USPS to be Left ‘Twisting in the Wind’ in 2015?
Quite the quandary is shaping up for the U.S. Postal Service, which may affect direct (and all) mail service.
Friday afternoon's 15-minute meeting may have been the last gathering of the USPS Board of Governors for the foreseeable future. The Senate needs to confirm nominees by today or board quorums will be impossible, USPS Media Relations Manager Dave Partenheimer tells Target Marketing.
"The board directs the exercise of the powers of the postal service, directs and controls its expenditures, reviews its practices, conducts long-range planning and sets policies on all postal matters," according to USPS.com. "The board takes up matters, such as service standards and capital investments. It also approves officer compensation."
USPS has a lot going right now that the board needs to oversee. From upcoming union negotiations to January's processing center closures, the board and the incoming postmaster, Megan J. Brennan, will have a lot to discuss.
It's a situation that had Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, so concerned he addressed the Senate about it on Nov. 13.
"We do our country no service—and ourselves no honor—when we leave key institutions without proper leadership and leave honorable men and women willing to serve in government twisting in the wind," Carper tells Congress that day.
Friday's USPS BOG meeting was scheduled to discuss the annual report for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 (Opens as a PDF). According to a Dec. 1 Nextgov article quoting USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall, the USPS had been looking into whether a recent cyber attack that hacked into employee and customer records affected the "integrity of its financial data systems."
Partenheimer says that approval was the board's only business on Friday.
"No numbers changed," he tells Target Marketing on Friday. "So the end of year financials we reported in November are unchanged."
Also, while no postage rate hike is slated for January, Partenheimer previously told Target Marketing that the exigent postage rate increase of 4.3 percent may carry through to the second half of 2015, when it may expire because it will have brought in $3.2 billion to the USPS. Court records show the postal service's attempt to appeal the expiration has been unsuccessful thus far (opens as a PDF).
However, the board's situation did spark speculation at Mt Laurel, N.J.-based GrayHair Software, which published a direct mail-oriented e-newsletter. With a subject line of "USPS Preps 2015 Rate Change," Thursday's newsletter speculated that the board's situation means "the postal service is readying itself for the next postal price change to be effective as soon as April 26, 2015. Due to congressional inaction, it may be necessary for the USPS to file its request for [a] price change next week."
Partenheimer tells Target Marketing that GrayHair is wrong about the price change.
"Back in October, our governors decided not to seek a price change in January—in part because of the uncertainty regarding the exigent price increase," he says. "The timing for any price change in 2015 has not been decided. We are fully committed to giving the mailing community ample notice so that mailers will have sufficient time to prepare for any price change. In the meantime, we continue to be hopeful that Congress approves the governor nominations it has for consideration before they adjourn later this month."
Partenheimer's wishes may come true. On Thursday, the Postal Regulatory Commission announced President Barack Obama designated Robert G. Taub as the commission's acting chairman (Opens as a PDF).
Or those wishes may not come true. As is the case for many nominees, USPS Board Chairman Mickey D. Barnett faces opposition. The Washington Post and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (opens as a PDF) relate the possible conflict of interest Barnett may have when the postal service considers instituting payday loans, as he's made money in the industry. But the Post discusses how Barnett may block the postal service from engaging in the practice, and the Leadership Conference fears Barnett would back the practice it deems "harmful" to "the communities we represent."
What should marketers believe?
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