Postal Service Problems

December 7, 1984

Report Outline
Making Ends Meet
Effects of Reform
Facing Competition

Making Ends Meet

Union Labor Unrest; Stamp Price Hike

The Men and Women who deliver America's mountain of mail, enough this year to stretch to the moon and back over 20 times, want a raise. Powerful unions that represent them say the facts weigh in the workers' favor. Thirteen years after the old Cabinet-level Post Office Department became the independent U.S. Postal Service, postal workers deliver 40 percent more mail to 18 million more addresses—with 62,000 fewer people on the payroll. That translates into a 48 percent increase in productivity. Despite complaints to the contrary, delivery service has kept pace with this mounting volume, or even improved, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office. And the Postal Service, a historic money-loser, has produced a surplus for the third straight year. Unions representing some 600,000 postal workers tally these facts and conclude their members deserve an 18 percent pay hike over the next three years.

But union demands fell on deaf ears during contract negotiations with the Postal Service that broke down July 20, the day a three-year contract expired. Workers have been on the job without a contract ever since. Despite occasional rumblings about a postal strike, a work stoppage does not appear likely. Postal strikes are illegal, and union leaders declare they are not interested in a walkout. Workers have reason to fear losing their jobs if they stop work. President Reagan fired 11,400 air traffic controllers for an illegal walkout three years ago. Postmaster General William F. Bolger has said he is prepared to do the same in the event of a postal strike. It is unclear whether Bolger's successor, Paul N. Carlin, who takes over Jan. 1, shares Bolger's views on pay and other issues. Carlin has declined comment on policy issues until after he takes office. Meanwhile, the dispute has been submitted for binding arbitration. The panel weighing demands of the two largest unions must issue a report by Christmas Day. Two other panels dealing with smaller unions must report by Jan. 7.

Not only is Postal Service management resisting pay increases, it is advocating pay cuts for new workers. The agency contends that its workers already are overpaid due to years of overly generous contract agreements. As a result, management wants a three-year wage freeze for current employees and cuts of 23 percent for new hires. The agency says that figure represents the difference between the average postal worker's salary of $23,238 and the average private sector wage.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Postal Service
Oct. 09, 1987  Mail Service Changes
Dec. 07, 1984  Postal Service Problems
Dec. 05, 1975  Postal Reevaluation
Feb. 01, 1967  Postal Problems
Mar. 02, 1955  Mail Service, Costs, and Postage Rates
Jun. 01, 1950  Postal Deficit
Oct. 16, 1941  Free Mail
Aug. 02, 1929  The United States Postal Deficit
Computers and the Internet
Internet and Social Media
Postal Service