By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
The United States Postal Service is questioning whether it should be covered by President Donald Trump’s federal hiring freeze.
One of the new president’s first actions, the Jan. 23 freeze could interrupt the Postal Service’s ongoing effort to hire tens of thousands of new carrier assistants.
Because labor costs represent around 70 percent of the Postal Service’s costs, getting cheaper labor has been a key goal of postal administrators.
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In a brief statement Jan. 25, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer told Linn’s: “In view of our independent status, past Executive Orders imposing hiring freezes on Executive Departments and Agencies have not applied to the Postal Service. We have reached out to the Administration to discuss this matter.”
“The Postal Service provides an essential service to the people and businesses of the United States, and is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure,” Partenheimer also said.
That appears to be an acknowledgment that the presidential order exempts only critical public safety officials and the military from the 90-day freeze.
The Washington Post said that the president’s order “leaves plenty of room for exceptions.”
Government Executive, a publication that covers the federal bureaucracy, has said that the most likely scenario is that Trump is “targeting jobs in a limited number of agencies.”
Government Executive did not mention the Postal Service, but said the president was probably targeting the following departments as the most likely to be hit by the order: Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump never spoke about postal issues or the Postal Service during his campaign, leaving postal officials in the dark as to what actions the new administration would take on its requests for financial help from Congress.
The order also comes as the USPS is in the final stages of contract talks with the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Existing labor agreements were not to be affected by the Trump order, but new agreements would be.
Postal officials are clearly anxious to convince the Trump administration that the new hiring they want to continue will help the USPS continue to lower its labor costs.
When the freeze order was issued, the Post described it as an “across the board” action affecting all executive branch agencies regardless of their funding sources.
The USPS is an independent organization in the executive branch and one of the largest civilian employers in the federal government.