The slow-motion collapse of the U.S. Postal Service has prompted much discussion about how to reform the institution. There is broad agreement on the basics: services will be cut back, stations will close, and employees will be let go, while those who remain will see their benefits and salaries restructured. Many on the left in particular chafe at cutting back a service that has served as a gateway to the middle class for generations of postal workers. Yet plummeting revenues have forced them to face the fact that postal restructuring is inevitable.Postal workers themselves, however, are in denial. In a new report set to be released today, the National Association of Letter Carriers, a union representing postal workers, took aim at rescue plans proposed by the USPS and Congress and suggested alternate reforms:
The Postal Service’s proposal to close thousands of post offices and cut back on the number of days that mail is delivered “won’t work” and would accelerate the agency’s decline, according to the six-page report by Ron Bloom, President Barack Obama’s former auto czar, and investment bank Lazard Ltd., LAZ -1.52% who were hired by the union in October.Instead, the report says, the agency should raise its stamp prices, which are among the lowest in the world, and find new ways to profit more from its built-in advantage as the only entity to reach every American home every day. It should also replace its multilayered governance system with a corporate- style board of directors whose members have entrepreneurial experience.
The union is right to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and new services beyond simple mail delivery. Yet the proposal is relatively light on actual ideas in this vein, and where it gets more specific, the flaws become clear. Most obvious is the strict opposition to service cuts or cutbacks for postal workers. Despite the growing conventional wisdom that current levels of service are unsustainable, the union’s plan actually suggests expansions in mail deliveries (which, of course, would preserve endangered jobs).While it’s striking that a major public union would issue ideas like this in a high profile report, it looks less like a visionary plan for the future and more like an attempt to stave off the inevitable pain for postal workers. The blue model may be collapsing, but it won’t go down quietly.