February 23, 2024

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

Postal Service Abandoning Its Mission

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Every subscriber is precious to a newspaper. For this reason, it is essential that the U.S. Postal Service deliver our newspapers on time every week. But, like so many other businesses, the Postal Services is letting us down with increasing frequency.

Our staff has been taking the heat, at times abuse, for the poor performance of the U.S. Postal Service. Irate subscribers who take their frustrations out on us, though once we deliver the newspapers to the post office, its delivery time is out of our control. 

We regularly hear that subscribers get their newspapers days or weeks late. One person received four weeks of the newspaper in one day. Such stories are repeated across rural Minnesota. 

As businesses that are perhaps the most significant single customer of the postal service in their communities, newspapers have no pull in trying to get the attention of the Postal Service to our delivery problems.

As an executive officer of the National Newspaper Association’s board, we’ve sat in the U.S. Postal Services offices in L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C., with its executives spelling our challenges and their failures. They promise to work closely with us to address service issues, but they seem to get worse.

Under Postmaster Louis DeJoy, who cares little about the importance of community newspapers, we’ve suffered not just poor delivery that leads to subscribers canceling their newspapers, but we’ve also seen costs of distribution skyrocket. They are becoming an unsustainable burden in difficult financial times.

As the Postal Service changes its focus from delivering mail to the rapidly growing package delivery business, it has signed a contract with Amazon for a last-mile delivery service. Last-mile service is a financial loser for the Postal Service as well as UPS and FedEx, because of the lack of volume and the cost and time associated with the distances traveled. It’s cheaper for Amazon to pass delivery of its packages off to the Postal Service. To please Amazon, the Postal Services is giving Amazon packages priority over local mail.

You would think a U.S. Senator could readily get DeJoy’s attention, but their work on our behalf is also frustrated.

Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar have written DeJoy seeking answers and solutions for the continued poor mail delivery in rural Minnesota.

“Postal delays have real effects on the millions of Americans who rely on the USPS for deliveries critical to their health and livelihoods,” Klobuchar said. “Amazon cannot be allowed to cut in line ahead of Minnesota residents and small businesses…I urge you to take the steps necessary to support our postal workers and ensure the timely delivery of mail.”

In typical government denial fashion, Postal Service management has repeatedly stated how they strive to provide better and more efficient service. They point to the volume of mail they deliver. But they fail to acknowledge the problems, so they aren’t taken seriously.

“The Postal Service management has asked me to take their word over the words of Minnesotans. I believe Minnesotans,” Smith said. “This week, I have heard from postal workers and their families in Minnesota, and their testimonies are heart-wrenching. I stand with these workers and every Minnesotan who relies on the Postal Service to meet its own standards for delivery.”

“As Postmaster General, you are responsible for ensuring that the Postal Service meets its service standards, and it is clear right now that things are not working as they should,” Smith stated in her letter to DeJoy.

They have asked DeJoy to:

– Commit to ensuring all postal customers receive equal service and that corporate customers like Amazon are not prioritized over local businesses and residents?

– Take steps to ensure that rural routes see delivery of mail in a timely fashion given the spike in package deliveries.

– Ensure that Amazon’s contract with USPS does not affect the ability to deliver other packages and mail. 

– Allow for more flexibility at USPS to provide post offices the ability to address staffing shortages.

– And ensure Minnesota post offices reach full staffing levels and let them know when this happens.

In a Nov. 14 speech, DeJoy told the Postal Service Board of Governors that he wants the post office to become the “preferred delivery provider in the nation.” That will be quite a challenge, considering it is pricing itself out of business at the same time as it drives away customers with poor service. As one business person was quoted about the Postal Service this month, “the mail can’t be trusted.” 

DeJoy doesn’t see it that way if you assume he is leading the Postal Service toward a package delivery service, not the service it has historically been to businesses and citizens of the United States.

Multiple stories have shown how the Postal Service is short-staffed, with staffing at 60% of what is needed today. However, the grueling hours required to deliver an increasing number of Amazon packages seven days a week and into the evening hours have Postal Service workers looking for other jobs.

Businesses rely on the Postal Service to deliver billing statements and customer payments. American citizens rely on the Postal Service for the delivery of medications. Voters depend on it for the mailing of their absentee ballots. America’s community newspapers rely on it. In fact, newspapers are considered a critical anchor in mail delivery. Not everyone checks their mailbox daily, but when they know the newspaper is coming, they look for it. 

To perform its mission to keep citizens informed and connected and to support commerce, Congress must support the U.S. Postal Service. 

Founder James Madison saw this low-cost distribution of newspapers as fundamental to the future of the new nation’s experiment with representative democracy. “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is, but a prologue to farce or tragedy or perhaps both.” 

Community newspapers are essential to ensuring citizens are informed, but DeJoy is undermining us and American democracy.

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