National News

July 20, 2017

GovExec: The U.S. Postal Service agreed to change its policy that allowed union employees to take unpaid time off to engage in political activity after an independent investigation found the agency engaged in “systemic violations” of the Hatch Act that led to an “institutional bias” in favor of certain candidates. Postmaster General Megan Brennan announced the changes in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing Wednesday, which followed an inspector general’s report that brought the issue to light. That report found USPS spent $90,000 on overtime to cover for employees who took time off to campaign in advance of the 2016 election. The Office of Special Counsel followed up those findings with a report of its own—made public at Wednesday’s hearing—that the Postal Service’s actions had violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in an official capacity.

Linns: The United States Postal Service allowed 97 letter carriers to work for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year in what investigators told Congress was a systemic violation of a law prohibiting federal workers from engaging in partisan politics. The accusation, made at a July 19 Senate hearing, drew an immediate apology from Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan. She called the Postal Service’s violations of the Hatch Act “unintentional” and promised to end the abuses. To stop “these systemic violations” the Office of Special Counsel said the Postal Service should “not require, direct or suggest that local supervisors release union members to engage in political activity.” It urged the USPS to adopt a “hands off” approach to the union’s political activities. It also said the USPS should drop reference to political activities being allowed for leave without pay.

WSJ:  While Josh Sandbulte gets some things right about the U.S. Postal Service in “Why the Post Office Gives Amazon Special Delivery” (op-ed, July 14), he provides an inaccurate and unfair account of the package delivery side of the USPS’s business. By law our competitive package products, including those that we deliver for Amazon, must cover their costs. Our regulator, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), looks carefully at this question every year and has determined that they do. The PRC has also noted that competitive products help fund the infrastructure of the Postal Service. It is that infrastructure that enables us to fulfill our universal service obligation to deliver to each and every address in the U.S. at an affordable rate. The PRC has also concluded every year that products covered by the letter monopoly do not cross-subsidize the Postal Service’s competitive products. The reason we continue to attract e-commerce customers and business partners is because our customers see the value of our predictable service, enhanced visibility and competitive pricing.

FederalNewsRadio:  Don’t look for Postal Service letter carriers out on the campaign trail in 2018. The Postal Service will no longer permit leave without pay for union political activities, after an Office of Special Counsel Hatch Act investigation recommended a “hands off” approach to the service’s union political activities. OSC’s report highlighted that not only are postal unions and employees allowed to maintain political action committees and endorse candidates, “the law, in fact, encourages them,” along with enlisting union members to help support campaign agenda on their own time. What OSC found, however, was that despite concerns from local supervisors that the carriers on union official leave without pay would have an impact on operations, and objections to the some carriers’ release, “USPS managers instructed the local supervisors to release all listed carriers so they could participate in NALC’s political activity.”

July 18, 2017

CIO: Forrester forecasts global mobile device usage will reach more than 5.5 billion users by 2022. Powered by rising mobile adoption in Asia Pacific and Africa, mobile penetration should reach 70 per cent of the world’s population in five years. This is nearly double the total number of users in 2008, says Forrester. “We expect the number of global smartphone subscribers to reach 3.8 billion by 2022, crossing the 50 per cent mark for smartphone penetration by population in 2017 and reaching 66 per cent by 2022.

STLNews: Following reports from United States Postal Service (USPS) managers in Missouri that their staffing needs have been disregarded, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is calling for answers on what USPS will do to make sure it is maximizing efficiency at post offices in Missouri and across the country. McCaskill serves as the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has oversight and legislative authority over USPS. In a letter to Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan, McCaskill detailed the concerns that mid-level and senior USPS managers in Missouri shared over insufficient staffing at their post offices. Too often, there are not enough entry-level clerks and mail handlers, which “add[s] to inefficiencies in the system [and]…can cause direct financial harm to USPS.” McCaskill is also seeking answers on if USPS is making cost-effective decisions when it considers hiring fulltime versus temporary employees.

