In addition to “public administration” and “other,” the remaining category in the labor data is the Postal Service. USPS has been in something of a financial death spiral for years and it has slashed staff to save money. Since 2006, USPS has cut its career workforce by 24 percent — that’s 168,000 people, the size of a small city.
That has taken its toll on the postal unions.
BLS data indicate membership in USPS labor organizations fell to 458,000 in 2012, from 632,000 in 2000.
The National Association of Letter Carriers had about 240,000 members in 2000 and 180,000 now.
The National Postal Mail Handlers Union reports membership dropping to less than 41,000 today from a high of about 60,000 a decade ago.
“APWU membership has declined significantly since 2000 as a direct result of the loss of postal jobs — especially in the crafts we represent,” said Sally Davidow, a spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union. “The number of employees represented by the APWU was a little more than 354,000 in 2000; at the end of 2012 it was a little more than 208,000. . . . It is interesting to note that the percentage of union members has increased — it now stands at more than 84 percent [in APWU bargaining units].”
James Sherk, a Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst in labor economics who has angered federal employees with his views on federal pay and unions, said “the decline in Postal employment comes almost entirely from technological innovation: e-mail and automatic bill pay have replaced many of the letters Americans once physically mailed. As that trend continues, the Post Office will need fewer and fewer workers. That will also mean fewer and fewer Postal union members.”
But Davidow said it doesn’t have to be that way.
She blames a “congressionally manufactured financial crisis” for the closing of postal facilities and job losses.
As a result, she added, “service to the American people is suffering.”
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.