* Weekend mail service to stop in August
* Change would limit first class mail to 5-day delivery
* Packages would still be delivered on Saturdays
By Emily Stephenson and Elvina Nawaguna
WASHINGTON, Feb 6 The U.S. Postal Service plans
to drop Saturday delivery of first-class mail beginning the
first week of August, a move that the financially struggling
agency said will save $2 billion annually.
The Postal Service is cutting costs aggressively as it grows
increasingly frustrated that Congress is dragging its feet in
authorizing a structural overhaul that could stabilize the
The agency, which lost $16 billion last year, has blamed
much of its recent troubles on a 2006 law that requires it to
make massive payments into its future retirees' healthcare fund,
as well as on reduced mail volumes as Americans increasingly
turn to email and online communications rather than dropping a
stamped letter in a postal box.
Some experts have previously estimated that the Postal
Service could run out of cash by October.
However, ending Saturday mail delivery will not
significantly stop the financial bleeding, and some critics said
the move could backfire if customers become irritated by an
erosion in service.
According to the plan, the mail agency will still deliver
packages and prescription drugs six days a week and will not
change post office operating hours. But it will not deliver
direct mail or magazines.
The announcement comes just weeks after the USPS board of
governors directed the agency to accelerate cost-cutting
measures rather than wait "indefinitely" for legislation.
"The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach
to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package
business and responds to the financial realities resulting from
America's changing mailing habits," Postmaster General Patrick
Donahoe said in a statement.
The 237-year-old institution ran up against its legal
borrowing limit last year and defaulted twice on required
payments to the federal government.
Postal officials have said for years that the agency needed
to cut back on delivery days, as well as close underused
facilities and reduce its workforce.
Lawmakers spent more than a year on postal legislation,
including proposals to eliminate Saturday delivery, but were
unable to agree on a bill.
"The choice is either changes to some of the services or
raise prices, and people don't want prices raised," Donahoe said
at a press conference.
Officials previously contended they needed permission from
Congress to make the changes, but now believe they may be able
to take some actions without new legislation.
GREETING CARD FIRMS OBJECT
No law requires that the Postal Service deliver mail six
days a week, but Congress has included a provision in
legislation to fund the federal government each year that has
prevented the USPS from reducing delivery service. The current
funding measure expires in March, and would free the Postal
Service to change its delivery schedule unless Congress
prohibits it in the next spending resolution.
The Postal Service is already facing some resistance to
making delivery schedule changes without permission from
"Today's announcement by Postmaster General Donahoe to
eliminate six-day delivery is yet another death knell for the
quality service provided by the U.S. Postal Service," said
Jeanette Dwyer, president of the National Rural Letter Carriers'
Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House
of Representatives' Oversight Committee, said delivery frequency
should be determined by legislation "rather than through
arbitrary action by the Postal Service."
But Representative Darrell Issa of California and Senator
Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, both Republicans, called the change a
common-sense move and noted President Barack Obama has supported
allowing the Postal Service to move to five-day delivery.
Trade organizations that have a stake in Saturday mail
deliveries such as the Greeting Card Association and National
Association of Letter Carriers also expressed their
George White, president of the Greeting Card Association,
said the organization is concerned that this will drive down the
number of greeting cards sent. More than 60 percent of greeting
cards are delivered through the Postal Service, he said.
"Eliminating Saturday service is short-sighted and
self-defeating. There are much better alternatives that will
lead to a stronger Postal Service, without significantly and
negatively impacting the citizen mailer," White said.
NALC president Fredric Rolando, said the plan was disastrous
and would harm small businesses, rural communities, the elderly
and the disabled. "We call for the immediate removal of the
postmaster general, who has lost the confidence of the men and
women who deliver for America every day," Rolando said via
Donahoe said the changes would allow the Postal Service to
continue benefiting from the growing package delivery business
as Americans order more products from websites such as eBay Inc
and Amazon.com Inc.
Package deliveries were a bright spot in a bleak 2012 fiscal
year, with package revenue rising 8.7 percent during the year.