FoxNews: The U.S. Postal Service violated federal law by letting employees do union-funded work for Hillary Clinton's campaign and other Democratic candidates while on leave from the agency, according to an Office of Special Counsel report obtained by Fox News. The OSC determined the USPS "engaged in systemic violations" of the Hatch Act, a federal law that limits certain political activities of federal employees. According to the report, roughly 97 NALC members requested the leave without pay to participate. The NALC, which endorsed Clinton last June, compensated those USPS workers using the Letter Carrier Political Fund, the union’s PAC. But USPS Postmaster General Megan Brennan said that “senior postal leadership did not in any way guide union leadership in selecting the candidates for whom NALC employees could campaign” and that USPS “did not approve or choose candidates for the unions to support” or “ask the union to advocate for political candidates on behalf of the Postal Service.”

WashingtonPost: The House budget proposal released Tuesday continues Republican efforts to cut federal employees’ compensation by making them pay more for retirement benefits. While the Republican’s “Plan for Fiscal Responsibility” did not provide details, it echoes previous proposals, including one offered by President Trump this year. He proposed increasing individual out-of-pocket payments toward retirement by 1 percentage point each year until they equal the government’s contribution for those in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).  Over a six-year period, this would result in increased payments of about 6 percent. With no increase in benefits, that would equal a 6 percent drop in pay. Unlike Trump’s proposals, the House plan does not mention basing federal pensions on the average of the high five years of salary, instead of the high three, which is now the case. Using more years in the calculation would lead to lower pensions.

WorkdayMinnesota: Federal and postal union members nationwide will conduct a mass call-in to Congress on Tuesday, July 18, to campaign to save their pay and pensions from deep cuts proposed by President Trump.  The cuts could cost the workers $149 billion, the leader of the largest federal worker union says. The call-in and campaigns are necessary because the Trump administration and the GOP-run Congress again propose deep cuts in federal workers’ pay, by forcing them to contribute even more to their pensions, with no corresponding benefit increases at retirement. Trump also demands most agencies submit personnel-cutting plans for fiscal 2018, which starts Oct. 1, and beyond. In response to Trump’s schemes, unionists from AFGE, the Treasury Employees(link is external), the Letter Carriers(link is external), the Postal Workers(link is external), the Mail Handlers-Laborers and the Machinists(link is external), among others, will call their lawmakers on July 18.

July 17, 2017

PostalNews: From the National Postal Mail Handlers Union: USPS management continues to implement its ill-conceived plans to realign its work force.  Their plans involve massive bid reversions and job abolishments in almost every mail processing facility throughout the country.  In most cases, management is basing its staffing needs on the flawed Function 1 Scheduler that the Postal Service uses to determine staffing levels at the large mail processing plants.  Postal management continues to argue that these reversions and/or abolishments are necessary because of the continuing decline in mail volumes. In response to these unwarranted attacks on the postal workforce, NPMHU President Paul Hogrogian and APWU President Mark Dimondstein sent a joint letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan protesting the Postal Service’s proposed actions. The two Presidents vowed that both unions would work together to combat the Postal Service’s attacks on its employees.

July 15, 2017

FedSmith: Legislation has been introduced in the House to make the pension information of retired federal employees public information subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Taxpayer Funded Pension Disclosure Act (H.R. 3200) was introduced in the House this week by Ron DeSantis (R-FL). In an editorial in the Washington Examiner, DeSantis said that the cost of providing pensions to retired federal workers is over $100 billion, yet there is currently little transparency to the information.

July 14, 2017

CPI: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in June on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.6 percent.The energy index declined again in June, falling 1.6 percent; this offset an increase in the index for all items less food and energy. All the major energy component indexes declined, with the gasoline index falling 2.8 percent. The food index was unchanged in June, with the index for food at home declining slightly as five of the six major grocery store food group indexes decreased. 

