Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, citing the decline in mail volume caused by the Internet as Americans switch to communicating and paying bills online, said five-day service will help keep the mail agency solvent.
“It’s irresponsible for us not to pursue this course,” he said. “It’s too big of a cost savings to ignore.”
The change would defy lawmakers’ prohibition on abolishing six-day service, a 150-year-old hallmark of the mail system. For years, Congress has rejected the Postal Service’s call for five-day delivery. But Donahoe saw an opportunity in the stopgap budget that is funding the government through March 27. By the time it expires, he believes momentum will be on his agency’s side and Congress may be forced to yield.
Since 1983, the annual appropriations bill giving federal agencies spending authority has contained a rider requiring the Postal Service to deliver the mail six days a week. But Donahoe said he can make the change unilaterally and bypass lawmakers.
He hinted that the current stopgap measure, which includes the prohibition on five-day service, may not be binding anyway. Postal officials are gambling that Congress will keep it out of any future spending measure lawmakers approve.
“We think we’re on good footing with this,” Donahoe said. Asked what he would do if Congress continued to pass legislation blocking five-day delivery, he said, “Let’s see what happens.”
“This is not like a gotcha or anything,” he said.
Postal officials’ proposal to end Saturday delivery has met resistance from lawmakers in rural districts and those supported by labor unions, who oppose the change and are avid political donors.
On Wednesday, union officials again condemned the plan. Letter carriers, clerks and mail sorters would lose jobs — about 20,000 to 25,000 — through attrition, reassignments and possible buyouts, officials said. As many as 12 percent of city letter carriers routinely receive overtime pay; much of that would also disappear by eliminating Saturday delivery.
“This maneuver by Mr. Donahoe flouts the will of Congress, as expressed annually over the past 30 years in legislation that mandates six-day delivery, which remains in effect today,” Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in a statement.
The executive board of the union representing rural carriers on Wednesday cast a vote of “no-confidence” in Donahoe. At least one union said it plans to sue over the change.