U.S. Postal Service Drops Service at Staples Amid Union Pressure

SteveBlog

Bloomberg: Following union-backed boycotts and an adverse labor board ruling, the United States Postal Service has agreed to curb a controversial arrangement allowing private employees to provide its services at Staples Inc. stores.

USPS spokeswoman Darlene Casey told Bloomberg that the Postal Service would end its relationship with Staples in order to comply with a National Labor Relations Board judge’s ruling.

The cancellation is a coup for the Postal Service’s largest union, which mounted a three-year, multipronged campaign against the arrangement, fighting Staples’ failed attempt to merge with Office Depot Inc., and leafleting outside stores urging customers to boycott the company, according to Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union.

“Had we not drawn the line in the sand and launched these protests,” Dimondstein said, all Staples stores “would have had full-blown post offices, not staffed by postal employees but rather Staples employees, and the Post Office also would have used that model to spread to other major retailers.”  Read more.

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Postal Service to halt retail sales at Staples stores after union complaints

SteveBlog

Washington Post: When the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and Staples birthed a retail partnership in 2013, USPS said “it’s time to celebrate.”

But now, that program has been sentenced to death and it is postal labor leaders who are rejoicing. They cheer the demise of a program that had been the target of a vigorous campaign by postal unions that don’t want the post office privatized.

USPS will discontinue retail services at Staples stores by the first week in March, according to the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), which led the fight.

The union cast the decision as “a big win for the public as well as the 200,000 members of APWU and the union’s allies.” The union waged a national “Stop Staples” campaign and said it is immediately ending its boycott of the company.

The move resulted from a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order issued on Wednesday. The board adopted an administrative law judge’s ruling from November.  It “requires the Postal Service to discontinue its retail relationship with Staples,” said Darlene Casey, a Postal Service spokeswoman. “The Postal Service intends to comply with that order.” USPS could have appealed, but decided not to fight.  Read more.

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Lake View NY post office suspended over lease issue

SteveBlog

The Buffalo News: The Post Office in Lake View, New York, will close at noon Saturday after the U.S. Postal Service and landlord could not agree on a new lease.  [The lease ends on January 13, 2017.]

The move is temporary, according to Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for the Postal Service in Buffalo.

“We don’t own that building,” she said of the structure at 6550 Southwestern Blvd. in the Town of Hamburg that is owned by Batavia Holdings. “We don’t want interruption of services. That’s why we are moving the boxes.”

There are approximately 190 active post office boxes, and they will be moved to the Hamburg Post Office, 5501 Camp Road, which already is the headquarters for carriers delivering mail to the Lake View community. Delivery service will not be interrupted, and box customers will be able to retrieve their mail starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Camp Road facility, which is open 24-hours a day.

“Continuation of operation is our first priority,” Mazurkiewicz said.

The next step is to go through an alternate quarters process, which includes assessing the needs for a new location in Lake View. Since the carriers do not work out of that postal branch, a smaller footprint would be needed, she said. The process also includes looking for a new place to house a post office in that area, she said.

Post cards explaining the changes were sent to box customers and street delivery customers the last week in December, she said.

The Lakeview Post Office offers full retail service as well as postal boxes, and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

There are five post offices near Lakeview, including North Evans, 6971 Versailles Road; Hamburg, 5501 Camp Road; Eden, 8230 N. Main St.; Derby, 7350 Erie Road; Athol Springs, 4480 Old Camp Road.

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Napa developer purchases downtown post office

SteveBlog

The North Bay Business Journal: A buyer has come forward for Downtown Napa’s historic Franklin Station post office, which suffered extensive damage in the August 2014 earthquake, and has sat vacant since.

The buyer is Jim Keller, a Napa real estate agent and developer, who has tentative plans for a mixed-use development for the ½-acre property.“We’re going to re-purpose and develop around it with some residential, commercial, and hospitality aspects, with the post office as the center showpiece,” Keller said.

The main level of the building is approximately 7,000 square feet, with another 5,000 square feet in the basement. Keller said it will cost about $8 million just to restore the building, including a seismic retrofit, and maintain and restore historic features of the building.

Keller also owns the Main Street Exchange building next to Napa Creek and the Young building at Third and Coombs streets in downtown.