WallStreetJournal: The U.S. Postal Service delivers the company’s boxes well below its own costs. Like an accelerant added to a fire, this subsidy is speeding up the collapse of traditional retailers in the U.S. and providing an unfair advantage for Amazon.  In 2007 the Postal Service and its regulator determined that, at a minimum, 5.5% of the agency’s fixed costs must be allocated to packages and similar products. A decade later, around 25% of its revenue comes from packages, but their share of fixed costs has not kept pace. First-class mail effectively subsidizes the national network, and the packages get a free ride. An April analysis from Citigroup estimates that if costs were fairly allocated, on average parcels would cost $1.46 more to deliver. It is as if every Amazon box comes with a dollar or two stapled to the packing slip—a gift card from Uncle Sam. Amazon is big enough to take full advantage of “postal injection,” and that has tipped the scales in the internet giant’s favor. Select high-volume shippers are able to drop off presorted packages at the local Postal Service depot for “last mile” delivery at cut-rate prices. With high volumes and warehouses near the local depots, Amazon enjoys low rates unavailable to its competitors.

LATimes: The U.S. Postal Service has stopped delivering mail to a neighborhood in Glassell Park once considered among the most dangerous in Los Angeles after a carrier was nearly shot there last month, a USPS official said. “Our primary goal is to ensure the safety of our employees while providing service to our customers,” spokeswoman Evelina Ramirez said in a statement. “We are reviewing all options to come up with the best solution.” For now, residents living in the 3300 and 3400 blocks of Drew Street have to travel about a mile to the Glassell Park Station office to pick up their mail, Ramirez said.

July 13, 2017

FoxBusiness:  State officials from Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky testified before the House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday to urge Congress to close a loophole in the Global Postal System that is allowing deadly synthetic drugs to be shipped from abroad. Kentucky Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet John Tilley asked Congress to pass the STOP ACT—which was introduced back in February—that will require all packages to have electronic security data that would allow law enforcement officials to screen and stop deadly material—like fentanyl (a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine) and other synthetic opioids from coming into the U.S.

PostalNews: The American Postal Workers Union reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with Salmon Companies, the largest ground transportation supplier to the United State Postal Service. Truck drivers for the private-sector company are members of the APWU Support Services Division. The contract covers locals from Dallas, TX, Shreveport, LA, Little Rock, AR, and Memphis, TN. “We were able to strengthen language regarding job bidding, bumping rights and seniority classifications. We also overhauled language concerning the use of Extra-boards and dispatching procedures,” reported Support Services Director Steve Brooks. “Another highlight of the agreement is the expansion of authorized physicians for drug testing and Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals, and clarification on language regarding company-covered expenses.

July 12, 2017

IMAG: The International Mailers’ Advisory Group (IMAG), the premier representative of the U.S. international mailing sector, is telling outbound international mailers to prepare for a significant mid-August price increase that was not part of 2017 budgets. The price changes will affect two outbound international mail products offered by the U.S. Postal Service: International Priority Airmail (IPA) and International Surface Air Lift (ISAL). Both are popular ecommerce mailing services and used heavily by sellers on the ecommerce platforms. The price increase is due to a change in the negotiated service agreement contracts that the Postal Service has with outbound international consolidators, its workshare partners that perform onboarding, preparation and transportation services for international mailers and shippers.

Campaigns&Elections:  Eighty-six percent of registered voters check their mailboxes at least 5 times per week, according to a newly released joint paper from the United States Postal Service® and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC). But how do Americans interact with their mail as they sort, read and process it? Based on listening sessions with AAPC member political consultants, we heard the mail moment is more important than ever: “People are consistently inundated with information in the 24-hour news cycle,” says one Democratic political consultant. “Mail can be really helpful because it is physical and feels real. Voters slow down and will actually look at a piece of mail.” “Our firm found that targeting with mail is more precise than with any other form of media,” says a Republican political consultant. “It allows you to get hyper-targeted with messages. There can be a lot of waste in radio and TV advertising, the geographic targeting is not as precise as you can be with mail.”

