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Sanders urges moratorium on USPS plant closures

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) organized an effort joined by 49 other U.S. senators who called today for a one-year moratorium on plans by the U.S. Postal Service to close mail processing plants and slow first-class mail delivery.

The senators said Congress should block a proposal by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe to close up to 82 mail processing plants, slow mail service and eliminate up to 15,000 jobs. Their letter urged leaders of a key Senate committee to include a ban on mail delivery cuts as part of must-pass legislation to keep the government running into the new fiscal year that begins October 1.

"This one-year moratorium will give Congress the time it needs to enact the comprehensive postal reforms that are necessary for the Postal Service to function effectively into the future," the senators wrote in a letter to Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Richard Shelby (R-LA), the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The letter was drafted and circulated by Sanders, Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

"At a time when our middle class is disappearing, the loss of 15,000 good-paying Postal Service jobs will harm our local communities and economies," the senators wrote.

"Slowing down mail delivery even further will hurt senior citizens on fixed incomes, small businesses and the entire economy and send the Postal Service into a death spiral," Sanders added in a statement.

Despite misleading reports about the Postal Service's supposed fiscal woes, revenue outpaced expenses by almost $1 billion since the fall of 2012. Rising revenues are partly due to an increase in package deliveries for online retailers. That growth has more than made up for fewer letters being mailed because of email and online bill paying. What puts the Postal Service into a deficit on paper is an onerous and unprecedented requirement that it pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over a 10-year period. Even without the $5.5 billion annual payment, which hasn't been made for three years, the retirement fund already has more than enough money to cover retirees' health care needs.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Chairman Mikulski, Ranking Member Shelby, Subcommittee Chairman Udall and

Subcommittee Ranking Member Johanns:

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is facing many serious challenges. While a number of reform proposals have been introduced in both the Senate and the House to tackle these problems over the past several years, we have yet to enact legislation. In the absence of Congressional compromise, the Postal Service has proposed more sweeping changes to its operations.

The Postmaster General has announced that the Postal Service will consolidate up to 82 more mail processing facilities and eliminate up to 15,000 more jobs in 2015. This wave of closures will directly impact 37 states across our nation and, more importantly, the citizens who count on their Postal Service to be reliable. At a time when our middle class is disappearing, the loss of 15,000 good-paying Postal Service jobs will harm our local communities and economies.

The Postal Service has already consolidated 141 mail processing facilities since 2012. As the postal network has been weakened, service delivery has suffered. Since the Postal Service slowed down the delivery of First-Class Mail over two years ago by revising its service standards, it has been more difficult for the American public and small businesses to receive mail in a timely manner. Slowing down mail delivery even further will hurt senior citizens on fixed incomes, small businesses and the entire economy.

To address this immediate problem, we respectfully request that you include language in any omnibus appropriations legislation or continuing resolution that would prevent the USPS from closing or consolidating any more area mail processing facilities during Fiscal Year 2015.

In addition, we would ask that you include language to maintain and comply with service standards for First-Class Mail and periodicals effective on July 1, 2012. This one-year moratorium will give Congress the time it needs to enact the comprehensive postal reforms that are necessary for the Postal Service to function effectively into the future.

We look forward to working with you on this important issue. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Senator Susan M. Collins
Senator Richard J. Durbin
Senator Bernard Sanders
Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Senator Tom Harkin

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