10 Things the Postal Service Won’t Tell YouAugust 27, 2012
For four days at the end of June, retired letter carrier Jamie Partridge and nine other current and former postal workers didn’t eat. They were on a hunger strike to protest what the group saw as the biggest threat to the U.S. Postal Service’s continued existence: Not e-mail’s steady encroachment on snail mail’s territory, not a prolonged economic downturn or the growing popularity of corporate shipping services, but government-mandated payments to pre-fund health care benefits for postal retirees — 75 years into the future. “To call out that Congress was starving the postal service, we were starving ourselves,” Partridge says. Private-sector companies — and even most other branches of the federal government, like, say, the Army — aren’t required to fund their health benefits so far in advance. It’s an albatross of a financial burden on the Postal Service, hidden beneath the more striking headlines about shrinking mail volume — down more than 21 percent since its 2006 peak — and plummeting revenue. Indeed, in the first three quarters of 2012, the Postal Service lost $11.6 billion, more than twice what it lost during the same period in 2011.
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