With the ushering in of the digital age comes the inevitable decline of long-standing traditions, like going to the post office to send out and receive mail. So many companies do business online now--the offering of bill-pay and e-commerce have certainly been huge components in the decrease of traditional mail--that snail-mail has become all but obsolete, which is bad news for postal workers.
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Not only are people relying more heavily on online bill-paying services now, they are also turning to the web for interaction with others; rather than sending a birthday card or party invitation, they send an email or e-vite, citing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as major modes of communication. The introduction of media sources like Netflix and Gamefly saw a brief surge in mailroom activity, since millions of DVDs and games were being sent back and forth every day. However, even those companies can't be relied on anymore by mail carriers, because they've conveniently added streaming and downloads to their services. And with more things going digital every day--even books--people are using their computers and digital devices more than ever, seriously decreasing their need for mail service.
The loss of revenue in the postal industry--which is the second-largest civilian employer in the U.S., coming right behind retail giant Wal-Mart-- and sorting facilities meant the suggestion of raising stamp prices to 50 cents, but that idea is tempered with the realization that people will just seek services from UPS or FedEx instead. In other words, consumers don't want to lose their mail service, but they don't want to pay to keep it.
But with all the talk of closings and employees being laid off, groups like the Pensacola Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union have pointed out to WebProNews that the U.S.P.S. isn't dependent on taxpayer dollars and that the idea of a taxpayer bailout is ridiculous. They also say that the revenue losses don't stem from mail processing or delivery, but rather from a "2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years", which amounts to $5.5 billion every year to ensure the futures of people who haven't even been born yet. They also propose that Congress grants the Postal Service access to its own money after billions of dollars were overfunded in their pension accounts. In their view, Congress is largely responsible for the issue and is capable of fixing the problem.
On the government's end of the spectrum, President Obama has introduced the Postal Plan, which would eliminate Saturday service, saving as much as $3 billion a year. It seems like a fair idea; most post offices around the country already have limited hours on Saturday anyway.
But the plan has been opposed by some and began talks of a new bill introduced to the Senate; the bill went into debate on Tuesday and would allow for regional facilities to keep their overnight delivery capability. This would mean everything for some select postal employees, since it would keep open about half of the 260 postal services which are on the list to close. It will still mean layoffs, however, which apparently can't be avoided.
Of course, there is also the fact that shouldn't be overlooked--that some rural communities don't have access to the internet and still rely heavily on the post office, and those communities would be taken into consideration with the bill and the introduction of closings. For some small towns, the closings have already begun and are taking a toll on their small business industry because of the need to ship packages in a timely manner.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says he pushed hard for a moratorium on the closings in his state and won, a brief victory in what may be a long battle.
"The Postal Service is supposed to be a universal service available to people wherever they live in America," Branstad said. "What they're doing is going against that premise."
A representative for the Pensacola Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union says that the U.S.P.S. has survived technology advances before and come out on the other side bigger and better for it, adapting to "the invention of the telephone, the telegraph, the fax machine and more". They acknowledge that the Internet offers "new and improved services to meet society's changing needs", but say that consumers are also still in need of mail service to accommodate their online ordering of goods; the Postal Service, in their opinion, isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
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