The post office, located on Second Street, was built in the 1933 in an art deco style. After the earthquake, the United States Postal Service advised the city that it was considering demolition of the building. The agency said that it would cost $8 million to repair quake damage, while it would cost only $500,000 for demolition. After concerted effort to save the building, spearheaded by Congressman Mike Thompson, the USPS agreed to put it up for sale.

Keller said he purchased the building for essentially sentimental reasons.  Read more.

 

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The Postal Service plans to end COD home delivery

SteveBlog, Story

The Postal Service is planning to end COD mail to home addresses.

Under current policy, COD — officially “Collect on Delivery,” aka “cash on delivery” — can be delivered by the carrier to an address (COD per se) or it can be picked up by the customer at the post office, which is officially “Hold For Pick Up” (HFPU).

The home delivery option may soon be eliminated, and all COD mail will be for pick up only.  The restructured service will be named “Collect on Delivery Hold for Pickup” (presumably CODHFPU for short).

If the Postal Service has its way, a service that has been around for over one hundred years will come to an end.

 

The USPS asks, the PRC defers

In October 2016, the Postal Service filed its notice of annual price adjustments for special services products with the Postal Regulatory Commission. The notice included a proposal to end COD for home delivery.  At the same time, the Postal Service also published a “proposed rule” in the Federal Register “proposing to make Hold For Pickup the only delivery method for Collect on Delivery items.”

Under the new service, COD items would be addressed to the delivery address of the recipient’s post office, and the recipient would receive a notification message to pick up the item at the post office.

Last week, the Commission issued its Order On Price Adjustments For Special Services Products And Related Mail Classification Changes (December 15, 2016).

The Commission rejected the proposed change in COD because it did not simply involve a price adjustment. Instead, changing COD as proposed was seen as a “significant classification change” and thus outside the scope of the price adjustment docket.

That will not be not the end of the matter. The Postal Service is likely to return to the PRC in 2017 with a request to change COD in an “appropriate proceeding.”

 

The potential impacts

The number of customers who might be affected by such a change to COD is difficult to determine, and the Postal Service provided no numbers in its request to the PRC about how many people actually get home delivery for COD.  As the Public Representative noted in her comments on the rate adjustment, the Postal Service provided “no evidence . . . as to the proportion of COD that is manifested through home delivery.”

One can get some sense of the potential impact, however, by looking at the Postal Service’s  the 2015 Cost & Revenue report and the Revenue, Pieces, and Weight report for 2016.  The reports show that there were 319,000 pieces of COD in FY 2014; 346,000 pieces in 2015; and 201,000 pieces in FY 2016.  (The reports do not indicate how many COD pieces were delivered to home addresses.)

Given that total mail volume for 2016 was nearly 158 billion pieces, the volume for COD was obviously relatively small.  And given that total USPS revenue in 2016 was over $71 billion, the $2 million generated by COD (down from about $3.4 million in 2015) was also relatively insignificant.

The Postal Service nonetheless cites saving money as the main reason for  the proposed changes in COD.  As the proposed rule in the Federal Register states, the Postal Service anticipates that this change will eliminate costs “related to obtaining payment from the customer at the time of delivery, redelivery attempts when the customer is not home or does not have the payment available, and the risks inherent in carriers transporting payments back to the Post Office.”

The notice provides no data on these costs or risks.  Considering how small the COD home delivery volume probably is, however, the savings will probably be extremely small as well.

The burden on customers, however, could be significant.

As the Public Representative observes, “The changes will negatively affect those who rely on home delivery and payment together. The changes may fall especially hard on those living in smaller communities that rely on rural carrier service.”

The Public Representative also notes that the Commission, in reviewing the changes to COD,  should consider whether this proposed change is contrary to the policy of “provid[ing] a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining” [39 U.S.C. § 101(b)].

The Public Representative doesn’t mention it, but another problem is that the post office to which a rural customer may need to travel for COD pick up is likely to be a POStPlan office, open only two, four, or six hours a day.  Picking up a COD order may not be so simple.

 

A real benefit

The U.S. Post Office Department officially launched Rural Free Delivery in 1896, and for the first time folks in rural areas could share what city dwellers had enjoyed since 1863 —  the convenience of home delivery.

On January 1, 1913, Parcel Post Service was introduced, thus allowing customers, both rural and urban, to send and receive packages without having to travel to a post office.

