A Stamp of Disapproval for Mail Delivery Contracting

By Stephen Barr
Friday, April 13, 2007

Forget the rain, sleet and snow. Outsourcing is what worries a major postal workers union.

Concerned that the U.S. Postal Service plans to step up use of contractors to deliver mail in cities and suburban areas, the National Association of Letter Carriers is lobbying Congress to get involved and study the use of contract delivery services. The union plans to draw attention to the issue by picketing postal headquarters on L'Enfant Plaza on Monday.

"I can't believe the American public wants private contractors delivering their mail," said William H. Young, the union's president. The issue, he said, "is a public policy matter. This is not about jobs for my members."

Postal officials said contracting has been part of the post office since mail was carried by stage coaches and the Pony Express. "There's nothing dramatic, nothing new, not some sudden policy change," said Thomas G. Day, a senior vice president at the Postal Service.

Through the years, the Postal Service has turned to contractors to haul mail long distances or deliver mail on highway routes in sparsely populated areas. But the union thinks the Postal Service has decided to expand that policy to new residential and business developments, inside cities and in the suburbs.

When a new development of 300 homes was built in Beaverton, Ore., the Postal Service turned to a contractor to deliver the mail rather than a postal carrier, Young said. In Orange County, Calif., a shopping center was built "in the middle of one of my city routes, and they decided to contract it out to a highway contractor," he said.

The Postal Service adds about 3,000 delivery routes each year to keep up with the nation's growing population. Although postal officials deny they have put a new policy in place, Day said the agency makes "a prudent decision" on how to provide mail service to new households and businesses and "by no means does every new extension of delivery service go to contractors."

The Postal Service has 7,612 contract routes, up by 297 routes from 2005, Day said. "The idea that management and the postal board have deemed all new deliveries will go to contractors -- the data doesn't bear that out," he said.

There is one area where Day and Young agree -- that contract delivery is less expensive for the Postal Service. "They are bound and determined that this is the way to hold down costs," Young said.

Celebrating 65 Years at HUD

Yesterday was a big day for Betty Park at the Housing and Urban Development Department. She celebrated her 65th year of federal service and her 90th birthday.

She was feted by Roy A. Bernardi, HUD's deputy secretary, in an afternoon ceremony. Park is a senior attorney in the department's office of general counsel, working on assisted housing and community development issues.

Park moved to Washington in the summer of 1941, in part because her Columbia University law school professors helped her find work here and in part because World War II had created job opportunities for female lawyers, she said.

She received a master's in law at Columbia after earning a law degree at the University of Oregon. She began her federal career at the Agriculture Department and then moved to HUD, which she called "a pretty nice place to work."

Asked how the federal workplace has changed during her career, Park cited computers and e-mail as one of the biggest advances because they save time, especially when communicating with field offices. "Instead of having to talk to people, you can have a conversation with e-mail, which is great, and all over the country," she said.

Coming up with ideas and solutions to improve housing programs has made for a rewarding career, Park said. "I've liked it, and I feel like I've made a contribution."

Talk Shows

Maurice McTigue, director of the Government Accountability Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and Henry Wray, head researcher for the Performance Review Scorecard, will be the guests on "FedTalk" at 11 a.m. today on Federalnewsradio.com and WFED radio (1050 AM).

Michael P. Jackson, deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. Saturday on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

Stephen Barr's e-mail address isbarrs@washpost.com.

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