Is the Post Office Breaking the Law by Eliminating Saturday Delivery?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A proposal to partially privatize the post office would still keep mail carriers on their routes.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday morning that it was moving from six- to five-day delivery to help reduce its ever growing budget deficit. But for years, the post office has argued that it needed congressional authorization to do so. So is the post office’s proposal even legal?

It’s no secret that the USPS is a financial mess. Last year it lost $15.6 billion and is facing annual budget deficits of $21 billion by 2016. One way the Postal Service has been trying to reduce those massive losses is to scale back the number of days it delivers mail. On Wednesday, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the post office would no longer deliver or process first-class mail on Saturdays — though it would continue to deliver packages and keep post offices open six days a week.

(MORE: How the U.S. Postal Service Fell Apart)

In the past, the Postal Service — technically a quasi-governmental agency with congressional oversight — has argued that it would need explicit authorization from Congress to eliminate Saturday delivery. In fact, the USPS website still says, “Congress must elect not to renew the legislation requiring the Postal Service to deliver six days a week.”

But on Wednesday, Donahoe essentially announced that he’s doing it without the blessing of Congress. “We think we’re on good footing with this,” he said. “We think right now the opportunity exists to make the changes on our own.” In particular, Donahoe says the move is legal under the “continuing resolution” that is temporarily keeping the entire federal government from shutting down in the wake of the fiscal-cliff impasse.

Donahoe did not get more explicit than that, but a close reading of the continuing resolution suggests he’s technically correct. Since 1983 every appropriations bill Congress has passed has explicitly required six-day delivery. But Congress has yet to produce an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013. In the meantime, the federal government is operating under the continuing resolution, which expires in March. And the continuing resolution does not include any language requiring six-day delivery.

(MORE: Should Sports Arenas Buy Back Tickets That Fans Don’t Want?)

So it appears that Donahoe found a window in which the post office can change its delivery schedule without congressional authorization. He’s essentially daring Congress to mandate six-day delivery in the weeks leading up to the continuing resolution’s expiration date, March 27.

But in doing so, Congress would have to ignore the fact that eliminating Saturday delivery will save the Postal Service $2 billion annually and that the American public apparently supports the move. The postmaster general cites polls showing that 70% of people say they support five-day delivery.

26 comments
KurtKreiger
KurtKreiger

Please realize the numbers regarding both postal finances, and those "expected" to support the 5 day plan come from the people that WANT to do it.....losses are "projected". as in - I project to spend X dollars on dinner for the month....and notice no one is saying what happens to the BILLIONS of dollars the service has put in the "pre-fund" of retirement accounts....No private or public company does this...No one provides an answer as to WHY this was done - when it was NEVER done EVER before?  And No one is asking why?  I for one, surely dont want my packages and prescriptions delivered on the same day...especially now that every criminal now knows it...

BernadetteSava
BernadetteSava

I say if they take Saturdays away, they should not be allowed all of the federal holidays on Mondays

7christian
7christian

Siebert, I am sorry your mail carrier disappointed you. Is it possible the mail carrier took their lunch those 20 or 30 minutes in your community building? Also, box lids can be blown open by the wind allowing the mail to be exposed; but i realize there are employees at many businesses that don't have pride in their work. I'm sorry if this is the case in regards to your mail carrier. I sincerely hope not as this can give those of us who take pride in the delivery of our mail routes, a bad reputation. No offense, but please check your box lid to see if it is shutting properly. Cold weather can change the way your box shuts by contracting, or expanding due to heat.

7christian
7christian

I am a rural carrier associate for the USPS. I'm honored to serve my country this way. I helped my husband raise our sons by being employed by the USPS. All mail carriers are in the rain, lightening and thunder, snow and ice; and we risk our lives in dangerous traffic. However, we love our job working for you, our fellow Americans. Some of you own businesses and use the bulk mailings to advertise. I want your business to prosper. I believe we help America as we are helped by being employed by USPS which helps us raise our families. Thank you, America!

Siebert
Siebert

Just got my WET mail out of my mailbox because the postal carrier was too lazy to place the mail all the way into the mailbox and shut the door. Not the first time this has happened. Last place I lived, the carrier would spend 20-30 minutes reading a magazine in the bathroom of our community building. If my company had employees that were this inept I would be bankrupt too. I will be happy to see USPS disappear.

DavidSmith1
DavidSmith1

Why not just mandate delivery of presorted mail to one day a week.  This would force 99% of the mail [junk] to be diverted and delivered in bulk only once per week.  This might eliminate the need for the mail carrier to go to every house every day - they would just go to the few houses with personal mail.  That would save time, gas and money.  With that, we can then see if there is a need to reduce the number of days 'real' mail is delivered.

UmYeah
UmYeah

So, no delivery on Saturday will save $2 Billion dollars!  WOW that's a lot, except the fact they are loosing almost $16 BILLION a year... Maybe I'm missing something.. but that doesn't even seem like a band aid for the problem....

gopalinny
gopalinny

This is a case where a simple systemic solution can take care of the problem at hand instead of unwanted legalese tying up an effective response for months/years.

Given the costs and the current trends, a Saturday delivery is not necessary. 

However as packages are going to be delivered on Saturdays, customers wanting the option of a Saturday delivery should be allowed to do so by fixing a dollar or two dollars of additional stamps. These pieces of mail can be easily sorted with additional programming logic in the sorting machines and can then be routed to the package delivering  vans for Saturday operations.