Six months later, on July 1, 1913, the Post Office Department introduced the collect-on-delivery service.  According to the Postal Museum website, COD increased the quickly growing popularity of Parcel Post, and despite the extra steps and regulations it entailed, COD “was seen as a real benefit to the proliferating mail order business in the country.”

cod-label

click on image for larger view

Initially the maximum amount that could be collected was $100, but that amount expanded over the years to its current maximum of $1000.

Thanks to COD, writes the Postal Museum, customers “don’t have to put their wants and wishes completely on hold if they are temporarily strapped for money.  COD, often called cash on delivery, buys the time to scrounge up dollars and cents while the package winds its way through the mail.”

COD can be good for sellers, too. “For the seller,” writes the Postal Museum, “COD means they do not have to extend credit to customers. Indeed, COD gives sellers the assurance they will receive full payment for the items with the post office acting as the financial middleman.”

While the Postal Service clearly wants to change COD to Collect on Delivery Hold for Pickup, the agency does not seem interested in ending the service completely, and in fact in it has recently made several improvements to COD.  For example, as noted in this USPS report to the PRC from last year, businesses can now have payments transferred electronically from the Postal Service to their financial institution soon after the Postal Service receives payment from the customer.

“Collect on Delivery provides businesses a more convenient way of arranging transactions with customers with unique payment needs,” says New Products and Innovation VP Gary Reblin, as quoted in that report.

In an era of credit cards and e-commerce, when ordering on Amazon couldn’t be easier, it may seem that COD is a relic of a bygone era. But there are tens of thousands of customers who depend on COD or who simply prefer it to other ways of paying.

COD is a good way for buyers to protect themselves against online scams designed to get their credit card information, and it allows buyers to see the product delivered in good condition before they pay.

Many COD customers also benefit by having the delivery go directly to their door rather than to the post office.  They may not have have a car, or they may be seniors who can’t drive, or perhaps they are among the millions of Americans who don’t have a credit card.  There are more of them than you might think.  According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 29% of Americans do not own any credit cards.

If the Postal Service’s proposal is approved, many of its customers will soon need to find a way to get to the post office to pick up their COD packages.  After over a century, true COD will be a thing of the past.

(Image credits: Postal Museum)

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Priceless New Deal mural from former Ukiah Post Office is returned to the city — in the mail

SteveBlog

Ukiah Daily Journal: The city of Ukiah got an early Christmas present this month when the mural that used to hang in the former downtown Post Office was finally returned.

“It came in the mail in a big tube,” said Tami Bartolomei, Community Services administrator for the city, explaining that she did not open the package, but immediately gave it to someone with much more experience in dealing with valuable works of art.

“Thank goodness we have the experts at the Grace Hudson Museum to oversee the process,” Bartolomei said.

Those experts include museum Director Sherri Smith-Ferri, who said that the mural was “only painted on canvas, so it was rolled up and shipped to Chicago” when the United States Postal Service closed its location on North Oak Street in 2012 and put the building up for sale…

Smith-Ferri said the USPS paid for the restoration of the mural and to have it returned to Ukiah and installed.  Read more.

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Communities and Postal Workers United calls for protests on Inauguration Weekend

SteveBlog

All Out for Massive Labor-Community Protests – Inauguration Weekend Jan. 20-22

Call to Action – Let’s build a nationwide United Front against Trump

by Communities and Postal Workers United & Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services

The election of Donald Trump is dangerous for all working people, including and especially immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ people and the disabled.  Postal workers and customers can expect stepped-up assaults on our public postal service.

A president Trump, coupled with Republican control of the House and Senate, raises the very real possibility of his appointment of a reactionary Postal Board of Governors seeking to further dismantle and privatize the USPS; an employer-friendly National Labor Relations Board which could reverse the gains of past years; a conservative Supreme Court hostile to public sector unions; and an anti-union, anti-worker Department of Labor.  National “Right-to-Work” legislation, which would be a major blow to the labor movement, is a top priority of the new administration. This would hurt the growing national movement for $15 and a union.

A Trump presidency threatens the deportation of millions of undocumented workers; the exclusion, surveillance, profiling and incarceration of our Muslim sisters and brothers; major restrictions on women’s reproductive rights; the return of anti-LGBTQ laws; and increased harassment, brutalizing, and incarceration of Black and Brown people by local police departments. It threatens to support environmentally dangerous projects like the Dakota pipeline, and repression of the Indigenous Nations who are fighting it.

