U.S. Postal Service Charges More to Shippers To Mail Their Packages

Dec 8, 2018
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A task force looking into how the U.S. Postal Service prices its services released its report this week. And one of its recommendations might be (laughter) as welcome as the Grinch this holiday season - that the post office charge more to shippers, including Amazon, to mail their packages. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The task force was formed last spring after President Trump alleged that Amazon was getting a sweetheart deal from the Postal Service. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The post office is losing billions of dollars. And the taxpayers are paying for that money because it delivers packages for Amazon at a very below cost.

NAYLOR: The post office is in fact losing money - $69 billion over the past decade according to the task force report. Paul Steidler of the Lexington Institute says that's all on the backs of taxpayers.

PAUL STEIDLER: If it were a Fortune 500 company, it would be bankrupt and would really have no prospect of turning around unless somebody picked up the cost of that debt or swallowed it. And the people who are on the hook for that are the American taxpayers.

NAYLOR: The task force doesn't fault Amazon, though. In fact, it found that the Postal Service makes the largest share of its revenues from shipping packages. But it says that shipping rates for all of those boxes are not priced with profitability in mind and should be allowed to go up. Not surprisingly, the Package Coalition - a lobbying group that includes Amazon and other retailers - disagrees. John McHugh, the group's chairman, says when it comes to packaging, the task force got it wrong.

JOHN MCHUGH: It really looks to us to be a lump of coal in the stocking of virtually every business and every e-commerce consumer in this country.

NAYLOR: If shippers are charged more to send their packages, McHugh says, those charges will ultimately be passed on to consumers. And he says there's another concern - the health of small businesses that rely on the Postal Service.

MCHUGH: Those small businesses are going to be greatly burdened by these increases. And I think it's fair to say that in large measure, e-commerce has been very, very instrumental in the recent economic health of the United States.

NAYLOR: Another group unhappy with the task force are labor unions who represent postal workers. The task force has recommended that the post office end its collective bargaining with those workers. Mark Dimondstein is president of the American Postal Workers Union. He believes the Trump administration's ultimate goal is to privatize the post office.

MARK DIMONDSTEIN: We are the best standing with the people of this country, defending this public institution. And so if you want to sell off this public institution, one way to do it is to try to get rid of the unions. And the unions are solidly on the side of the postal customers and the people of this country.

NAYLOR: The task force also called on the Postal Service to consider selling the rights to allow other companies to deliver to people's mailboxes and maybe even sell things like fishing and hunting licenses at the counter to raise money. How many of these recommendations are adopted depends on many things, including Congress, which, despite having several bills in the hopper, has been unable to pass postal reform legislation.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.