WashingtonPost: Rep. Rob Bishop is a Utah Republican known as a solid right-winger. Like many Republicans, he generally doesn’t get good grades on federal workforce issues. But wait — while he has voted against positions favored by employee groups on many issues, he recently led a letter from nine Republicans opposing federal retirement cuts proposed by President Trump. Citing the various ways Trump’s budget plan would hit feds, despite his call for a 1.9 percent pay raise, the letter says “our strongest objection is how the proposals break a promise to employees and retirees who have based career planning on longstanding promised benefit calculations. They and their families don’t deserve to be treated in this cavalier manner.”

STLToday: Fentanyl and carfentanil have been identified as coming mainly from overseas, particularly from factories in China. But despite their very real national security threat (carfentanil has been used as a chemical weapon), traffickers can easily send drugs and ingredients undetected by law enforcement through the mail, due to a loophole in the global postal system. While packages sent through private carriers require electronic data that helps Customs and Border Protection target specific dangerous shipments, foreign postal services are not required to include this data. Fortunately, lawmakers have made some progress toward closing this security gap and cutting off the flow of the deadly opioids. The bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act is steadily gaining support, with 18 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate and over 180 in the House of Representatives, including Missourians Rep. Ann Wagner, Emanuel Cleaver II, Sam Graves, Billy Long and Jason Smith. This bill would require security data for all packages shipped to the United States, placing the same standards on foreign postal services as private carriers and ensuring that law enforcement has the best tools at its disposal to screen and stop dangerous material.

HeatStreet: The United States Postal Service has been on the brink of complete bankruptcy for nearly two decades, but that didn’t stop it from paying out $90,000 to cover for paid employees who took time off to campaign for Hillary Clinton. According to an Inspector General’s report, 100 USPS workers took extended leaves of absence to hit the campaign trail on behalf of the postal union—the National Association of Letter Carriers. The union, which had by then endorsed Hillary Clinton, used these same postal workers to supplement their grassroots political operations in swing states. Technically, postal workers are allowed to take unpaid holidays in order to help the union, but government employees aren’t supposed to actively campaign for a candidate. The Inspector General is currently investigating whether the postal workers who took time off violated that precept.

July 11, 2017

CNBC: Amazon's third annual Prime Day has a new piece to its shipping puzzle: airplanes. The new Prime Air fleet will help deliver the Echo devices, flat-screen TVs and countless other marked-down goods expected to lure consumers' dollars with the easy swipe of a tab. The 30-hour Black Friday-like sales event is marketed to Prime members, meaning the millions of projected shipments destined for doorsteps will have two days or less to get there. Enter Prime Air — the air cargo service Amazon officially introduced last summer. Traditional cargo flights typically involve hub stops; flying point to point means flying direct to a final distribution area from where a shipment will depart on a vehicle on the so-called last mile of delivery to a residence.The direct option can shave 12 to 15 hours off of a cross-country journey — a crucial reduction when the turnaround is a tight 48 hours or less.

PIWorld:  The ROI that can be achieved from personalized and targeted direct mail sent through the U.S. postal stream is undeniable. Add to that innovative mobile and other technology applications like AR, QR, NFC, snap tags, watermarks, direct-to-digital, tactile and sensory direct mail, video-in-print and even the addition of color to traditional transactional bills and statements and the response rates and recipient interactivity soar even higher. That’s why smart marketers often rely on direct mail as a key spark to help them electrify their omnichannel campaigns. Recognizing how the combination of digital technologies and print amplifies the power of direct mail, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is committed to demonstrating how direct mail continues to be a relevant part of the marketing mix and how it offers greater value. The USPS does so, in part, through an annual Mailing Promotions program that encourages marketers, brand managers and direct mailers to adopt and invest in technologies that enhance how consumers interact and engage with mail. Another program has been the creation of the website and a companion sample book featuring practical samples that harness an array of virtual and augmented realty experiences, and the latest in sensory printing techniques.