Tax cuts for the rich and even more funds to the military (making another war more likely) will be used to justify austerity, with deep cuts to Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, education, housing and other programs that working people need to survive. The Trump victory has emboldened racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic predators who are intimidating and assaulting our most vulnerable residents.

Spontaneous “Not My President” demonstrations have erupted across the country immediately following the Trump election.  Many student, labor, community and women’s groups are planning for massive protests on the weekend of Trump’s Inauguration, January 20-22, in Washington, D.C. and other cities.

To save our public postal service and living-wage, union postal jobs, we will need to help build a national United Front of all those threatened by the Trump presidency, in the spirit of An Injury to One is an Injury to All.

We will need to mobilize our networks, in collaboration with other labor, school, faith, community and women’s groups, to encourage and participate in organizing large and small actions leading up to and including Inauguration Weekend, as part of a nationwide united movement against Trump and all he represents.

All out for Inauguration Weekend, January 20-22, 2017!

Communities and Postal Workers United – cpwunited.com

Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs and Services – clupjs.wordpress.com

 

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Producer Joel Silver’s Venice Post Office becomes “Eyesore” and Activists Cry Foul

SteveBlog

Hollywood Reporter: When Joel Silver purchased the iconic Venice Post Office building in 2012, the producer of The Matrix and Lethal Weapon films told elected officials that converting the 1939 building into the headquarters of Silver Pictures would result in jobs, free arts-related programs and the preservation of historical features — including the famous Story of Venice mural that adorned the building’s entry for 70 years.

Four years on, Silver’s pledge has become a debacle. The structure at 1601 Main St. is covered in graffiti and scaffolding. Signs warn squatters to keep out.

“It’s an eyesore,” says Teddy, a tattoo artist and barber who works across the street and who regularly sees people urinating and defecating at the site. “I don’t know what’s going on over there.”

As the post office deteriorates, it has helped secure a new line of credit for Silver, long considered one of Hollywood’s most high-flying and controversial producers, with a trail of enemies and former business associates who claim he stiffed them. Read more.

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Rumors fly about losing downtown post office in Bowling Green, KY

SteveBlog

WBKO: Customers at the downtown post office in Bowling Green, Kentucky, have been told that branch may not be an option sometime in the near future.

Former mayor of Bowling Green, Elaine walker posted on Facebook that she was told that location would be shutting down.  She says closing down that location could be catastrophic.  Walker is worried that removing this post office would stunt the growth downtown is currently experiencing.

“The focus is on bringing people to shop, to live, to really restore that vibrancy downtown,” she says “The concept of us losing our post office is really devastating.”

The Postal Service has neither confirmed nor denied the closing of this particular branch, but a number of sources close to the negotiations say they have reason to believe it’s true.

One postal worker says customers have been asking about the rumors, but they’re just as much in the dark as the customers.That same postal worker, Elaine Walker says it worries her that the process is so secretive.

“I guess I’m very concerned because it’s being done quietly,” she says. “Clearly they don’t want us to object to this action.”

[The downtown Bowling Green post office on E. 11th Street was built in 1972, and the property is owned by the USPS.  If it is sold, the Postal Service could conceivably relocate to a smaller, leased facility downtown, or discontinue the post office completely and direct customers to the branch on Scottsville Road, about five miles away.] Read more.

(Photo credit: S Bahnsen, PMCC)

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OIG says Postal Service outsources billions on contractor studies, with no process to store or share results

SteveBlog

USPS OIG: The U.S. Postal Service paid over $5.6 billion for contracts under the commercial products and services portfolio between fiscal years (FY) 2009 and 2015. This portfolio purchases a range of goods and services, including strategic consulting, logistics and fulfillment, market research and brand management, and financial and accounting services.

The OIG found that the Postal Service did not effectively manage external studies. There is no formal process to identify and catalog the universe of external studies. As a result, over a 6-week period, the Postal Service could not locate 30 of 97 requested studies, and the Postal Service also did not have a formal, consistent process to store, share, and retain external study results.  Read more.

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“When the post office is closed, the flag comes down. When the human side of government closes its doors, we’re all in trouble.”
— Jennings Randolph, U.S. Senator from West Virginia, 1958-85