October 30, 2008
Charles Mapa, President
I’d like to put to rest at least one of the rumors that I spoke about in my last President’s message. Rumors seem to take on super strength when times are uncertain and stressful. We are on the eve of a historic National election. We are uncertain as to who will be the next most powerful man in government. Our economy, which was booming along, apparently superheated, has taken a big turn south. We are uncertain as to what economic future lies in the short term. Long term we know that the economy is cyclic and it will rebound, we just don’t know when. Last week Congress, searching for a scapegoat, someone to blame for our recent economic downturn dragged in former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, to testify. They succeeded in humiliating him, but seemed unwilling to take any responsibility for our bad economy themselves. I guess that’s what scapegoats are for.
Rumors and Pay Raises
Postmasters, supervisors and other postal employees have had their own reasons for concern. Rumors about pay raises being stripped away and massive layoffs of postal employees created another climate of uncertainty. Postmaster General Jack Potter recently inferred that, although layoffs were a possibility and were being considered because everything is being considered, they certainly weren’t imminent. That brings us to Postmaster and supervisor raises.
Postmasters, by and large, give tremendously to the Postal Service. They take seriously their position in the Postal Service as well as their standing in and responsibility to America’s communities. They have taken ownership of their post offices and assume full responsibility for what goes on in their office. They are totally committed to the success of their post offices. In spite of the acute shortages of resources (employees, equipment, support and budgeted work hours) Postmasters are out there somehow making it all work. They impact the bottom line of the Postal Service first by their revenue generating efforts, and cost cutting, but also by the thousands of hours that they labor ‘off-the-clock.’ They have sacrificed much of their family and personal life and often their health suffers under the tremendous burden they’ve taken up. So often, at their sides, enduring much of the same pressure are their supervisors, perhaps the least appreciated of all postal employees (except, maybe, our PMRs). It was to these employees that the Postal service came to ask to give up their general increase pay raises.
It is a serious error to believe that Postmasters and supervisors don’t care about the Postal Service and are unwilling to sacrifice. I’ve established above that the sacrifices are being made. Postmasters have labored for the last year with the promise of a small raise at the end of the year. If things were lined up just so for them and they put in even more effort, they might have even earned a bonus. After a year with possibly the tightest budgets yet, and many working under the lash of micromanaging districts and areas, the Postal Service, in an effort to cut losses for FY 09 asked, through the management associations, Postmasters to give up their small general increase. It did not help that this year the craft employees received their largest COLA (something EAS employees were forced to give up years ago) in history.
While the management associations are committed to helping the Postal Service find its way out of the predicament in which it finds itself, taking a pay raise away from Postmasters and supervisors is not the right thing to do. It is the position of Naps, Napus, and the League that the U.S. Code prevents the Postal Service from unilaterally opening pay consultations, and we have informed Postal Headquarters of our opinion. I absolutely don’t foresee Postmasters and supervisors giving up their raises.
Revenue Generation and Walking the Talk
One thing that I’ve heard from many of you over the last year is that we are spending so much time trying to cut costs that we have spent little time coming up with innovative ways to raise revenue. As part of a recent survey developed by National Vice President Deb Egemo and put out by the League to test workplace climate, we included two questions. One asked for suggestions on how we might find ways to cut costs, the other asked for revenue generation ideas. Last week I presented the over 300 responses to the revenue generating ideas question to Kathy Ainsworth, VP of Retail. I’m hoping she’ll find some nuggets in those ideas.
There is something that we can do right now. Mail volume is down nationwide and different experts have given us lots of reasons why. Many cite the economy, the price of fuel, the cost of postage and a variety of other possibilities. Some blame it on a shift in culture, saying most “young people” prefer the Internet for communication. While, I must admit, I do use the Internet and rely heavily on e-mail in my duties as president of the LEAGUE, I don’t think that means mail is obsolete. I still have in my possession many of the special birthday cards my grandmother sent me; many of them still contain the $1 bills she enclosed with each card. Sorry ... no matter how many bells, whistles and dancing babies e-mail greetings I might have, I’ve not saved one of them. Notes, hand-scrawled in crayon, from my grandchildren are keepers-not so my e-mails.Cards and letters mean much more to us; they say, “I value you.” Cards and letters are a fine meal; e-mails are fast food. And what about magazines? I’m a Postmaster and a voracious reader. I love the touch and feel of … paper. Curling up on the couch with a magazine holds appeal for me, but I don’t have that relationship with my laptop.
So, will we continue to witness a shift in culture from the value of mail to something different? Some of it is inevitable, but the rest will happen only if we let it.
There is a famous slogan that says, “Use it, or lose it.” The slogan applies to annual leave and muscles and other things in life. It applies to mail, too. There are 700,000 postal employees currently on the rolls. Do we use our own products?
We have major American holidays coming up soon: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Now is the time for each of us to get back to the mail.
Could every postal employee send out 200 holiday cards (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.), and commit himself or herself to send packages through the mail? Purchases made on eBay and through other mail order venues will help swell mail volumes. There are magazines available that cater literally to every interest and taste. We, as postal employees, should seriously consider gift magazine subscriptions to help fill our holiday gift lists.
Americans are a reciprocating people; if you send us a card or gift we are likely to return the gesture. America’s postal employees should view themselves as “ambassadors of the mail.” We, as individuals, can help lead the cultural change back
to the use of the mails. We can use it-or lose it.
I choose to use.
President, National League of Postmasters