GovExec: The U.S. Postal Service spent $90,000 on overtime to cover for employees who took time off to campaign in advance of the 2016 election, according to a new report. Unionized postal workers are allowed to take unpaid leave to engage in official activities on behalf of their labor groups, according to the USPS inspector general, but the agency did not follow proper protocols to ensure it should have granted the time off.  Ninety-seven letter carriers across the country took leave without pay to “participate in political activities on behalf of” the National Association of Letter Carriers in the months leading up to the November election. Headquarters did not coordinate the leave requests with the proper staff to ensure that the employees taking off would not be disruptive to local operations.

July 10, 2017

InsiderLouisvilleThe third annual Prime Day is Tuesday, July 11, but 30 hours of sales for those Amazon Prime members (who typically pay $99 a year) begin tonight at 9, the company said in its primer “Get the most out of Prime Day.” Even though Amazon does not seem to have its clever Amazon Lockers in the Louisville area yet, there are ways to secure your shipments. If you know you’ll be at work, have the package shipped there, or to your neighbor or a family member who can secure the package for you. Amazon suggests tracking your package to know when it shipped and when it was delivered. One handy service the United States Postal Service offers is USPS Package Intercept, for customers who know they won’t be home for delivery. For a fee prior to delivery, most domestic shipments can be rerouted. You can also have the item held at your post office branch using the Request Hold Mail service, which is great if you are away for a few days on vacation. Or, if you plan to order online routinely, the Postal Service suggests you rent a Post Office Box.

July 7, 2017

TownHall: The U.S. Postal Service is an iconic institution – based in the Constitution and older than the country itself – that’s every bit as relevant today as ever. It provides Americans and their businesses with the industrial world’s most-affordable delivery network while serving as the centerpiece of the $1.3 trillion national mailing industry, which employs 7 million Americans in the private sector. And yet, a good deal of misinformation circulates about the Postal Service’s financial situation and, by extension, about postal legislation. After all, if you are led to believe that USPS is awash in red ink because business is dwindling, that would suggest one type of legislative response. If, however, you realize that the business model is solid but that flawed public policy needs fixing, it’s easier to understand why some legislative adjustments are needed – without breaking what works.

July 6, 2017

USAToday: Lance Armstrong’s longtime agent and business partner have agreed to pay $158,000 to get out of a $100 million federal lawsuit scheduled to go to trial against Armstrong in November. The agreement was part of a deal with former cyclist Floyd Landis, who sued them and Armstrong on behalf of the United States government in 2010. Their dismissal clears the deck for Landis and the federal government to go after Armstrong alone in the upcoming trial in Washington, D.C.  The government is suing Armstrong on behalf of the Postal Service, alleging that Armstrong’s cycling team violated its sponsorship contract with the Postal Service by using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to cheat in races. It argues the Postal Service would not have paid the cycling team if it had known about the doping and says that Armstrong concealed the violations to keep getting paid, effectively causing false claims to be submitted to the government.

Post&Parcel: The International Post Corporation (IPC) announced today (6 July) that preliminary 2016 results show the global postal industry grow by 1.3%, despite challenging market conditions and ongoing declines in mail volumes. Increasing parcels and express volumes – especially B2C e-commerce items – supported revenue growth for many posts, added IPC, and revenue diversification continued across the industry and remains a key driver for growth. While mail volumes declined across most markets, mail divisions remained profitable on average as posts further streamlined mail operations and increased efficiency. Posts also continued to expand their parcel networks to capitalize on the growth in e-commerce and improve customer convenience.

July 5, 2017

Post&Parcel: Birmingham-based direct mail fulfilment and print management services provider, bakergoodchild, has responded to industry reports that targeted direct mail material volumes are on the increase, stating that strategic print does appear to be on the rise, as marketers increasingly are turning to print to get their messages across.  Although print volumes are not returning to the highs of previous years, bakergoodchild has revealed that print and promotional material are increasingly being used more as effective communication tools for direct mail cross-media marketing campaigns, that also include the use of digital media as a complementary tool. 

