President Trump’s mandated report on overhauling the U.S. Postal Service drew a lukewarm response from lawmakers on Tuesday, reports Government Executive as the agency’s own leadership rejected many of the key proposals
One key area of disagreement between the administration’s recommendations and lawmakers’ vision for the agency surrounded the future of collective bargaining at the mailing agency. Trump’s postal task force, which he created through executive order last year, proposed the Postal Service join the rest of government in not allowing its employees to negotiate over pay. Multiple members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected that suggestion, while David Williams, a recently sworn-in member of the agency’s board of governors, said he could think of “no way at all” such an approach would address the most significant drivers of USPS’s precarious financial situation.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who chairs the committee, was sceptical of that suggestion, noting analysis from the task force that suggested FedEx, which does not have unionised delivery personnel, pays its employees significantly less than the Postal Service. Williams said USPS’ own numbers did not line up with that analysis.
All parties at the hearing demonstrated some overlap over their thinking on postal issues. They agreed USPS is in dire financial straits and in desperate need of reform, but it should remain a government agency. The White House previously pitched privatising the Postal Service, but Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert made no mention of that proposal during her testimony on Tuesday. The task force also declined to recommend privitisation.
Still, members of both parties raised concerns about the report. Republican senators speculated that a recommendation to create far fewer constraints for “commercial” mail would disproportionately lead to higher costs for rural constituencies. Members of both parties requested more insight into the analyses that went into the task force’s recommendations and suggested the administration failed to use proper models.
Williams, the USPS board member, accused the task force of doing the bidding of the agency’s competitors through the use of “discredited economic theory.”
“Private shipping companies find value in using cost attribution models to weed out unprofitable customers,” Williams said. “In contrast, we deliver to each American doorway.”
Contrary to private shippers, he said, “the role of a public infrastructure is not to maximise profit, but to maximise value to our American supply chains and to citizens, especially those in rural and underserved urban areas.” Williams added, “High shipping prices steal value from American supply chains, all the way from producers’ assembly lines to the wallets of American citizens.”
Gary Grippo, the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for public finance and one of the leaders of the postal task force, said without intervention the Postal Service is at risk of being unable to pay its employees within the next three years. He called for a “fundamental new business model” that does not simply shift around the agency’s obligations. He said his group had no interest in closing post offices, ending service to all addresses in the country or charging disparate rates based for rural customers.