Scratch-and-sniff stamps arriving in U.S. post offices this summer

May 21, 2018

U.S. Postal Service via AP

Get ready for your mailbox to smell a little sweeter — this summer, the U.S. Postal Service will introduce its first-ever scratch-and-sniff stamps.

The Forever stamps will be sold in booklets of 20, featuring 10 watercolor illustrations of popsicles designed by artist Margaret Berg of California. The stamps will be issued on June 20, with a dedication ceremony at the Thinkery Children’s Museum in Austin.

The exact scent remains a mystery, and won’t be revealed until next month, but the Postal Service did issue a few clues in its press release: “In recent years, frozen treats containing fresh fruit such as kiwi, watermelon, blueberries, oranges, and strawberries have become more common. In addition, flavors such as chocolate, root beer, and cola are also popular.” So, maybe it will smell like a chocolate-covered kiwi dunked in root beer? Yay? Catherine Garcia

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Let’s deliver the mail, not myths (APWU)

By Mark Dimondstein   May 8, 2018
President Trump’s attention of late has been focused in part on the United States Postal Service and Amazon, resulting in a new executive order calling for an evaluation of USPS finances. This is a good opportunity to underscore some important facts regarding the Postal Service, a national treasure belonging to all the people of the United States.

Tax dollars do not fund Postal Service operations. Instead, it operates on earned revenue from postage and other products and services. As a self-funding independent agency, the Postal Service provides universal service at uniform and reasonable rates, delivering to 157 million addresses six (and sometimes seven) days a week, no matter who customers are or where they live.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the primary source of current Postal Service financial challenges is not the decline of letter mail. Rather, the red ink derives almost entirely from the bipartisan congressional enactment of the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The act compelled the Postal Service to pre-fund 100 percent of future retiree health care costs, 75 years into the future, for workers not even born yet. This mandate transferring postal revenues to the federal treasury bilked the Postal Service out of $5.6 billion a year over a 10-year period. No other company or agency faces, or could survive, such an onerous financial burden. Adding to the absurdity is the fact that, prior to the new law, the Postal Service had been reliably paying the retirement health benefit premiums as they arose, as do other companies and agencies. Without this manufactured pre-funding crisis, the US Postal Service would have shown a positive net income in four of the last five years averaging close to $1 billion annually — again, without a dime of taxpayer money  The same 2006 law placed further strain on postal finances with an unreasonably restrictive price cap on postage rates. While it helped the profits of huge mailers, it diminished services for the general public. Combined with the pre-funding debacle, this price cap contributed to reduced hours, closing of post offices, slower delivery standards, and severe short staffing, leading to longer lines and later delivery ti.

With the growth of the Internet, letter volume has declined over the last decade. And yet a massive amount of mail is processed and delivered, some 500 million pieces a day — including messages of love and sympathy, medicines to seniors and veterans, financial and business transactions, periodicals, catalogs, and packages. Indeed, what the Internet “taketh” the Internet “giveth,” as package volume has skyrocketed with the explosion of e-commerce.  Read: Trump says Amazon’s ‘post office scam’ must end
The public post office, established by the Constitution, is a democratic right of the population and has helped bind the people of this country together for the last 240 years. The Postal Service, with its dedicated and accountable workforce, is consistently rated the most trusted and respected government agency. In these days of the e-commerce revolution, it is as vital as ever. Noteworthy is that in the Internet age, lack of security and invasion of our privacy has become the norm. The US mail may just be the last bastion of private and secure communication.New challenges certainly exist, but the solutions are not complicated. Congress should fix the pre-funding fiasco. Common-sense bipartisan bills, currently stalled in both the Senate and House, would do just that. The Postal Regulatory Commission can eliminate the arbitrary and artificial price cap and give the USPS more pricing flexibility so large mailers pay their fair share. This still will allow the Postal Service to maintain the lowest postal rates in the industrialized world.Postal workers and millions and millions of customers certainly hope that the task force created by the executive order has as its starting point a sincere commitment to helping the Postal Service thrive. However, if the task force proves to be a smokescreen to promote the postal privatization agenda of the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute and their billionaire benefactors’ efforts to turn the common good over to private profiteers, then postal workers will be on the front lines fighting back, united with our communities and the people of this country, to ensure a vibrant public postal service for many generations to come.