July 2, 2017

PostalEmployeeNetwork: USPS – Once again, Brian McNicoll misleads readers of about efforts to return the U.S. Postal Service to financial stability. Surprisingly, the conservative commentator takes issue with a bill that would cut billions of dollars in federal spending and require a federal entity to follow private-sector best practices. Contrary to what Mr. McNicoll would have you believe, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 did not give the Postal Service “real control” over its fate. For instance, the 2006 law created an austere price cap that restricted the Postal Service’s ability to adjust prices of products that generate over 70 percent of our revenue. The current cap does not take changes in Postal Service volumes and costs into account, and hence is wholly unsuitable to ensuring the Postal Service’s continued ability to provide prompt and reliable universal services in a self-sufficient manner. Without legislative and regulatory reform, our net losses will continue and our financial position will worsen — threatening our ability to meet America’s evolving mailing and shipping needs. It’s also important to understand that the Postal Service did not choose its current pension and health care systems — they are the result of a federal statute. Because of declining mail volumes, the current pension and health care systems and unique pre-funding requirements imposed by Congress are unaffordable, and that’s the reason the Postal Service has defaulted on the huge prefunding payments.

SWTimes:  By acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon is buying not just an established, upscale supermarket brand, but also a vast distribution network of warehouses and more than 460 stores worldwide — replete with back rooms and cold storage — in some of the most affluent ZIP codes in America. That’s a significant boost in numbers for the Seattle company, which currently operates fewer than 100 distribution centers in the U.S. More hubs mean quicker and fresher delivery, which will bolster Amazon’s existing grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh. While the bid for Whole Foods may not bridge Amazon’s “last mile,” it certainly brings it closer, experts say.  The deal could also make competing delivery services superfluous. Why pay for food delivery elsewhere if Amazon is cheaper and easier? To that end, Amazon is encroaching on territory long dominated by the likes of UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service. In the past two years, it has leased 20 Boeing 767 air cargo jets from Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, won shipping licenses that allows it to pay for containers at wholesale rates and rent them out for more expensive retail rates, and added thousands of long-haul trucks emblazoned with the Amazon logo.

MontgomeryHerald: Like most monopolies, the U.S. Postal Service isn’t interested in changing its business model. An enterprise hemorrhaging cash in a free market would cut prices, improve service, look for new revenue streams, or simply close its doors. The USPS solution, as usual, is to raise prices and hope for the best. Alternative proposal: Let’s put it out of its misery. The Service posted losses of $562 million in the first quarter of 2017, the Associated Press reports. This year will likely bring the Service’s sixth straight annual operating loss. While its package delivery revenues have grown, the areas in which it enjoys a monopoly — “first class” (letter) mail and “marketing” (junk mail) — are in decline thanks to the ascendance of email and other Internet technologies. In truth, we’ve known for nearly 175 years that the Service’s government-granted monopoly is all that keeps it afloat. Its prices don’t reflect the market value of its services.

TheOutlet: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has long required employers in the 29 states under its jurisdiction to report when a worker dies on the job. But in 2015, the agency began requiring employers to report when workers get “severely injured” to better identify dangerous workplaces and prevent future incidents. From the beginning of 2015 through the end of 2016, the United States Postal Service reported 395 severe injuries, the most of any employer. Behind it was Walmart, with 155 severe injuries and the United Parcel Service with 136. No other employer during that time period had more than 75. The high numbers can be partly explained by the USPS’s gargantuan workforce. After all, the Postal Service is one of America’s largest employers with roughly 640,000 employees. Another possible contributing factor in the high injury rates is the fact that the Postal Service has had a surge of new hires in recent years. In a statement provided to The Outline, the USPS maintains that worker safety is of the utmost importance to the organization.