We need to get back to common sense and reason instead of ideology, religion and political dogma if we are to survive the 21st century!!!

bellaluna30
bellaluna30

The USPS doesn't deliver to my home, PERIOD.  Nor are they open on Saturdays, so it's not like this is a big change for me.  (I live in Podunk Nowhere.)  And honestly, the cost of a stamp isn't going to kill anyone (that I know of, anyway).  The "Forever" ones are the way to go.

tedshep
tedshep

Moving to five-day-a-week delivery is a good step in the right direction. What we really need is THREE day a week delivery and lower prices for postage. Say, make delivery Monday, Wednesday, Friday in some neighborhoods; and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday in the other half. That way, delivery jobs are full time, rather than part time. Then, follow through with significant staff reductions (by attrition to ease the pain) and substantial price reductions (to reflect the reduction in service and payroll.) Did you or anyone else get anything in the mail today that could not have waited until tomorrow? I didn't.

exotic-red
exotic-red

Has anybody ever heard of  real business that tried to solve the fact that business was bad by RAISING PRICES AND LOWERING OPEN HOURS???? Duhhhh. Maybe if the Postal Service was competative it wouldn't be in such dire straights.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

The USPS is merely following President Obama's approval of "shoot first, litigate later" when it comes to 'droning' American citizens.

Why get Congressional approval when you can do it on your own?

wj_chicago
wj_chicago

I agree with Burt. Why is the USPS in financial stress? 

Could it have anything to do with the handcuffs that congress puts on the organisation? Who would know, it must be because it's a government run organization and we all know they must be badly run and inefficient. /sarc 

You sure wouldn't know the real reasons from Time magazine.

Burt
Burt

This article irresponsibly leaves out the reason for the US Postal Service's financial problems. The USPS would be running at a profit, were it not for the law Congress passed in 2006. This law forces the USPS to fund its retirement system SEVENTY FIVE YEARS IN ADVANCE-- an obligation no other public or private enterprise must fulfill. Conservatives have been trying to put the USPS out of business, so that private delivery companies may take over. The USPS is mandated by the Constitution, and is a cherished institution, vital in its service to America. This article in a major national news outlet leaves out mention of the facts in this topic, in a reckless disregard of the public interest.

jeuls
jeuls

@KurtKreiger  

Kurt, I believe the reason for the pre-funding requirement is that to ensure its solvency. You are right that no other government agency is required to do this, but the US Postal Service is like no other government agency. They are the only one that is self sustaining AND also in the FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System) which means their retirement benefits are 100 % GUARANTEED (backed by the taxpayer). Therefore their retirement system needs to be solvent just so the US taxpayer is not on the hook for their benefits if the Postal Service should ever go under.



KurtKreiger
KurtKreiger

@SiebertThis happens ALOT in OLD boxes.....you realize the maintenance of the mailbox is up to YOU, right?  I highly doubt the carrier spent every day in your bathroom.....maybe "inept" describes the owner of your mailbox....

KurtKreiger
KurtKreiger

@tedshep ...but when you're waiting for a check - or a package you ordered - and it doesn't come in a timely manner - THEN you will miss it.....the Postal Service has been a great institution for centuries.......there's a REASON for that....leave it alone!.....put too many cooks in the kitchen, and you get problems....get rid of alot of 'em and it's "problem solved"....

exotic-red
exotic-red

What the he*** does this have to do with the Post Office???

Ognywogny
Ognywogny

@nick.rothenberger @nick.rothenberger You tired, Neanderthal gun-nuts live in your adolescent, John Wayne fantasy world. It's not cowboys and 'Injuns' and no jack-booted Nazi is coming for your guns and your women. If we can't evolve beyond you, we will not survive.

jeuls
jeuls

@Burt Burt, I believe the reason for the pre-funding requirement is that to ensure its solvency. You are right that no other government agency is required to do this, but the US Postal Service is like no other government agency. They are the only one that is self sustaining AND also in the FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System) which means their retirement benefits are 100 % GUARANTEED (backed by the taxpayer). Therefore their retirement system needs to be solvent just so the US taxpayer is not on the hook for their benefits if the Postal Service should ever go under.



SmallSpeakHouse
SmallSpeakHouse

@Burt I recall reading an article about that written by TIME. I can't remember if it was posted online or printed in the magazine though. Either way it would be a good move for TIME to provide a link to that article here.

BobJan
BobJan

@Burt Leave it to the GOP to screw it up. They'd put a dent in a stainless steel ball with a rubber mallet. Being a republican politician should be a treasonous offense.

KurtKreiger
KurtKreiger

@jeuls I seriously can't buy into this line of thinking...if this were true - why - in the History of the USPS would this just now be happening?....no company - private or public - has EVER done this.....but now there is a multi-billion dolar stack of cash squirreled away....visions of Enron, and big banks come to mind....."paging Gordon Gekko"....

Ognywogny
Ognywogny

@exotic-red @nick comments were deleted, or the context would be clear. He was the one who flew into the void over this. HIS comments had nothing to do with USPO. But to the USPO, either Congress needs to let it be a full government arm, or leave it alone to be profitable. One idea; make junk mail use first class mail. Either they would increase revenue or they would scale back their mailings, easing load on the USPO. Just a thought.

KurtKreiger
KurtKreiger

@BurtI seriously can't buy into this line of thinking...if this were true - why - in the History of the USPS would this just now be happening?....no company - private or public - has EVER done this.....but now there is a multi-billion dolar stack of cash squirreled away....visions of Enron, and big banks come to mind....."paging Gordon Gekko"....