WORCESTER, Massachusetts - Post offices across Massachusetts and the nation are implementing service changes in an effort by the agency to cut costs, but labor leaders say the move could have major repercussions for workers and customers alike.
Since October 1, service standards have been altered to slow the pace of delivery for some first-class mail, while cutting retail hours and increasing prices.
John Flattery - president of the American Postal Workers Union in Central Massachusetts - said the U.S. Postal Service has long built trust with Americans, and these changes are a step in the wrong direction.
"Let's go back to the post office we grew up with. Let's make it better, not worse," said Flattery. "And they just go on the other way. I mean, now he's just saying, you know, we want to ensure timely delivery. So we're going to just change the definition of what timely is to make it worse."
Flattery said the plan was made without input from union members and many of those workers who have been with the agency for decades.
Massachusetts is one of 20 states that recently filed an administrative complaint, asking for a more detailed review.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said the Postal Service is hiring 40,000 seasonal workers to help with the holiday rush, and that the changes are needed to trim a $160 billion loss by 2030.
Chris Shaw is a historian of the USPS and published author. He said these changes already are affecting small-business owners who often depend on first-class mail.
He said some may turn to other delivery providers, which could lead to further privatization of the mailing industry.
"These changes are part of a trend where the Postal Service is conceived of not as a government agency, a public service that exists to serve everyone on a universal basis and in a uniform manner," said Shaw. "And instead, conceiving it more like a for-profit business."
He added there are other ways to cut losses - for instance, venturing into areas such as banking. He says a pilot program has launched at four post offices to do some payroll and business check cashing and hopes these kinds of financial services could be expanded.
Source: Commonwealth News Service