The U.S. Postal Service's decision to eliminate Saturday mail home delivery could affect hundreds of postal workers in the state and many newspapers that rely on the Postal Service to deliver the news to subscribers.
The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays but continue to disburse packages six days a week, an apparent end-run around an unaccommodating Congress.
The service expects the Saturday mail cutback to begin the week of Aug. 5 and to save about $2 billion annually, said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe.
“Our financial condition is urgent,” Donahoe told a news conference.
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday, but still would be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open on Saturdays.
Donahoe said the elimination of Saturday mail delivery would mean a combination of employee reassignment and attrition.
The curtailed mail delivery schedules could affect about 450 postal workers at the U.S. Postal Service's Tulsa mail sorting plant, said Koquise Edwards, president of the Oklahoma City area local for the American Postal Workers Union, which represents clerks, mechanics and other postal service workers.
The mail processing center has been targeted for eventual closure.
“We don't know if five-day delivery is going to speed up that process or not,” Edwards said.
Mail carriers could see their hours cut when Saturday delivery comes to an end, said David Miller said, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 548, based in Oklahoma City.
The elimination of Saturday mail delivery could keep about 100 part-time mail carriers in the area from becoming full-time postal service employees, Miller said.
“This is the first step in taking the drastic cuts of going to two- or three-day mail delivery,” Miller said. “What was once a strong, middle-class, full-time job could be eliminated.”
Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, said the postal cutbacks could force some state newspapers to reconsider their publishing schedule.
“We think that the Postal Service has other options to bring their expenses in line, other than cutting service to some of its most loyal customers,” Thomas said.
Because many federal holidays without mail service fall on a Monday, there will be weeks during the year where Oklahoma publications will have to deal with four consecutive days without first-class mail service, Thomas said.
The Postal Service cutbacks will also affect companies that handle direct mail marketing in the state, including The Oklahoma Publishing Company, parent company to The Oklahoman.
OPBUCO has been planning for the possibility of postal cutbacks, and the company doesn't anticipate it to have a material affect on its business, said Melissa Leddon, direct mail marketing consultant for OPUBCO.
“It's going to take a little more planning, but I don't think its really going to affect us that much,” Leddon said. “All we can do is make our customers aware of the possible changes.”
OPUBCO handled about 45 million pieces of direct mail last year and is on track to double that amount next year, she said.
The Postal Service expects to eliminate Saturday mail service in August. The agency made the announcement Wednesday, more than six months before the switch, to give residential and business customers time to plan and adjust, officials said.
The change won't affect the delivery of Social Security checks and other federal benefits, because payments are switching to a direct deposit system beginning March 1.
Oklahoma lawmakers were mixed in their response to the proposed postal service cuts.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said in a letter along with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that he supported the elimination of Saturday mail delivery.
“This common-sense reform would save the Postal Service more than $2 billion annually. In his recent inaugural address, President Barack Obama spoke about the need to find real solutions to our nation's problems. Supporting the U.S. Postal Service's plan to move forward with five-day mail delivery is one such solution worthy of bipartisan support,” the letter said.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said he was saddened by the cuts, but eliminating mail service on Saturday might be necessary because of the postal service's dire financial situation.
“This is an unfortunate decision, but the post office is running out of options to deal with overwhelming financial challenges,” Cole said. “Rural residents have already been forced to adjust to the closure of numerous post office locations, and ending Saturday delivery may help forestall even greater disruptions in service until the agency can reach more sound financial footing.”
Contributing: Chris Casteel in the Washington Bureau and The Associated Press