Five-Day, Go Away? The United States Postal Service announces move to five-day delivery

By Danielle Gonnella, 2013-2014 Managing Editor

On March 24 the outcry over a plan to move the United States to five-day mail service grew louder, as thousands of union members from the National Association of Letter Carriers (“NALC”) rallied across the country to save Saturday delivery, and along with it an estimated 22,000 jobs. The rally was in response to the United States Postal Service’s February 5th announcement of a plan to cancel Saturday mail delivery in an attempt to save $2 billion annually. The change would take effect on August 5, and has been highly contested by both unions and Congress alike. The newly proposed plan would allow for continual delivery of mail to homes Monday through Friday, but would limit Saturday mail delivery to post boxes.

The announcement by the Postal Service comes in the wake of speculation that privatization of the institution is imminent. The Postal Service claimed a $15.9 billion dollar loss of revenue in 2012, citing Internet communications and increased competition from private agencies as the primary factors for the loss. At a news conference held on the issue, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said, “the American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation. The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail.”

Fredric Rolando, president of the NALC, commented that the move “flouts the will of Congress,” and categorized Postmaster General Donahoe’s plan to end Saturday delivery as, “a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers.” Rolando further contends that, “it would be particularly harmful to small businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.” Unlike the Postal Service, Rolando blames the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act as one of the primary reason for the Postal Service’s financial straits. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act requires the Postal Service to set aside approximately $5.5 million annually, to fund future retiree health care benefits. According to Rolando this is completely unprecedented and has accounted for a substantial decrease in Postal Service revenue.

While the Postal Service does not feel that it is in need of Congressional authority to move ahead with its plan, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office believes that the Postmaster does need Congressional permission before the 5-day service could be implemented. While no law requires the agency to deliver mail to the American public six-days a week, Congress has enacted provisions requiring 6-day delivery of mail in every Postal Service appropriations act since fiscal year 1987. The current temporary budget put in place by Congress does include a provision to reject the Postal Service’s plan.