A daunting deficit and burdensome worker contracts could do what rain, sleet, snow and hail could not. Namely, stop the mail.
The U.S. Postal Service, already facing drastic cuts, doesn't have the $5.5 billion it needs to make a pension payment later this month, and could shut down entirely early next year without action from Congress to save it. The New York Times reports that the problem is partly technological. Email is cheaper and quicker than mail, and electronic documents in business applications have shrunk the volume of material the postal service handles. The 167 billion pieces of mail the Postal Service will process this year sounds impressive, but represents a 22 percent drop from just five years ago, The Times reports. It's a trend that appears likely to continue.
Those changes coincide with labor agreements that may not be sustainable.
As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail.
At the same time, decades of contractual promises made to unionized workers, including no-layoff clauses, are increasing the post office’s costs. Labor represents 80 percent of the agency’s expenses, compared with 53 percent at United Parcel Service and 32 percent at FedEx, its two biggest private competitors. Postal workers also receive more generous health benefits than most other federal employees.