What the United States Postal Service continues to see as more bad news, the major postal unions are claiming is good news.
On May 9, the Postal Service announced it had recorded “a net loss” of $1.9 billion in the quarter that ended March 31.
It is “the 20th of the last 22 quarters it has sustained a loss,” the Postal Service said.
The same day, Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letters Carriers, said that the USPS had recorded “a quarterly operating profit of $261 million.”
Its operating profit for the first half of the current fiscal year was more than $1 billion, he said.
Both the USPS and Rolando are citing numbers from the Postal Service’s latest financial report. The key difference is whether the accounting places future health care costs above the bottom line — or below it.
The Postal Service says those costs — totaling more than $5 billion a year — must be considered.
The unions argue those are costs no other federal agency has to pay, and that the rebounding health of the Postal Service is distorted by including them.
“The truth is that the Postal Service’s well-publicized financial crisis is a manufactured one,” asserted the American Postal Workers Union after the USPS issued its latest financial report.
Like the letter carriers, the APWU says Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and his bean counters are insisting on showing a bleak financial picture for the USPS in hopes of getting Congress to grant it relief from that 2006 law that requires the USPS to prefund the health benefits for its retirees.
Donahoe’s plans for the USPS are nothing but “a thinly-veiled attempt at piecemeal privatization,” says the APWU.
The unions want to derail Donahoe’s continuing downsizing efforts and argue the new numbers show USPS is making a comeback. This is not the time to shrink the Postal Service, the unions say.
USPS officials counter that their assertion that the agency remains in serious financial trouble is the only accurate reading anyone should give the latest financial numbers from L’Enfant Plaza.
By their accounting, the USPS remains in “a deep financial hole,” saddled with billions in costs that it can no longer pay with stamp revenues.
Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service’s chief financial officer, told The Washington Post that it is “just not accurate” to describe the $261 million figure as an operating income or a profit.
Mail volume, especially first-class mail, continues to drop, although overall revenues climbed slightly to $16.7 billion, from $16.4 billion in the same quarter of 2013.
The bottom line, they say, is the USPS lost $1.9 billion in the quarter, the same size loss it recorded a year earlier.
For the first half, the new loss is $2.2 billion, compared to $3.1 billion in fiscal 2013.
That is perhaps a small improvement, the executives concede, but the USPS needs Congress to give it a new way of paying off its retiree obligations and to continue shrinking the agency to handle its decreased letter volume.
It is a fight the unions are promising to press.
After all, Rolando has noted repeatedly that the USPS seems likely to post a $1.1 billion “operating profit” for the year ending Sept. 30.
July 01, 2015 10:28 AMIn the Spotlight on Philately column this month, Ken Lawrence presents a lengthy and fascinating history of the United States 30¢ orange Benjamin Franklin stamp of 1917 with gauge 10 perforations on unwatermarked paper. Read More ›
June 30, 2015 05:14 PMSince the abhorrent murder of nine African-American churchgoers by a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, calls have spread across the United States for symbols of the old Confederacy to be removed from public places. Read More ›
June 25, 2015 03:34 PMThe hardcover edition of the 2015 United States Postal Card Catalog arrived on my desk in mid-June. The catalog is published by the United Postal Stationery Society, of which I am a longtime member. Read More ›
June 17, 2015 04:15 PMDuring its most recent board meeting, held by telephone June 10, the American Philatelic Society board of directors approved the Institute for Analytical Philately as an APS affiliate. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the announcement that Scott catalogs is assigning Scott number 5000 for United States stamps.
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses a new Spanish stamp commemorating the first international congress on bullfighting as cultural heritage.
Chad Snee reports on the National Postal Museum reception for the display of the British Guiana 1¢ Magenta stamp.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke reports on the recent U.S. postage rate changes and the 10 new stamps being issued this week.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
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The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.