The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays, although it will continue Saturday package delivery.
The end of Saturday mail delivery will begin the week of August 5, 2013. USPS officials say the cut could save $2 billion annually.
But the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Fredric Rolando, said the end of Saturday mail delivery is "a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers," particularly "businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication."
Postal workers and their unions have been battling USPS cutback proposals for years. They charge that the service's financial problems are a "manufactured crisis" designed to further privatize the world's largest mail delivery system.
Cliff Guffey, head of the American Postal Workers Union, said ending Saturday delivery "will only deepen the agency's congressionally manufactured financial crisis."
"This crisis was created by Congress and the Postal Service back in 2006," Jeff Levitt, an Albany, N.Y., postal worker, said in 2011. "Unlike any other corporate entity, the U.S. Postal Service was then required to pre-fund future health care costs, forcing it to take $3 to $5 billion dollars a year out of receipts for stamps."
Levitt and others charge that the resulting artificial deficit has been and is being used to cut back on days of delivery, length of time allowed for processing and delivery of mail and other services. They say the government should be reimbursing the Postal Service but Republican deficit hawks have opposed this.
At the same time, as Rolando pointed out in a statement Wednesday, Congress has "annually over the past 30 years" passed legislation that mandates six-day delivery.
"In the last Congress, which ended in January, a bipartisan majority of representatives co-sponsored legislation backing the continuation of Saturday delivery," Rolando noted.
The USPS is an independent governmental agency and gets no tax dollars for its operating expenses. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution, and it is subject to congressional control.
It is not clear how the Postal Service could eliminate Saturday mail without congressional approval.
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.
Rolando condemned the postmaster general's "slash-and-shrink approach to dealing with the Postal Service's financial challenges."
The union leader said, "The National Association of Letter Carriers has tried time and again to work with Postal Service management to pursue growth measures and cost savings, but it has become clear that the Postal Service leadership's only strategy is to gut the unique postal network that provides us with the world's most affordable delivery service, and to eliminate the services on which Americans depend."
Photo: Donald Lee Pardue // CC 2.0