 

 

 

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NAPS: OPM Legislation Would Slash Retirement Benefits

May 11, 2018
May 10, 2018
OPM Legislation Would Slash Retirement Benefits
Happy Public Service Recognition Week! As the Washington Post reported, that’s what the head of the Trump Administration’s central personnel agency said on the eve of PSRW last Friday when he sent to Congress a package of unprecedented Office of Personnel Management (OPM) proposals to strip major benefits from the federal and postal employment compensation package.  In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), OPM Director Jeff T.H. Pon proposed four initiatives that, over 10 years, would significantly cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors.
The four proposals recite previously proposed cuts to federal employee retirement programs by the Trump Administration, ones that would “bring federal benefits more in line with the private sector,” Pon said.
The OPM proposals are aimed at:
Eliminating supplements for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuitants who retire before being eligible for Social Security benefits.
Reducing federal pensions by basing them on a five-year average of basic annual pay instead of three years.
Requiring employees to pay more for their retirement benefits without any increase in benefits. The plan would increase the FERS retirement contribution by eight-fold for most federal and employees over the next seven years. Currently, employees hired before 2013 contribute 0.8 percent of their basic pay. “Under this proposal,” OPM Director Pon said, “FERS employee deduction rates will increase by 1 percent per year until they reach 7.25 percent of basic pay…. This proposal would require FERS employees to fund a greater portion of their retirement benefit.”
Reducing or eliminating retirement cost-of-living adjustments. The legislation proposes “to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by one half of one percent and to eliminate COLAs under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) for current and future retirees.”
In response to the proposals, NAPS President Brian Wagner said, “NAPS opposes these disastrous proposals to reduce federal and postal employee retirement benefits and will work actively with its members and partner organizations to defeat them, as we did the entire Trump agenda last year.”
NAPS Endorses Gillibrand Postal Banking Bill
NAPS has endorsed legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would authorize the Postal Service to offer limited banking services, including affordable short-term loans.
The Postal Banking Act, S. 2755, would place a retail bank branch in each of the Postal Service’s 30,000 locations — branches that would provide “low-cost, basic financial services to all Americans,” Sen. Gillibrand said. The New York Senator also said her bill would “wipe out” predatory lending and improve consumers’ access to financial services.
In a May 3 endorsement letter to Senator Gillibrand, NAPS Executive Vice President Ivan Butts expressed NAPS’ support for the legislation and said, “Through your legislation, the unbanked and underbanked will have access through the Postal Service to checking and savings accounts as well as small dollar loans…. The United States Postal Service and NAPS share a long history of support for the assurance of universal service of postal services to all households throughout the nation, regardless of geography or income. The involvement of the Postal Service in the delivery of banking services in communities across the country will make good on the promise of universal service and economic growth.”
Two BOG Nominees Clear Senate Panel
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 7 approved the nominations of David Williams and Mike Duncan to the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service. A full Senate vote on their confirmation has not yet been scheduled.
The placement of Williams and Duncan on the BOG will fill the first two of nine existing vacancies on the BOG, and are still not enough to create a quorum. The nomination of a third BOG nominee, Calvin Tucker, did not move ahead due to reported financial disclosure concerns.
“The Senate has not approved any nomination to the board in eight years and the last board member left in December,” according to Philadelphia lawyer S. David Fineman, who served on the postal board from 1995 to 2005. Pending postal reform legislation in the House and the Senate would reduce the size of the Board of Governors to five members

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US Postal Service gets whacked with a $1.3 billion loss as it struggles to keep up with Amazon

Joe Ciolli
May. 11, 2018, 8:16 AM 46,190The US Postal Service reported a total net loss of $1.3 billion in the second quarter. It lost $562 million a year ago.
The USPS posted a controllable loss of $656 million in the second quarter, compared with income of $12 million for the same period a year ago. This is an important number because it factors in expenses such as wage increases.
The losses are surprising when you consider package volume increased 5%.
The USPS largely attributed its downward profitability shift to increased compensation costs, suggesting that the company is scrambling to keep up with competition at the peril of its bottom line.The US Postal Service is headed in the wrong direction.
It posted a controllable loss of $656 million in the second quarter, compared with income of $12 million for the same period a year ago. The USPS also incurred a total net loss of $1.3 billion, compared to the $562 million loss it saw in the second quarter of 2017. Those drastic slips are likely to overshadow USPS’s revenue rising 1.4%, to $1.75 billion, on a year-over-year basis.
Perhaps even more troublesome is that the USPS posted such a large loss during a period in which package volumes increased by 5%.
While that uptick most likely explains the $364 million increase in compensation expenses due to what it describes as “additional hours incurred to support the labor-intensive package business as well as contractual wage adjustments,” it also raises the question of why the volume surge wasn’t able to bridge the controllable-income gap.One possible explanation for the wage jump is that the USPS is doing everything in its power to compete with Amazon— including offering workers more hours — at the expense of profitability.
This development is sure to catch the eye of President Donald Trump, who in a tweetstorm earlier this year attacked Amazon for what he says it’s doing to the USPS. In the past, Trump has mentioned changing the company’s tax treatment or going after it on antitrust grounds.
“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election,” Trump tweeted on March 29. “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”
Amazon’s stock climbed 0.2% in premarket trading and is up 38% this year.

 

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