Written by The Herald-News
The National Newspaper Association recently greeted a comprehensive bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service as a welcome step toward new legislation.
Merle Baranczyk, NNA president and publisher of the Salida (Colo.) Mountain-Mail, said NNA hoped Congress would complete work on a bill this year to avoid disruption in the mail and the threat of substantial postage rates increases.
“We appreciate the leadership of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa in pulling together a legislative package that reaches out to all postal stakeholders. It is a daunting job to reform an organization with 490,000 employees and underpinning more than $1 trillion in private sector economic activity. More importantly to community newspapers, it provides the network we count on to deliver the news,” Baranczyk said.
The bill would prompt numerous changes in the way USPS operates, including:
•Gradually end “to the door” mail delivery and replace it with cluster or curbside boxes;
•End Saturday delivery of newspapers, First-Class mail and advertising but continue package delivery and would require opening rural mailboxes for publishers’ use on Saturdays;
•Prohibit no-layoff clauses in new workforce agreements and reform workers compensation rules;
•Ban Negotiated Service Agreements that would cause “unreasonable disruption of the marketplace; and
•Mandate 2 percent annual increases above inflation for mail currently not covering at least 90 percent of costs, such as Periodicals, but only after adjustments have been made for costs created solely by excess postal capacity.
NNA Postal Committee chairman Max Heath said the Issa bill is a welcome catalyst toward postal reform.
“This bill is a stronger piece of legislation than the one marked up in the House last Congress, and we welcome the progress. The enormity of what must be done to save universal service and keep the Postal Service running is not lost on any of us. Everyone is going to be affected. In fact, newspapers have already been deeply affected. We are looking for legislation that helps USPS management get costs under control without destroying service, and that is a very tall order. We also recognize that Congress has to stop the federal government from spending postage money that may not have been rightly put into some of the workforce funds, and Chairman Issa is taking some steps in that direction. There are still some major concerns that our Postal Committee will be raising after we examine the bill more closely,” he said.
NNA has long expressed concern about the effect upon weekend newspapers if Saturday delivery ends. In addition, it has objected to the Postal Service’s direct interference in the local advertising marketplace and is a party in a federal court proceeding challenging discounted rates offered by USPS to Valassis, Inc.
“We appreciate Congressman Issa’s recognition that the Negotiated Service Agreement can be a disruption to the marketplace,” Baranczyk said. “That is an important step in getting to fairness while also permitting the Postal Service to support new business lines. I think we will have more work ahead of us in this area before we arrive at rules we consider fair. We are gratified to have had a role in shaping this bill so far, including the new mailbox access. Our board, composed of community newspaper publishers around the nation, is looking forward to productive conversations with Congressional leadership this year. This is the time to get a law passed.”