large alliance called the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, told the task force that a two-step process is needed. First, Congress has to pass a bill giving USPS financial relief from health care costs by ending pre-funding of retiree benefits and requiring the last cohort of USPS retirees to use the Medicare benefits to which they are already entitled. Then, we must continue to work together to establish a balance of moderate rate increases, lower labor costs, increased USPS flexibility for workforce management and better use of the system’s core competencies.”

Rush said the task force asked specific questions about six-day mail service, on which the mailers’ coalition is split, and about how mailers define universal service.
NNA President Susan Rowell, publisher of the Lancaster (SC) News, said she was pleased NNA was invited to advise the task force.

“We know great changes are ahead,” she said. “We are doing our part by trying to make our mail more efficient, supporting only modest rate increases that will not drive mail out of the system before its time, and helping USPS establish better ways to provide the services this country needs. Whatever the task force ultimately suggests will require legislation, in our view, and we expect to be working on that with our Congressional Action Team.”